One of my favorite tablets this year was the Shield Tablet. It seemed like the near perfect match of size and performance, small enough to be portable and powerful enough to play games even on a Hotel TV. Unfortunately, at over $400 it was too pricy to justify. Well, this week NVIDIA (News - Alert) announced they were reducing the price of their tablet to $200. They did strip out the stylus, which I doubt many used (even though it was one of the best stylus implementations in the market) but the end product is still a good value for just before the Christmas season.
We’ll compare it against the other long term test product I have: the Amazon Fire HD 10.1” tablet. This is a device that I was so excited to get and so disappointed with this year. With ads (not that annoying really) you can get one of these for $199 as well.
Let’s talk about the $200 tablet.
$200 Break Point
There are price points that we call break points in the market. Each of these break points is important because more people will buy below than above them. The big ones are $999, $499, $199, $99, $49, $19, $9, $4.99, and $99. The rule is that if you can price at any of these price points you’ll sell more product than if you are over that price point, and if you price below them you won’t see a significant jump unless you pop all the way down to below the next break point.
This is why you see Amazon pushing their $49.99 tablet really hard. They know that at that price point they can move a whole lot of product. Granted, at $50 a tablet you aren’t going to get much, but if you are just using it as a remote control or reader, you probably don’t care. And lord knows losing a $49 tablet won’t upset you like losing an $800 iPad might.
At $200, the two tablets I’ve been playing with are the Amazon Fire HD 10 and (what used to be) the $430 NVIDIA Shield, now priced at $200. I’ve been a long time Kindle user, and while the prior $400 generation was great, this new tablet is disappointing. With the price drop, Amazon significantly reduced the performance of this tablet; and while it is thin and attractive, it is also painfully slow and quick to die. Amazon still sells the prior generation for $429, and it is really a much better tablet. Amazon also detrimentally changed their interface; after using this thing for weeks, I’m still struggling with it because they didn’t change the interface on the older tablets, which I still use, in the same way. It is really kind of annoying.
The NVIDIA Shield is the same tablet they sold at a premium earlier in the year, so you are basically getting the same high performance for half the price. This is more pure Android (News - Alert) and compatible with all Android phones. The Amazon Kindle reader app for Android isn’t bad either, which means an easy and pleasant reading experience. Since this is a gaming tablet you can stream games from your PC, you can stream games from NVIDIA’s GeForce streaming service, and you can play games that run localized on the device. This gives you a nearly unmatched catalogue of games on top of the video and entertainment services that typically run on Android. They even have a game controller option that you can get for the device.
The only thing I think the Amazon 10 $199 tablet is good for is a small portable streaming video viewer. The bigger screen does make it a better viewing device, but it is too big and heavy to be a good reader and its performance with games is almost painful at times. Also, Amazon doesn’t have the variety that Android has. The NVIDIA Shield is a better entertainment device, it is (ironically) a better reader due to size, and its game options are a superset of what Android offers and include a decent library of streamable PC games. If you want something to keep the kids, or yourself, entertained during the drama of a typical family holiday get together, I think you’ll find that despite its smaller size, the NVIDIA Shield is the bigger value. Go figure.