CHEAP TABLETS

AOC BreezeResults are coming in from the outer precincts and counties, and they’re all saying the same thing: When it comes to tablet computers, you get what you pay for.

Buyers so far seem to love Apple’s “iPad,” feel slightly less enamored of Samsung’s “Galaxy Tab” and don’t find the “Dell Streak” worth the $200 price because of the required phone contract, a monthly cost that adds up big time. For cheaper views, we’ve been testing the “Breeze,” a $180 eight-inch tablet from AOC, a maker of tons of LCD monitors. It isn’t officially out yet, but we tried it and you can order it. There are 80 more new tablets in the works and hardly any of them are out. And no, in order to preserve our sanity, we’re not going to try them all.

The attraction of the Breeze is the price: $180 instead of Apple’s $500 for iPad. The video and sound quality are quite good. Getting videos, music and whatever is, well, a breeze. Plug it into a computer with the included USB cable and drag files from one window to another. To browse for ebooks, tap the “Shelves” icon on the home screen. There are links to all the good freebie sites, such as manybooks.net. Tap the Android marketplace icon to add apps, about half of which are free. We added “Poynt,” which has local restaurant and movie reviews. The app tried to find our location using GPS, but it took so long we just typed it in.

The Breeze has the Android “Eclair” operating system, not Google’s latest “Honeycomb” version, or even its two predecessors, “Gingerbread” and “FroYo.” clair is not as fast, and you can’t spread your fingers to enlarge the screen, scroll through pages with a finger, or use other advanced features. Often when you tap to turn a page on an e-book, you get the message: “It is opening.” (Like: No kidding.) Email works fine, but the Breeze has a silly auto-fill feature to “help” you type. It’s worse than bad. We typed the word “with,” for example, hit the space bar and it filled in “Witherell.” Sounds like someone’s name; someone we don’t know. Other “helpful” fills were just gibberish. So we turned off auto-fill. Meanwhile, back at the ranch rumors are rife about a coming drop in iPad prices. But the Breeze is a decent option if you can’t wait. More info at AOC.com.

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