According to research firm ABI, tablet sales are expected to exceed 100 million units this year. The market is growing rapidly, and falling prices are making decent devices more affordable than ever. Google's Nexus 7 has to be considered the low-cost leader. At $199, it's the cheapest Tegra 3 tablet around.
The Nexus 7's relatively small screen might not appeal to some folks, but the Google tablet isn't the only bargain around. Best Buy has started selling a $300 Lenovo A2109 with what looks like an identical Tegra SoC. The 9" device offers the same 1280x800 display resolution as the Nexus on a slightly larger screen. Lenovo has added a couple of features the Nexus lacks: a Micro HDMI output and a rear-facing camera. Looks like a Micro SD slot didn't make the cut, though. Neither did Google's latest Jelly Bean version of Android. The A2109 runs Ice Cream Sandwich, otherwise known as Android 4.0.
Before long, the A2109 should be joined by the A2107, which Lenovo's website says is a 7" device with built-in 3G connectivity. Lenovo doesn't detail the screen resolution for that model, which makes me suspect it's stuck at 1024x600—fewer pixels than most of today's super-sized smartphones. Worryingly, there's no mention of IPS display technology for either the A2107 or the A2109. A "confidential datasheet" (PDF) on Lenovo's site says the A2109A uses a TN panel, although that particular system sports a Texas Instruments processor and has slightly different specifications. The 9" screen size and support for four-finger multitouch input are the same, though. Hmmm.
If the A2109 is stuck with a TN panel, it may have a hard time competing against rivals equipped with superior screens. The budget tablet market is about to get more crowded, too. Amazon is rumored to be prepping a successor to the Kindle Fire for next week, and Apple is expected to unveil a smaller iPad in October. Both new entries seem likely to use IPS panel technology, and we'd be surprised if the iPad didn't have a Retina display with a higher PPI than typical Android tablets. Thanks to Engadget for the tip.