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Cruz and Kindle Fire are beginning of affordable tablets

Velocity Micro/Amazon

(CBS) - In the world of handheld computing, it seems like the scale is from Kindle to the iPad. Everything else lies somewhere in the middle.

More affordable tablets, not eBook readers, like the Kindle Fire are beginning to surface. The tablet trend is here to stay, so we're glad this market is starting to open up. If you're looking for something that's available now, the Cruz by Velocity Micro is a good middle of the road tablet.

You may be asking, "Tablets and eBook readers: what's the diff?"

Typically, eBook readers are designed with just books in mind. That means no color touchscreen or apps, but they are very affordable. FYI, you can grab a basic Kindle for $79 now.

If you're looking to cruise the web, check email or Facebook, however, you'll probably want a tablet. Until recently, they were really expensive. The iPad 2 and BlackBerry PlayBook both start at $499. And tablets usually require a data plan.

When we stumbled upon the Cruz, we breathed a sigh of relief at its moderate price tag of $199. It's got an 8-inch touchscreen and runs on Android. Its market position is on par with Amazon's Kindle Fire, which has a 7-inch touchscreen. 

A lower-priced tablet is a great entry point for people who don't want to invest a lot of money on a new platform. They have all of the basic functions of fancier tablets, like Facebook, apps and web browsers.

Velocity Micro quietly launched the Cruz earlier this month and is available now. The Kindle Fire is currently taking pre-orders for a November 15 release date. Neither tablets require a data plan and both retail at $199.

For the sake of our pocketbooks, we hope lower-priced tablets are here to stay!

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