Everyone is feeling the pinch at the moment. We've all stared down the barrel of the penny jar, emptied it onto the rug and scrambled around looking for something silver, hoping to cobble together enough small change for a single sheet of 1ply toilet paper.
But even in this 1ply toilet paper world, we still yearn for the latest toy to keep us entertained, to distract us from this modern dystopia of meal deals and miserable commutes. The latest toy in 2013 is the tablet PC. However, if you want to roll with the big boys by brandishing your tablet's Apple logo then you need a really, really big penny jar.
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For those who would rather impress the bank manager than strangers on public transport, there is a plethora of cheap non-branded tablet PCs flooding the market.
So are they any good? Is it worth saving a few pennies but (in some cases) gaining hours of frustration? Can you really skimp on major purchases like this? Well, we've assembled an unruly group of cheap misfit tablets and put them under the microscope. Here's what we found.
Acer Iconia B1
The Acer Iconia B1 is the 7-inch pretender, the upstart, the promising intern - the tablet with stars in its eyes and a dual-core processor in its back pocket. It's a tablet that looks, feels and functions like a mid-range tablet such as the Google Nexus 7, iPad mini or Samsung Galaxy Note.
It's built to last but sacrifices on aesthetics. The solid black frame feels like it could survive a few rounds with one of the Klitschko brothers, but it also looks like it's had a few rounds with one of the Klitschko brothers. The border around the screen is unnecessarily thick and verges on intruding, which gives the tablet a cheaper overall look. The thick frame is probably the reason it weighs in at a whopping 789g (1.74lbs) - almost double that of the Nexus 7. A heavyweight in the truest sense of the word.
Running Android Jelly Bean 4.1.2, the wannabe houses an ARM 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 512MB of DDR2 SDRAM and 8GB of onboard memory, with an SD card slot. Those are reasonable specs, but when you consider that the Acer Iconia B1 will cost £100 / US$150 / AU$150, it's a pretty solid deal.
It's quick, doesn't suffer from much lag and can happily play videos on Netflix and switch back to browsing without blowing up. The 1200 x 600 resolution, too, means you'll get a reasonably clear and sharp image.
This is a device that's marketed to entry-level tablet users or kids, but in reality it's just fine for people who aren't looking to do anything too serious. If you want something to read books, watch some films and browse the internet on, but you're on a budget, this is probably the best sub option at this price point.
It doesn't come with the connectivity that other cheaper tablets in this list come with - much like the bigger brands, it's simply USB and headphone-jack. Everything else is wireless, which, in our opinion, isn't a plus point. A good reason to buy one of the cheaper, lesser-known brand tablets, is because of their ability to transform into more than just a tablet. With HDMI and multiple audio-out ports, your tablet can operate as an entertainment hub and a smart box for your TV.
The Acer Iconia B1 is essentially at the high-end of the low-range tablets. It's bulky and isn't the most attractive tablet out there, but it does the job. The job being providing you with a quick, clear and rage-free tablet experience.