When it comes to budget-priced Android tablets, there's a lot of junk out there. The Cruz T301 from Velocity Micro is a rare exception. It's not a great product, but with a street price as low as $160, its core Android features and sturdy hardware make it a workable solution if you're strapped for cash.
The T301 wins no points for beauty. It's a solid slab that's thicker and heavier than 2010's Galaxy Tab. The whole thing measures 0.5 inch thick, 5.5 inches wide, and 7.5 inches tall, with a 7-inch capacitive panel on the front. A removable plastic panel covers the back, exposing a rechargeable battery pack.
Although the Cruz runs Android (version 2.2), the expected physical navigation buttons typically found below the screen are absent. Instead, taking a cue from Android 3.0, Velocity Micro placed a navigation bar within the software, running it across the top of the screen. The advantage of onscreen navigation is that the controls can rotate to match the tablet's orientation. The drawback is that the controls are sometimes hidden from sight when an application or video is shown full-screen.
A soft cloth pouch, a 4GB SD card, and a charging stand are included in the Cruz T301's box--which is a nice touch considering the low price. Also included is a wall-wart charging adapter, which isn't required for recharging (USB will also work), but is the best way to go for a fast charge.
Overall, the T301 is a solidly built tablet, but its hefty weight and thick design tend to fatigue the hand more than other 7-inch tablets in this same price range, such as the Archos 70 and Barnes & Noble Nook Color.
The Cruz T301 offers many of the amenities we expect from an entry-level tablet. On the top you have a power button that doubles as a screen lock, along with a Mini-USB port and SD card slot. The right side offers an oversize volume rocker switch. On the bottom you'll find a pair of decent-sounding built-in speakers, along with a headphone jack and a socket for the power adapter.
Under the hood you get 2GB of internal storage along with the 4GB SD card included in the box. You also have built-in Wi-Fi that's compatible with the latest 802.11n standard. There's no GPS, no digital compass, no gyroscope, and no ambient light sensor. You don't even get a camera. Still, the price is right, and we could say many of the same things about tablets in the $250 range (such as the Nook Color).