By Louis DeNicola, Cheapism.com
If you've been to a trendy coffee shop lately, you've probably seen the usual crowd hunched over their laptops working fervently -- or at least checking email and Facebook fervently. But perhaps you've also noticed a handful of people swiping and tapping away on tablets. If you're afraid that joining their ranks would leave you with barely enough cash for a cup of coffee, fear not. Unless your heart is set on Apple's latest gadget, you have a number of good choices under $200. Here are the top picks from Cheapism.com.Google Nexus 7
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- The Google Nexus 7 (starting at $199) runs Google's latest Android operating system (a.k.a. Jelly Bean) and online reviewers say it delivers speedy performance. This tablet comes with a number of user-friendly features: 16 gigabytes of storage, a 1280 x 800 HD screen, and a front-facing camera for video chatting, to name a few. Expert testers report that the battery lasts about 10 hours.
- The Barnes & Noble Nook HD (starting at $199) shares a name with the retailer's line of ereaders but provides much more functionality. It runs a number of apps, although reviewers warn that the Nook Store peddles fewer than you'd find in other ecosystems, such as Google Play. The screen boasts the highest resolution of any on this list: 1440 x 900. The Nook HD comes with 8GB of storage and a microSD card slot so you can add up to 32GB.
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- The Amazon Kindle Fire (starting at $159 with ads and $174 without) won't last all day, according to reviews, with battery life of a little over five hours in testing. But the price point is low, especially if you don't mind ads on the home and lock screens. The Kindle Fire HD, which offers more storage, better battery life, and a high-definition screen, also squeaks in under $200 with ads ($214 without).
- The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 (starting at $179) is an Android tablet that lags the Nexus 7 on most scores but also offers a bit of a price break. Another advantage: a microSD expansion slot, which accepts up to 32GB cards to supplement 8GB of internal storage. This tablet has proved capable of running for more than eight hours in expert testing on a fully charged battery. The 1024 x 600 resolution doesn't qualify as HD, but reviews praise the display.
These are all 7-inch tablets that connect only to Wi-Fi networks and not 3G or 4G service (although on the bright side you won't have to shell out for a monthly data plan). While storage is limited on tablets compared with full-fledged computers, the models listed above provide various forms of cloud storage.
Hardware aside, you'll want to consider what apps and other media are available before you purchase. Google's offering, which extends to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, includes the widest variety of apps outside of Apple's App Store. Amazon Prime membership ($79 per year) gives Kindle Fire users access to unlimited streaming video and a Lending Library where they can borrow one book every month.
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