I didn’t buy a tablet last month. I knew about Acer’s new low-end tablet, the Iconia B1, and that they were at least initially reluctant to release it in the United States, but I hoped that either Acer would change their mind or that someone else would decide that the U.S. market really needs something in between the $80 cheapie no-name 1-ish GHz, single-core, 800×480 tablets sold in every drugstore, closeout store, and vacant gas station lot in the country and the $200 tablets that the likes of Samsung and Acer sell.
I’d be lying if I said I saw the Polaroid M7 and M10 coming. Lying like the evil spawn of a politician and a used car salesman.
Polaroid, up until now, has just been selling those me-too $80 tablets. They appear to be a decent tablet for someone who doesn’t have a lot of money to spend, but nothing spectacular. They’ll run some simple apps, and their 800×480 resolution is large enough to watch SD video, and of course they’re powerful enough to listen to music. But mobile applications are getting bigger and more complicated, so how long will it be before they’re useful only as low-end 7-inch media players, really?
The M7 isn’t like that. It’s not even like the Acer Iconia B1–it has a 1.6 GHz dual-core processor (possibly a Rockchip RK3066) and a 1280×800 screen like the Nexus 7. It’s not as fast as Google’s Nexus 7, but it’s faster than the Iconia B1 and Coby’s similar MID-7065, which as far as I can tell is powered by the same Mediatek 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU, and both sport a 1024×600 display that was standard for anything 7-inch that wasn’t a Nexus 7 or Nook HD, but suddenly looks passe. And unlike the Coby, it’s running Android Jelly Bean, not the older Ice Cream Sandwich. It has a weird front-end on it that looks a little too much like Microsoft’s failing Metro interface, but installing the excellent Go Launcher Ex will solve that.
I was all prepared to write up a comparison between the Iconia B1 and the MID-7065, but the M7 made me suddenly uninterested. Who cares about the differences between two $150 tablets when there’s something better for $20 less?
If anything, the M7 looks like a Nexus 7CR. Given that the price difference between an expensive ARM-based CPU and a cheap ARM-based CPU is $20 or $30, Polaroid’s OEM had to cut some corners somewhere to get the price down–somewhere besides just using a CPU with fewer cores. If the Nexus 7 has glass over its screen, the M7 almost certainly has a plastic screen like the $80 units. It probably has every other design compromise that the $80 units have, too. And while I haven’t seen any statement on how much memory it has, chances are Polaroid opted for 512 MB in order to save five bucks.
And the release date is spring, which suggests to me that Polaroid is waiting for the prices on some of the components to come down.
Still, being able to get a Jelly Bean-based tablet with a 1280×800 screen for $130 is really something. If they’re actually able to deliver these tablets in quantity at that price and keep up with demand, it’s going to start a price war, and that’s good for us. (And if they can’t deliver it, maybe someone else will.)
The M10 is just as revolutionary, delivering a quad-core processor and a 10.1-inch screen for $100 more. I think I’d buy one of those if I can get one, but I imagine the pent-up demand for a nice 10.1-inch tablet at that price must be intense.
It’s time for me to start setting aside some spending money for one or the other of these.
Late update: Archos either took the bait or anticipated this, with its Titanium line, sporting 1.6 GHz dual-core Rockchip 3066 CPUs and screens of varying sizes and unspecified resolution. At what price? The 7-inch Titanium 70 starts at $120.