5 budget tablets tested

The most striking shortcoming is the sound playback through headphones, which is tinny and has a constant crackling sound. We tried watching a video on YouTube, listening to music and watching a couple of episodes of Arrested Development on Netflix, and found that the problem persisted throughout.

It's difficult to describe how offensive sound playback truly is. Expect to find yourself grimacing from searing ear drum pain when you switch between applications that require sound, because the sound levels aren't equalised. Oddly, playback through the speakers sounds absolutely fine, but as a mobile device you're more than likely going to rely on plugging headphones in to properly immerse yourself.

5 budget tablets tested

Sporting HDMI, microSD and USB ports, the Zoostorm PlayTab offers some good connectivity, but the copied display on an HD TV isn't flattering.

Unfortunately, the casing clearly needs some work. The review device we were supplied with is split down one side and it looks like it could easily be plied apart, which is something children will undoubtedly do at the first opportunity.

5 budget tablets tested

Quick verdict

This is one of the cheapest 10.1-inch tablets on the market, but it may be a false economy because of the Zoostorm PlayTab's glaring drawbacks, namely the sound issues.

If you're dead set on a 10-inch tablet, and you're put off by some of the higher prices quoted by Apple and Google, this is not a suitable budget replacement. Hold out for a better quality, better built, low-end tablet such as the Archos 97 Titanium.

Versus TouchTab 9.7DC

5 budget tablets tested

Price: £135 (around US$210/AU$220)
Score: 3/5

The plastic casing that has "made in China" emblazoned on it pretty much sums up the Versus TouchTab 9.7DC's design. The black matted rough plastic makes it feel like one of Lenovo's early business laptops - cold and business-like. There's also a strange thin rubber strip, which runs along the back, that seems to have been stuck on after production - classic after thought.

It is, however, surprisingly slim, especially if you consider that it houses five different types of connections - HDMI, TF, earphone and two USB ports. The uninspiring design is compounded by the fact that the Versus TouchTab 9.7DC is heavy, at 650g (23oz).

5 budget tablets tested

Unfortunately the exterior is also representative of the 9.7-inch tablet's abilities. Under closer inspection, you can see a very average tablet yearning to break free. The 1.6GHz dual-core ARM processor makes for an average experience, with a slight delay in movement and a very sluggish scroll on web pages.

Navigating around applications, especially more labour-intensive ones such as Netflix, is a slightly less than average - verging on deflating - experience that grows tiresome quite quickly.

5 budget tablets tested

Using Chrome and the in-built browser is a chore, and watching videos on YouTube via either browser is not straightforward. As with the StarPad 7, videos aren't resized automatically to fit the screen, and there seems to be a lot of fiddling to correct the problem. This isn't made easier by a screen that isn't very responsive to touch, despite being a 5-point capacitive multi-touch.

The saving grace of the Versus TouchTab 9.7DC is its reasonable 1600 x 1200 resolution that looks, well, average - especially on the Android Jelly Bean 4.1 operating system that it runs.

It's slightly blurred, but at a price of £135 for 10 inches of screen, you couldn't really ask for much more. Well, you could, but you wouldn't get it.

5 budget tablets tested

Quick verdict

The exceptionally cheap price makes this one for the kids, since they won't mind the lag or the ugly design. It's also rugged enough to fend off multiple Kidzilla attacks.

The Versus TouchTab 9.7DC's wide range of connections also gives it an edge over other similarly priced tablets, but it's hard to see this acting as the nucleus of your home entertainment setup.