When the iPad came on the scene five years ago it heralded the arrival of a radical new form factor with apparently limitless potential; it was widely assumed that tablets were the future of computing, supplanting both the desktop computer and laptops.
With the benefit of hindsight, those predictions look a little overblown. In the years since only one constant has emerged: form factor. Tablets come in two sizes, big and small, with the big ones now getting bigger (and going 'pro').
Of the smaller kind, Android slates are by far the most numerous, and prices are falling steadily. This cost cutting is driven by a growing problem: market saturation. Now that every man and his dog has a tablet, manufacturers are increasingly seeking out unexploited niches.
Which brings us to the Alba 7-inch Android tablet, a rebranded Archos model sold by Argos and pitched unashamedly at the budget end of the market.
Shipped with two silicone protective cases complete with idiot-proof reinforced corners, and strong parental controls, this is a sub-£50 tablet that's being positioned as a stocking filler for the kids. Yet with more and more tablets appearing at this price point, the Alba faces plenty of competition.
For around the same outlay the cash-conscious consumer can get their hands on the likes of the Amazon Fire 7, in addition to a slew of Windows tablets. With each of these offerings bringing something different to the table, can the Alba 7 find a niche of its own?
Unfortunately for those who love a bargain, stunning examples of design are rarely found below the £200 mark, and the Alba 7 is no exception. Like the Amazon Fire 7, the device is clad in a moderately grippy matte plastic, and exudes a distinct lack of je ne sais quois.
For less than the cost of a night out however, the main aim design-wise is to not cause offence rather than to impress, and by that metric the Alba is a resounding success.
On the top of the tablet is the 3.5mm headphone jack, along with a micro USB port for charging and data transfer via a computer. There's also small slot for resetting the device with a needle.
The left side of the device is bare aside from a carefully hidden MicroSD card slot, and the volume rocker and the power button are on the right side.
Things get a little more interesting when it comes to the rear, which is home to the main speaker, certification information, some tasteful Alba branding and the device's main camera, which has a lowly 1.9MP resolution.
Usefully, especially for those for whom this is their first tablet, each port and button on the device has a corresponding label on the rear, making navigation relatively pain-free.
The front of the device is a fuss-free affair, containing the 1024 x 600 IPS LCD screen and the 1.9MP selfie cam.
All in all the Alba 7 tablet makes a reasonable first impression, but this is undermined somewhat when you start to handle the device. Whereas the Amazon Fire 7 felt solidly built, the Alba feels hollow and somewhat flimsy, with the rear material bending noticeably under pressure.
The screen also doesn't feel as reassuringly strong as it might, due in no small part to the lack of a proper Gorilla Glass coating. Both the rear and the screen have a tendency to pick up fingerprints like they're going out of style, while the front panel also lacks the pleasant 'oleophobic' treatment found in more expensive efforts.
This issues can be mostly mitigated, however, by slipping the Alba 7 into a silicone case, two of which are included as standard with the device. I found the case had a pleasantly cool feel under the skin, with the thick corners feeling like they could stand up to a bit of rough and tumble.
Even with the addition of a case, though, the budget trappings of the Alba tablet are all too evident, which isn't that surprising given that the device is manufactured by Archos. Better value design is available for a similar price, not least in the Asus MemoPad 7.