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11/26/2014
08:36 AM
Michael Endler
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10 Windows Tablets, Laptops Under $200: Holiday Steals

Gadget shoppers can choose from an array of sub-$200 Windows 8.1 tablets and laptops -- offering more power than you'd guess.
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A few years ago, if you needed an inexpensive gadget to round out your holiday shopping, you'd grab an iPod Nano or some other portable media player. Nowadays, for about the same price, you can get a tablet, laptop, or two-in-one device running Windows 8.1. These new devices have their limitations, but compared to yesteryear, $150 to $200 gets you a lot of computer.

When Black Friday hits this week, some of these new devices will cost less than $100, putting Windows devices in impulse-buy territory for the first time. Even if you miss out on the best deals, several new models are still available for less than $200.

The least expensive of these new Windows machines are pretty utilitarian. They don't have the brightest or crispest screens. Nor do they have the most processing power, the highest resolution webcams, the most onboard storage, or the most RAM, compared with higher-priced laptops and tablets. That's because many of these devices are essentially scraped-together, low-end components that satisfy Windows 8.1's new minimum hardware requirements. Can they run demanding programs such as Adobe After Effects? Technically, yes. But with only 1 GB of RAM and processors designed for energy efficiency and low cost instead of power, these devices aren't ideally suited to the job.

Still, many are an intriguing value, offering impressive power for the money if all you need is Internet access, Skype, Netflix, and a core set of Windows applications. In fact, most include a free one-year subscription to Office 365, or in some cases a standalone copy of Office. This means that if you were already planning to shell out $70 for a one-year subscription to Office 365 Personal, you can get the software and a new tablet for as little as $30 more. Not bad.

Not crazy about Windows 8.1's tile interface? Windows 10 is just around the corner. By upgrading your new Windows 8.1 device to Windows 10 you won't have to deal with Start menu withdrawal for long. There's even a good chance the upgrade will be free, given that Microsoft wants to move both Windows 7 and 8 users to Windows 10. In the meantime, Windows 8.1 is not as bad as its reputation -- if you take the time to tune your system's settings.

Why the sudden windfall of cheap Windows tablets and laptops? You can thank Apple and Google. iPads and Android devices dominate the tablet market. Google Chromebooks, popular because they offer productivity apps and web browsing on the cheap, are eating into the low-end PC market. Microsoft needs more users, and quickly, if Windows is going to have a chance on mobile devices; and if you need sales in a hurry, aggressive pricing is a good tactic.

To make these new, inexpensive Windows devices happen, Microsoft eliminated or reduced license fees for several consumer versions of Windows 8.1 while also relaxing the operating system's hardware requirements. These moves decreased costs for manufacturers and incentivized them to fill the market with inexpensive Windows tablets, laptops, and two-in-ones.

The strategy seems to be working. In October, as many of these new Windows devices hit the market, Windows 8.1 enjoyed by far its biggest monthly market share gain this year

It remains to be seen whether the cheaper Windows devices eventually will translate into Windows 10 sales for Microsoft. Neither do we know whether the cheapest of the new devices -- which skimp the most on hardware -- will live up to buyers' expectations. What's certain is that Microsoft's new strategy gives consumers more options than ever, and could help mobile devices running Windows end up under more Christmas trees this year.

Check out our gallery to see 10 of the least expensive tablets and laptops available on Black Friday. All of them run Windows 8.1 except one, the Microsoft Surface 2 tablet. It uses the less-capable Windows RT operating system, but we include it because of its irresistible Black Friday price drop.

One final word: As has become the norm over the last few years, Black Friday for many outlets will start Thursday evening at 8:00 p.m. local time and end when supplies run out. So if you have your heart set on one of these super-affordable Windows 8.1 machines, you'd better head to the store soon after eating your Thanksgiving turkey, much as you might prefer tryptophan-fueled slumber.

Michael Endler joined InformationWeek as an associate editor in 2012. He previously worked in talent representation in the entertainment industry, as a freelance copywriter and photojournalist, and as a teacher. Michael earned a BA in English from Stanford University in 2005 ... View Full Bio

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Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 10:18:15 AM
tablets
I'm very tempted to buy one, but I'm certainly not going to enter a store on Black Friday in order to get a special price.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 11:42:18 AM
Re: tablets
Some of the best deals are door busters that require you to purchase in-store, but others are available online at Amazon, Microsoft.com, and some others-- so even if you don't want to brave the Black Friday madness in person (and who could blame you?), you can still get some of the deals.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 11:49:14 AM
Re: tablets
@Michael, thanks. Though my own area is really trying to push the madness on the local stores, I prefer to stay out of it. I also dread the traffic jams that will ensue.  I'll have to look into online order options and check Lorna's link to skip over the models that bring trouble with them. 
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 12:17:12 PM
Re: tablets
I hear you. In San Francisco on an average day, it takes me at least two hours roundtrip to go to Best Buy. When it's that bad on a typical day, there's no way I'm going to deal with all the traffic and crowds on Black Friday. Maybe I'd save $10 here or there, but the costs to my sanity would be much higher!
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 12:25:38 PM
Re: tablets
@Michael Exactly, the frustration outweighs the savings!
PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2014 | 12:56:35 PM
Re: tablets
I agree with you Michael. These new line of Microsoft devices are really tempting.  They offer laptops with features that satisfy the need of a basic computer users..  I'm really impress with their line of laptops, they are cheaper and more powerful than the first laptop I bought.  This thanksgiving I will be spending time with my family not at the stores. 
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 12:09:38 PM
Re: tablets
@Michael – Paying a visit to the store is always much better than making a purchase online specially when purchasing on special deals. However it could be frustrating to physically visit the store on such a day. 
Gary_EL
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Gary_EL,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2014 | 4:25:04 PM
Re: tablets
I agree. I'd definitely like to check these great new devices out, but I don't think I'd be too popular doing a search and reconnaissance mission, taking up space and asking 1,000,000 questions on the busiest day of the year. Imagine the frustration of a commission-based salesperson, answering all my arcane questions about a $99 device, when (s)he could be selling 50-inch flat screens to customers with cash burning holes in their pockets.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 6:46:16 PM
Re: tablets
These tablets look very appealing at that price but I'm with everyone else on the Black friday shopping.

I don't care if theyy were giving them away free, I'm not spending my time fighting through crowds. It's not worth it to me.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 11:56:18 AM
Re: tablets
@Ariella – If you're hoping to get your hands on a tablet it best to look for a good discount offer.  You could buy an accessory for your new tablet with the money you save on the offer. 
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 10:32:57 AM
Beware ...
Before buying an inexpensive tablet, check out this testing Bluebox did: https://bluebox.com/blog/business/santa-or-the-grinch-android-tablet-analysis-2014/

They found malware, including backdoors, on many sub-$100 tabs. Very much worth a look.
Ariella
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Ariella,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 11:46:14 AM
Re: Beware ...
@Lorna thanks for that. I'll have to do my homework before falling for a bargain.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 12:14:33 PM
Re: Beware ...
Interesting link, Lorna, thanks for that. I notice that the "trustworthy" Android devices in that suvey came from big manufacturers (e.g. Samsung) whereas the less trustworthy ones were often from smaller or lesser-known OEMs. I know big manufacturers sometimes load crapware on their devices, but still, seems like the most malware-susceptible of these Android tablets came from the fringes, rather than the center, of the market.


In any case, it goes to show you that it's always good to check out a device in person before buying. Perhaps you can buy sight-unseen if it's a device that's been reviewed to death (e.g. Surface Pro or iPad), but if it's a device that's less known, like some of these Windows tablets that are either suspiciously cheap or from relatively unknown OEMs, it's best to exercise caution. A $100 tablet might seem like a great deal at the time, but was the purchase really worth it if, a year later, the tablet's spent 95% of the time in a desk drawer?
mak63
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mak63,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2014 | 1:34:35 PM
Re: Beware ...
Thanks for the article Michael, I was looking forward for some Windows bargains. The Asus X205TA @ $99 seems like the best bargain here.
I follow the link that Lorna posted, and I downloaded the Bluebox Trust app to check my phone, I've got a score of 3.0 "Suspicious". Well, kinda did that myself.
Angelfuego
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Angelfuego,
User Rank: Ninja
11/26/2014 | 10:49:45 PM
Re: Beware ...
Would it be accurate to assume these holiday steals that you are referring to are applied in the store and not online?
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 11:46:32 AM
Re: Beware ...
@Angelfuego,

I think that even though we can't deny that these years doorbustes were trully good deals, online offerings were pretty aggresive as well.

By doing some simple google searches you would find sites that compiled eletronic offerings on various sites (I confirmed this when trying to see if there were deals on SSDs)
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 12:14:23 PM
Re: Beware ...
@Angelfuego- Some stores offer discount offers for both online and in store purchases, whereas some only have in store deals. When it comes to convenience online purchases are much better and you always have the option to compare specifications online. 
jfeldman
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jfeldman,
User Rank: Ninja
11/29/2014 | 12:01:18 PM
Re: Beware ...
I did some comparison of Android capabilities vs the blue box study. Decided on a Kindle because, more power for about the same money. Plus, Amazon does a nice job with security and updates. Ymmv.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 12:06:42 PM
Re: Beware ...
@Michael – I was thinking the same, tablets from unknown OEMs are much risky than "Trustworthy" android devices. However its always best to have a look at the device physically before making the purchase. 
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2014 | 2:03:59 AM
Re: Beware ...
@Lorna that was an interesting analysis on inexpensive tablets. I have found that they were all android based and not one with MS OS on it. I think android is facing the same what MS use to face in PC because they are more popular in that industry and hence more malwares get attracted to them.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 12:19:11 PM
Re: Beware ...
@nomii- Android devices already have malwares and viruses, they could easy come with the free apps you download from the Play store. The problem with android is that Google doesn't screen the apps before they are on the Playstore.
H@mmy
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[email protected],
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 3:55:19 PM
Re: Beware ...
Yeah Android apps can have malware as Google has no application QA policy. This has been a problem since day 1. Windows aslo has the malware issue.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
11/28/2014 | 6:41:20 PM
Re: Beware ...
@Lorna... Nice post... The old saying about you get what you pay for is true, although I don't think anyone is expecting to pay for a virus.

The other thing to point out is those tablets look to be droid based. Maybe a good reason to look at windows.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 12:22:58 PM
Re: Beware ...
@ PaulS681 – One reason could be that Android OS could be installed on a less powerful device easily, whereas Windows OS requires more powerful set of hardware components.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 1:51:27 PM
Re: Beware ...
Well I was talking about Malware being on android devices. Windows devices could have them just as easily.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 11:58:44 AM
Re: Beware ...
@Lorna – Thanks for sharing.  I thinks its always good to format and reset the settings on your device as soon as you get your hands on it. If you still suspect of having malware you could use a tool to detect and remove them before you configure any other social or email tools. 
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 10:52:18 AM
Exploit the moment
Sweet deals here, although it feels strange to buy a laptop/ultrabook for $200, like there's a catch, like you'll get what you pay for. Reminds me of the "netbook" days of 2008-2010. But if you're on a tight budget and just need to do basic computing, it doesn't get better than this. Microsoft is at a vulnerable point where they really need to get some Windows 8 laptops and tablets out the door. Might as well take advantage of it.
Michael Endler
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Michael Endler,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 12:28:52 PM
Re: Exploit the moment
It will be interesting to see if Microsoft's budget craze helps it to invest readers in its touch UI. A lot of these cheap notebooks are non-touch. Windows 8.1's market share has been way up over the last six weeks, as these cheap devices have begun to hit the market, but some surveys indicate that a lot of the purchases are non-tiouch. Microsoft needs more users, and it seems to be achieving that goal. But it also needs people to invest in its new app model and UI, and it's not as clear if there's any headway there.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
11/26/2014 | 12:58:06 PM
Re: Exploit the moment
Good point Michael, Microsoft's overarching strategy depends on touch functionality -- building up the app store, getting app developers on board, getting consumers interested in Windows Phones. Slinging cheap non-touch Windows 8.1 laptops won't do much.
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
11/27/2014 | 1:46:18 AM
Re: Exploit the moment
@Michael this move can also be to set the base for their upcoming windows 10. They would like to have more and more users to be converted to touch windows instead of asking them to move straight from older models to latest touch screen. Windows 8 has successfully given a flavor of what is coming next and I would take it as a release which purpose was to keep MS in competition with other touch screen OS.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 12:16:42 PM
Re: Exploit the moment
@nomi – Do you think Microsoft is trying to get users towards touch screen windows OS devices? Don't you think Android devices have already captured this market? 
nomii
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nomii,
User Rank: Ninja
12/8/2014 | 12:25:15 AM
Re: Exploit the moment
@shakeeb: yes I agree with you but although android have captured the market but this doesn't mean that MS will let it go so easily. If they will get a little bit relaxed than soon some other company will get their PC's OS share as well so I think their strategy is good which is not totally defensive.
shakeeb
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shakeeb,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 12:01:50 PM
Re: Exploit the moment
@Shane – I personally love having a netbook just because it was much portable compared to a laptop. These netbooks usually don't come with much processing power and lacks a DVD rom which is a huge disadvantage. 
Li Tan
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Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
12/3/2014 | 5:19:16 AM
Re: Exploit the moment
I think the super notebook nowadays is already quite good. For example, I got an ASUS X200 recently. It's thin and slim but with enough processing power. The netbook is not quite popular anymore nowadays.
freespiritny25
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freespiritny25,
User Rank: Ninja
11/29/2014 | 5:12:39 PM
Re: 10 Window Tablets, Laptops Under $200: Holiday Steals
Great deals! I have a handy little Acer laptop. Its inexpensive and makes a a nice little back up device in the household.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
11/29/2014 | 6:37:09 PM
Loathing Windows 8
The sub $200 level computer sounds so appealing. I've been buying sub $400 laptop computers with great success. These selections are pretty good. I know someone will ask about cheap laptops this year - I'll send them here. Thanks for doing all the research!
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 11:44:19 AM
Re: Loathing Windows 8
@Michelle,

Do you think that Microsoft targetting a lower price range is part of there strategic plans?

If we compare last years product portfolio to today's, there's definitly a huge difference, not only in price but also in capabilities, since most (if not all) offered tablets/laptops target basic computing capabilities, mostly towards web browsing and media consumption.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 5:01:31 PM
Re: Loathing Windows 8
I don't know if they're specifically targeting the lower price range but I think it's a good strategy.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
11/30/2014 | 11:51:00 AM
What's the next step?
Michael,

As always, excellent article!!

This year I couldn't help but conclude that Microsoft portoflio offering in a lower price range is a definite strategic plan to attract and appeal to a broader audience.

In fact, most (if not all) devices offered were in the lower end regarding capabilities, offering basic computing (web browsing and media consumption).

Another trend were many OEMs outputing various options that target all consumer types (the HP stream is a good example of something that can appeal to both media consumers and business users)

So my question is...what's the next step for Microsoft? Is Windows 10 part of that strategy and try to capture an even more broader audience? where does windows phones and windows fit devices fall in?

As you can tell....I'm a windows fan, and I definitly would like to see a come back :)
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