10 Windows Tablets, Laptops Under $200: Holiday Steals - InformationWeek

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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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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. 
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. 
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. 
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. 
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 :)
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)
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
11/29/2014 | 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!
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.
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.
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