Brett Arends

The $200 name-brand Android tablet

March 9, 2011: 11:30 AM ET

For the WSJ's Brett Arends, the Android-powered Nook Color with its sub-$200 price tag is the perfect tablet.

Who says you can't get a quality tablet for under $500?

It is certainly no iPad 2 or XOOM, but for a certain segment of the population, the Nook Color might be all the tablet they need.  Apple's (AAPL) iPad clocks in at $499 (old models can be had for $100 less) and the XOOM currently clocks in at $800, with a lower-priced Wifi version looming.  Arends writes that a simple hack enables a full Google (GOOG) Android capability by stripping away Barnes and Noble's (BKS) overlay.

...the tablet is perfect for what I want. I'm not talking about one of those junk tablets from a Chinese website, either.

I bought a Barnes & Noble Nook Color tablet (for $190 plus tax from a temporary online promotion, down from the usual $250). And then I downloaded a very simple, perfectly legal software fix from the Internet that turned it into a fully functioning tablet running on Google's Android platform. The fix, known as a "rooting," unlocks Barnes & Noble's proprietary overlay. The instructions came via Ars Technica, a reputable site devoted to technology, and were pretty easy to follow.

Before we get all high and mighty on what constitutes the perfect tablet experience, it is probably important to remember that not everyone has $500-$829  in their pocket for a new Galaxy Tab, Xoom or iPad purchase and a $200 option might be just fine for what many are after.  For people who want to browse the web, go onto Facebook, watch YouTube videos, Email, use maps and other mediocre tablet type-things, this might be the sweet spot.

Arends even noted some advantages over the bigger tablets.  "It actually slips into my overcoat pocket."

I expect many other name brand tablets that don't shoot for the high end to hit the market this year.  But at the moment, this and some resistive (yuk) screen tablets from Archos are about all you'll find in the $200 range from the name brands.

The big question: If a bookstore like Barnes and Noble can build it and bring it to market for $200, why can't HTC, LG, Samsung or Motorola (MMI), or any of the other big device manufacturers?  Some point to it being a loss leader.  At under $200, perhaps.  But at its $250 retail price there is some room for profit.

Arends concludes with another interesting question: More

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