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Coby’s new Kyros tablets attack the market from a unique angle and include uncommon products, such as this tablet with an 8-inch screen (most tablets have 7- or 10-inch screens).

Courtesy of Coby

If the consumer tech market were a prom dance, almost everyone would want the iPad to be their date. But in this economy, not everyone can wine and dine Apple's high-budget products, and that's why a legion of low-cost tablets has begun to crowd electronics shelves. Even in these recession-weary times, no tablet lover has to dance alone.

Enter the Kyros line of tablets, which was introduced by Coby in the first quarter of 2011. The Kyros collection features three different versions, all with varying specifications. Prices range from very low for the MID7024 ($179.99) to the still very affordable MID1024 ($299.99), both of which are far less than the most basic iPad 2, which sells for around $500.

Each model has similar capabilities, including Wi-Fi connectivity and more than a dozen integrated applications. There are some very basic apps, such as a calculator, calendar, clock and e-mail function, a browser for Web surfing and apps for playing both on- and offline music and videos. The Aldiko E-book app lets you download and read books, and you can locate and download other programs using AppsLib, a marketplace for Android-based tablets (which the Kyros models are).

These tablets come preloaded with Google's Android (OS) operating system 2.2, which was originally developed for smartphones. To be totally clear, this isn't a version of Android that comes with Google's stamp of approval. Instead, this OS is an open-source flavored Android that's molded to fit the relatively low-powered hardware found on Kyros models.

So when you unwrap a Kyros, you won't find many of the free Google apps that come on many smartphones or other mid- to high-end tablets. Forget about Gmail, Google Talk, Google Books, Google Market, Google Maps and other apps that many people take for granted these days.

But in spite of the absence of those features, there's still plenty to explore under the hood of Coby's tablets. On the next page, you'll see more details about the hardware powering these products.