The Cheapest Android Tablet

I recently came upon this post on a filmmaking website about how you can turn your Android tablet into a wireless DSLR monitor through the purchase of a $30 battery-powered wireless router.

I'd been looking for a way to wirelessly control/monitor my camera for a while - partly for events when I want to put a camera somewhere else for a different angle without a second operator, and partly for when I have my camera on a Steadicam (or a cable cam -- more details to follow) and need to monitor my camera without using cables.

The only problem was that I didn't have an Android tablet. At first I thought I'd look at the price of a used Nexus 7, but it was around £80 and I didn't want to shell out that sort of cash for something like this. iPads can't do this because of the way Apple locks down developers' access to the Lightning connector, apparently.

And so I conducted an experiment. I looked for the cheapest Android tablet I could find on eBay to see whether it would be up to my needs. I settled on this one for a whopping £35 with free shipping.

My basic test criteria were: it should be able to run the DSLRController app as it should, as well as being able to provide some light entertainment through Plex, iPlayer/ITV Player/4oD.

Today, it arrived. The box looked mostly presentable, and reminded me of the box of one of these, from when I had one before I got an iPod Nano.

Tablet Box

I perused the back for information was puzzled to see that this tablet usually retails for £99.

Tablet back

The specs of the tablet weren't so surprising any more, given the price it had been intended to be sold at.

Upon opening, I was greeted with a vague attempt at Apple-style packaging.

Tablet open

Underneath this layer, accessories had been haphazardly thrown together:

Tablet bits

However, I was pleasently surprised by the tablet itself. It didn't seem too flimsy, and other than a few stupid design issues like having the power cable come out of the top, it seemed on the whole decent.

I booted it up, and after proudly declaring that it was a "Nebula 1701", it launched straight into Android 4.2.2.

I won't go into detail about Android itself, because I'm biased and would never use it willingly in everyday life for anything other than content consumption - but the user experience is as good as I could have hoped for on something this cheap.

To my delight, it passed both my tests of functionality: I was able to successfully wirelessly control my 5D Mark III:

Tablet DSLR

And watch HD films from Plex once I'd updated my server to the most recent version.

All in all, I'd say if you don't want a tablet for anything other than to fulfill a set of basic tasks, this is well worth the £35. Frankly, at that price, you could even just buy one to play around with. If you want to do anything more, however, I'd still recommend an iPad.