The $99 Android tablet of 2013: The Hisense Sero 7 LT (or Lite)

So when I decided to bring myself into the current decade, tablet-wise, I opted for the $150 Hisense Sero 7 Pro, though I was certainly curious about its $99 little brother. Unfortunately, information on the Sero 7 Lite hasn’t been as easy to come by–people are understandably excited about getting a Nexus 7 clone for $50 less that actually includes two desirable features that the real thing lacks. This must be what it felt like to be in the market for an IBM PC/XT when the Leading Edge Model D came out in the summer of 1985.

But of course I was still curious what $99 can buy today, so I’m glad that Ars Technica gave it a look.

To spoil their story: It’s a decent tablet, far better than anything we’ve seen for anywhere near $99, but it’s still hampered by the need to hit that price point. The memory is on the slow side, which means the tablet feels laggy while multitasking, though once the task is loaded into RAM it executes quickly. And the screen, though much more spacious than the 800×480 screens so common in the Black Friday specials of 2012, is lower quality than the average 1024×600 screen. Text is fuzzier, and the screen’s viewing angle, brightness, and overall vividness leave something to be desired. And, finally, the battery life is very low. The Sero 7 Pro’s battery life is unspectacular, but the Lite’s battery life makes the Sero 7 Pro look like a pro in comparison.

So the tablet has some shortcomings. Then again, six short months ago, for $99 you were lucky to get all of that along with a single-core processor and a dated version of Android.

The Sero 7 Lite does at least run Jelly Bean–a very early incarnation of Jelly Bean, but Jelly Bean (aka Android 4.1) is the minimum version you really want, from a security standpoint. And its 1.6 GHz dual-core CPU and 1 GB of RAM are perfectly reasonable.

So, for a tablet on a budget, the Sero 7 Lite sounds like it has potential. It wasn’t long ago at all that the cheapest tablet worth having was a refurbished brand-name tablet on special for $150. So there’s certainly a hunger for a decent $99 tablet, and it looks like we have it.

And, being a decent $99 tablet, I would expect a bit of a development community to spring up to support it. For now, the Sero 7 Pro has the development attention, and I expect it will keep that attention longer, due to its similarities to the Nexus 7. To me, it was the safer choice of the two.

But I’m not everyone. So I’m actually pretty excited that there’s a choice at all. And it’s entirely possible that an aftermarket ROM may help with some of that lagginess down the line. The Sero 7 Pro is reportedly peppier with the aftermarket ROM I haven’t tried yet–yes, I had someone ask me today why I didn’t load an aftermarket ROM on it the day I got it–so there’s hope, though no guarantees.

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