Tablets that don’t cost the earth

 
Steve Dinneen
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AMAZON KINDLE FIRE HD
Amazon.co.uk, £129 (seven inch)

The Kindle Fire was hailed as the first serious challenger to Apple’s domination of the tablet market – a colour e-reader with access to the web that seamlessly integrated with your Amazon account.

In reality it was too heavy and too ugly to ever set the tablet world on fire. The Kindle Fire HD is its slimmer, more handsome brother. While it is still very plasticky – what with being made of plastic and all – it feels like a far better designed product. Don’t get me wrong, it’s no rival to the iPad Mini’s delicious good looks but it didn’t make me gag in disgust, either.

The unit is marginally squatter than the iPad Mini, but you get far less screen for your buck, with the bevel taking up a huge amount of real-estate.

Getting started with it wasn’t the smoothest of processes, with the device flat-out refusing to connect to the office wi-fi. BT Openzone to the rescue. Once you’re connected, though, it’s actually a lot of fun. The OS is built on top of Android but Amazon has almost completely masked it with its own tweaks, making it far more intuitive and pleasant to use than most Android tablets.

The best bit, as you’d expect, is the integration with your Amazon account, meaning that, almost out of the box, it is fully – almost creepily – aware of your tastes and viewing history.

Head to head, it comes a distant second to the iPad but, crucially, it is also less than half the price.

VODAFONE SMART TAB II
Vodafone.co.uk, £149 (pay as you go)

The Smart Tab II, appropriately for a tablet made by Vodafone, looks like a giant phone. If Dom Jolly had upgraded to a smartphone, this would be it. It’s not an unattractive device (apart from the golf ball-style dimples on the rear) but neither does it bring anything new to the table.

The seven inch device does everything you expect of an Android tablet: syncs with your email account, connects to the web – but is singularly joyless. Then screen is muddy, the resolution grainy and load times can be painfully slow. It has a mobile connection (obviously) but if you’re planning for the future then it’s not for you – it is only 3G enabled, so no superfast internet. All in all: a bit of a dud.