Are We Entering The Era Of Low Cost Computing?

In the recent past we have seen many “low cost” operations revolutionize one market or another.

From airlines to mobile phones, from budget holidays to cheap branded wear, and now, to low cost tablet pcs. And we mean low cost. The new Ubislate 7Ci tablet by DataWind is priced at 4.499 Indian rupees (about £ 50 or $ 62, according to Wired.com). For a price lower than most “cheap” mobile phones, is this device going to deliver a below-the-belt blow to a market dominated by giants like Apple, Samsung, Sony or Google?

First of all, how was it developed? DataWind is a private company with research facilities in Montreal, Canada and headquarters in London, ran by Punjabi brothers Suneet and Raja Tuli. They developed the Aakash budget tablet in 2010, in a coordinated effort with Indian authorities aimed at connecting with the web a wider section of the Indian population. Despite a less-than-optimal performance, the Aakash is now being succeeded by the Ubislate, developed in conjunction with Reliance Industries: there has been a huge build-up of pre-booked (and pre-paid, apparently) orders and now there is a significant backlog in deliveries, but the product is out.

Wired.com has reviewed the Ubislate 7Ci and its overall impression is favourable, despite a somewhat short battery life. We have compared the Ubislate 7Ci with two other tablets, the market leader iPad Mini 16GB with Wi-fi connectivity, and the budget competitor to the Ubislate, the Versus Touchpad 7. The key parameters comparison is as follows:

  • Screen size and resolution: the iPad Mini’s screen is 7,9 inch, the Ubislate 7 inch and the Versus 6,7. Even without its bigger brother’s retina screen, the iPad scores higher on resolution and vividness than the other two.
  • Processing power: both the Ubislate and the Versus have a single-core processor with 512MB of Ram, the Versus having an edge on internal memory with 8GB (but immediately available only 5,7MB)  instead of 4GB. The iPad wins again with a faster processor and 9MB of memory available.
  • O.S.: Apple’s iOS 6,0 is pitted against the Ubislate’s and the Versus’ Android Ice Cream Sandwich and the latter holds its own against the iOS.
  • Both the Ubislate and the Versus have good wi-fi connectivity and USB hook-up ports, which the iPad lacks but no Bluetooth, which the iPad supports.
  • Battery life: no contest here, with the iPad’s 13 hours of web browsing winning hands down against the Versus’ 4 hours or the Ubislate’s paltry 3 hours.
  • Price: the iPad Mini 16GB goes for about £ 270, the Versus 7 for about £ 90 and the Ubislate 7Ci at about £ 50.

As is customary in any product, quality is real and you’re made to pay for it. And as is also customary, what you want depends on what you need. If you need a tool for professional use (working on the web, presentations, video etc) the iPad Mini is worth the expense. If you need a light travelling companion or will use the tablet for information retrieval or games (and will allow for an occasionally cranky experience) then either the Versus 7 or the Ubislate 7Ci will deliver with no frills and a wink to your budget.

This post was written by Mark Jenkins.