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A $200 Tablet You Could Actually Consider Buying

The new Supernova stays in line with previous Pandigital tablets and is offered as the company's flagship model with a street price of $200. There is the cheaper Nova ($190), which has the same industrial design as the Supernova, but it has just a 7-inch screen instead of an 8-inch screen and comes with a resistive instead of a capacitive touchscreen display (both displays have a 600x800 pixel resolution).

While the Nova has come a long way and shows just how good resistive touchscreens are today, it is the capacitive screen of the Supernova that provides a much more sensitive control and is the superior technology, especially in entertainment applications. Playing Angry Birds on a capacitive screen is obviously not as awkward as on a resistive device. The Supernova also comes with a Samsung 1 GHz processor that is notably faster than the Nova's chip.

After a few days with the Supernova, it is somewhat apparent that $200 tablets are beginning to make sense and offer a feature set that is likely to be perceived by a large user group as an acceptable compromise over a much more expensive high-end tablet. In the Pandigital tablet, you get most of the features of a high-end tablet, including front and rear cameras, an accelerometer as well as a lightweight design that is 16.6 ounces (the iPad 2 is 21.3 ounces). The design has evolved and looks much more classy in matte black than the previous shiny black surface of the Novel, the company's first-gen tablet.

The compromise you will have to make for the price is in some hardware features and platform value. The Supernova does not include a GPS chip, for example. Due to the hardware limitations, Pandigital did not get qualified for Google's Android Market, but is offering GetJar as a third party app market. You will be able to get productivity and entertainment apps, as well as essential apps such as Gmail or YouTube. However, there is no such thing as Google Maps for this device. On the upside, GetJar does offer a substantial portfolio of free apps, which should keep users on the Supernova occupied for some time.

In its competitive field, the Supernova is not so much a comparison to the iPad 2 as it is to other $200 tablets such as the Kindle Fire. It is unclear how the apps for the two devices will compare, but Pandigital offers Barnes & Noble integration on the Supernova and said that Netflix will be available on its device soon. Compared to the Fire, the tablet also offers a microSD memory slot as well as two cameras, which the Fire lacks. On the downside, Amazon may be offering the better platform value through its services on the Fire. Also, the Supernova's screen resolution of 600x800 is a bit on the skimpy side as the Fire provides 600x1024.

The Supernova, however, is one of the first $200 tablets I have seen that is good enough to be used on an everyday basis for web browsing, email and games. It misses the access to Android Market, which may only be resolved if Google scales back its hardware requirements with Android 4.0 (and if Pandigital updates its tablets with the new OS). Clearly, the Supernova is no iPad, but for $200 it carries impressive value that can hold its own against the Kindle Fire.