Nov. 27, 2013 -- No, you shouldn't run out on Black Friday to get the $49 tablet Walmart is promoting on the front of its circular, or the $39.99 tablet Best Buy is showing on its Black Friday deals page. I wouldn't look at the $55 tablet Sears is showing either.
The RCA 7-inch tablet at Walmart, the "Zeki 7" Tablet with Android Jelly Bean OS" from Sears or the "D2 - Android Tablet" on Best Buy's site all have something in common: They are very cheap tablets with 7-inch screens that you'll want to avoid, despite the very tempting price tags.
Why? I haven't put these through the paces myself, but many users have.
"The pain of low quality is remembered long after the pleasure of low price is forgotten," a reviewer wrote of the "D2 - Android Tablet" on Best Buy's site.
"The product is not user friendly at all! In fact I plan on returning it to the store as soon as possible," a review of the Zeki tablet on Kohl's site says. "The tablet hardware is good, but the processor is slow. It freezes constantly. I returned it in the store," another wrote.
It's not a surprise. These cheap tablets have even cheaper parts. They also tend to have less than a gigabyte of RAM, extremely low resolution 800 x 480 screens and slower single-core processors. That adds up to a very sluggish experience with a display that's not very nice to look at. (The RCA tablet at Walmart has slightly improved specs, including a dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM.)
I'm not saying you need to go buy a $500 iPad or a higher-end tablet, but for $50 you get what you pay for. These were never $200 tablets that have been marked down. (The RCA, for instance, is marked down from $99.)
Spending just a bit more on a tablet in the $100 range will erase the frustrations and poor experience you hear about in those aforementioned one-star reviews. Spend the extra $100 on the $139 Kindle Fire HD or the $150 Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 and you'll find it to be well worth it for the improved screen, better battery life and speed. And over the next few weeks, you should be able to find bigger savings on those two tablets to cut the price down to about $100.
Like with any other Black Friday buying decisions you make this week, don't be fooled by extremely low prices. You'll just end up with a $40 tablet sitting at the bottom of some drawer instead of something you'll use.