Affordable tablets can be great
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Tablets under $99: A Buying Guide

Tablet PCs are the hot must-have entertainment gadgets everyone wants. Good news: The tablet PC has truly matured and now offers a range of options to suit every budget. You don't have to invest in a high-end brand to get a device that'll meet your mobile needs. There are cost-effective options for tablets that you can use for gaming, movies, music and more.

Here are some important things to keep in mind as you shop around:

Size matters

The budget tablet you choose is likely to be about 7" long—about the size of a paperback book. That makes it easy to slip into your bag when you're going out. A 7" tablet can be comfortably held in one hand and is perfect for messaging, creating shopping lists, taking notes, shooting photos and reading e-books. This tablet size is also perfect for the hands of your little ones.

Sufficient storage

The amount of storage memory in a budget tablet starts at about 4GB. 8GB, however, is the sweet spot, giving you enough space for apps, photos, e-books and the occasional movie.

You should check out whether the tablet you choose has a memory or SD card slot, as these can be used to expand the tablet’s storage.

A popular operating system

Android is Google's popular operating system (OS) for cell phones and tablet devices. There are some non-Android tablets in the $99-and-under price range, but Android is your best bet, as the software is always being updated (and for free). These frequent updates will keep your tablet feeling new for a long time.

Because Android is so popular, there's quite a bit of support online if you need help finding your way around your new gadget. It also has cloud storage built right in, perfect for using Google Docs and Google Plus.

The apps you want

A tablet PC is very much a customizable blank slate, thanks to the vast variety of available apps. Plus, the tablets in this price range include e-readers, music players and a way to download movie rentals and digital magazines—all built in to the Android OS and Google Play.

Other tablets may also come with useful apps already installed. Pick up a tablet from Visual Land, and you'll get apps like Skype, Netflix, Evernote and Amazon Kindle bundled in. All are great programs to get you started, though it’s easy to tailor any tablet to fit your tastes. You can remove apps easily from your tablet to free up space and download more applicable ones from Google Play.

Affordable power

Make sure the tablet you choose has a battery that's powerful enough to get you through the day. Look for lithium-ion batteries that last for six or seven hours of continuous use. Remember: Intensive tasks like watching videos may drain that battery more quickly.

Speed limits

At the budget end of the tablet market, you'll sacrifice a little speed, and a tablet with less than 1 GB of RAM will slow down when you try to run too many apps at once. But there are choices on the higher end of budget-friendly that give more expensive tablets a run for their money. Take the Nextbook 8" Tablet for instance. The 1.5GHz chip inside this $99 tablet gives you similar computing power to Google's Nexus 7.

If you're willing to spend a little bit more, you can get a higher-end tablet that’s even better at multi-tasking and running demanding apps.

And don't forget about refurbished products. Used lightly and returned to the factory, refurbished tablets look—and work—like new and offer you big savings.

So there you have it. You really don't have to compromise quality to get a tablet computer the whole family can enjoy. At these prices, you may even be able to afford more than one for double the fun!

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