It’s about time!
Earlier this week, HP quietly unveiled a new addition to its tablet lineup: the HP 7 Plus. Price: $99.99. Cheapskates of the world, rejoice!
Indeed, that’s the cheapest name-brand tablet to date. The closest competitor is Amazon’s $139 Kindle Fire HD. I’ve seen other models priced at $100 or less, but they were all from companies with names like Azpen and Hisense. What’s in a name? Hey, Shakespeare didn’t know from tablets.
The big question is whether a sub-$100 tablet could possibly be any good, even with the HP logo stamped on. Ultimately, that depends on what you want from a tablet. On paper, the HP 7 Plus looks pretty good, albeit with some mixed specs.
For starters, it’s pretty nice-looking, with an all-white bezel and silver rear finish. The screen measures 7 inches diagonally, and it’s powered by a quad-core processor–better than you’d expect at this price point.
(Let me help with the geek-speak: “quad” means “four.” “Four” means “more than two.” And, as we all know, two are better than one. To put it another way, this tablet is “fast.”) There’s not much storage here for your apps, music, and whatnot–just 8GB–but you can easily expand it via inexpensive microSD cards. That’s a notable advantage over Amazon’s Kindle Fires, which lack microSD slots.
In other respects, it’s all pretty standard. HP stocks the 7 Plus with Android 4.2.2. (a.k.a. Jelly Bean), which is more than adequate for most users. Plus, HP throws in 25GB of cloud storage (via Box) for life–a nice little extra.
However, the screen tops out at 1,024 x 600 pixels, a decidedly lower-end resolution for a modern tablet. That’s not necessarily a deal-breaker–the original iPad Mini ran at 1,024 x 768–but if reading is one of your primary reasons for buying a tablet, you might prefer a model with more pixels.
And that’s where the aforementioned Kindle Fire HD enters the equation. For a mere $40 more, you get higher screen resolution (1,280 x 800), dual stereo speakers, and access to Amazon’s family-friendly ecosystem.
On the other hand, no expansion slot, and “only” a dual-core processor. (I honestly don’t think that’s a big deal, unless you’re planning to play a lot of graphics-intensive games.) And, let’s face it, that $99.99 price tag is awfully tempting. I’ll reserve final judgement until I’ve had a chance to try the HP 7 Plus for myself, but right now it looks like the ultimate entry-level tablet.
Veteran technology writer Rick Broida is the author of numerous books, blogs, and features. He lends his money-saving expertise to CNET and Savings.com, and also writes for PC World and Wired.