$99 Black Friday Windows Tablets -- Are They Worth Fighting The Crowds?

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Along with flat-screen television sets of all makes, shapes and sizes one of the other big Black Friday offerings could be the new breed of super inexpensive Microsoft (MSFT) Windows devices. Tablets like E-Fun's Nextbook 8" Tablet With Windows are being offered by Walmart (WMT) this Friday for only $99.

Right off the bat we can tell you this little E-Fun device is not the equivalent of a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 or any other modern, top-of-the-line computer. But, don't sell it short. We've started to put it through its paces and we're finding this is one sweet, little computer.

For $99, you get a tablet that runs the "Windows 8.1 with Bing" operating system designed to work on less-expensive hardware. It's Microsoft's real, 32-bit OS that allows you to run all the third-party applications of your choice. You can think of the Nextbook as a modern-day netbook only in tablet form.

The operating system is well matched to the hardware. In this case, there's an 8-inch LCD touchscreen delivering 1280 by 800 pixels, a quad-core, Intel (INTC) Atom processor operating at 1.33 GHz mated to 1GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage. From now until the end of the year, buyers of this unit will also get an extra 16GB via a free microSD memory card and it can handle expansion cards as large as 64GB.

There's Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g/n) and Bluetooth (4.0), 2 MP/0.3 MP cameras back and front, a headphone jack, mini-USB port as well as a mini-HDMI input. That last feature is important because it allows you to connect the tablet to a large monitor. You can add a Bluetooth keyboard or mouse and you can use this as a desktop device too.

This Nextbook comes with a one-year, free subscription to Microsoft's Office 365 Personal Edition productivity suite along with 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage. At $6.95/month or $69.95/year, including that is a nice extra for a $99 tablet. Microsoft also throws in 60 minutes of international Skype calling and the Nook for Windows 8 app to sweeten the deal.

All of this looks great on paper but would be meaningless if this device didn't perform as well as it does. Again, it's not the equivalent of a larger Windows computer with much more memory and an Intel i3, i5 or i7 processor, but it actually gets the job done and is fun to use. The touchscreen provides HD resolution but only just that. While the processor does an amazing job running a full, modern-day operating system on only 1 GB of RAM, this device will never win a speed trial when pitted against units with more. Even though you can plug the Nextbook into a large monitor, it doesn't automatically upscale the output to higher resolutions so all you'll get is 1280 by 800 pixels and a screen with a large black border around it.

On the other hand, we are talking about a real Windows computer that comes with a year's worth of Office 365 and 1 TB of cloud space for less than one hundred bucks. That's pretty amazing. But, as it turns out, the offer is not unique. Head over the Microsoft's online store and you'll find a similar offer. They're selling HP's (HPQ) Stream 7 Signature Edition tablet, also running Windows 8.1, at the same $99 Black Friday price. 

The E-Fun Nextbook 8" device, is highly portable, delivers good performance and battery life and is highly recommended at $99. It makes a great, super-portable stocking stuffer. We're not sure if the tablet will revert back to it's pre-Black Friday price of $149 or whether we'll see more discounting as we get closer to gift-giving time. Either way, it's a pretty good deal.

Overall Score: 7.8/10

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-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

To submit a news tip, send an email to tips@thestreet.com.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet's Senior Technology Correspondent.

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