Can’t afford an iPad 3 then?

With Apple announcing the new iPad yesterday (it’s not technically called the iPad 3 you know) the only disappointment in a slew of high spec details was the rumoured “budget” 8gig iPad 2 wasn’t mentioned. I say budget in inverted commas because the rumoured price of £250 was still a fair heft of cash.

When Apple bring out a new model, the prices never seem to change and this is no different. A base model (no 3G, or 4G for that matter) 16gig new iPad will cost £399, going all the way up to £659 for the top end model. I don’t know about you, but I would be somewhat reluctant to take something that expensive out and about with me.

I know plenty of bloggers with iPads but I also know plenty of bloggers struggling to make ends meet. I thought I’d go half way and recommend a couple of alternatives that are considerably cheaper. They both run on Android rather than Apple’s IOS. This is different, not worse, not better just different. If you’ve got a Mac at home, an iPhone in your bag and an iPod of some description, they’re probably not for you but they can do most of the things an iPad can do and some that it can’t.

I’m not about to start a massive flame war of comparison between Apple and Google, there is a well thought out article here on CNET about the differences.

The Motorola Xoom. This has been superceded by the Xoom 2 but is still a powerful 10 inch tablet and at £279, it’s £120 cheaper than the base iPad and even cheaper than an equivalent 32gig model. Techradar, one of the longest established PC sites gave it 4/5 a year ago. It’s also due to get an upgrade to Google’s latest and greatest operating system, Ice Cream Sunday. 

The screen is actually slightly larger than the iPad’s and many of the problems you might read about lack of apps that were an issue on launch are not relevant now.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. This is a current tablet that was only released last October to rapturous applause. And it’s also been discounted to £279. Techradar gave the machine 4.5/5 and said it was almost the best tablet they’ve ever seen, only eclipsed by it’s 10inch sibling. As the name suggests, the screen is a tad smaller at 8.9 inches but no compromises have been made in any other aspect. Anyone who’s played with or owned a Samsung phone knows how great the design and build quality is. So for the same price as the Xoom you get a more portable tablet.

Both tablets can do pretty much anything the iPad can, and will also work with bluetooth keyboards if you’re trying to replace a laptop.

Personally, I’d love the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 but at the moment, I’m more than happy to make do with a netbook (an Asus 1015P) that only cost me £149. It has wifi and links up nicely to my mifi for mobile internet when I’m out and about. It’s more cumbersome than a tablet, has a shorter battery life but is ultimately more versatile. Of course, in the coming week we may see discounts on the iPad 2 but if history is anything to go by, these will still be considerably more expensive than either of the two tablets I’ve highlighted above.

Mind you, if you want the last word in versatile, you can’t do better than the Asus Transformer. Admittedly coming in at £429, £30 more than a base iPad, this comes with a dock that turns it into a laptop and extends the battery life to 16 hours. Again, Techradar love it, giving it 4.5/5 and as a genuine solution to lugging a laptop around, it seems like a winner. It also doesn’t seem that expensive if you view it as a £320 tablet with a £110 dock (they can be bought separately).

At the end of the day though, you need to think whether you really need or would get the use out of a tablet to make it worthwhile investing the money. Even £279 is a lot of money if the thing is only going to sit in a drawer.