i have noticed that recently released branded tabs are becoming cheaper and some can even match the "cheap" chinese tabs.. and with better specs and more solidly built hardware
You have a real point there. I've been a long time fan of buying Chinese PMPs. I bought my first one two years ago. In the past, I found PMPs useful as a lower cost alternative to an iPod. And they could play a lot of different video formats right out of the box. So if you were primarily looking for portable video, the PMP worked great. Music was good but not as great as a Sansa MP3 player.
But this Android tablet boom has replaced the PMP to an extent. Now I'm running into that roadblock where the instability and quirks of Chinese tablets are more pronounced that what I was used to in PMPs. I'm still waiting on a refund from a Teclast tablet that I returned because I was very disappointed with it's performance. With prices of these Chinese tablets getting higher and higher, it is a good question as to whether it's worth it to invest in these tabs or just spend a little more on a more main stream tablet.
In my case, I had spent around $280 on a Teclast tablet. But for $300, I could have bought an Acer A100 tablet instead. Or even put some more money toward a Galaxy tab or HTC Flyer. Last month, there was a sale at the local brick and mortar store that offered $50 off on android tablets. I was really looking closely at the Acer A100 tablet, but ultimately I wasn't a fan of the poor battery performace and complaints about the screen. But is really woke me up to the reality that tablet prices are dropping on mainstream brands. The price difference between Chinese and mainstream tablets is shrinking and the overseas market is losing it's luster. I had originally bought a MIDnite for just under $200, but now I find myself willing to spend more money to get a tablet w/ better specs and performance. Weird, because a year ago, I wasn't interested in spending so much money on a tablet. For that money, I wold have rather bought a cheap laptop. But I've gotten hooked on the portablity of a tablet and want to get another as soon as I can.
I see the main weakness in Chinese tablets right now is just the lack of stability. I like the market that has 20 or 30 different variations of 7" and 8" tablet. If you look hard enough, you can find the combination of screen size, screen resolution and ports that you like the most. But the well documented problems w/ getting full access to the market, few firmware releases, spotty WiFi connection, incompatible apps and very little clearly documented information on specific tablet models are hurting the market. Buying a Chinese tablet right now is a gamble.
I wish that a Chinese company would just take the time to support a 7" or 8" tablet w/ a long term vision. To many tablets are just make and sold pretty much as is. If you are lucky, you will get one official firmware release. But other than that, you are dependant on the overall community to help w/ fixes for something as simple as getting full Android market. This strategy seems to make money in the home market, but buying these devices on the internet from overseas almost makes you feel like you are blind.
That's not to say that mainstream companies don't have problems. The main reason why I never bought a tablet last year from a mainstream company like Samsung, Acer or Toshiba was because of the high prices as well as negative reviews. There are some really good reviews out there, but I also see horror stories from people who really weren't happy w/ Galaxy Tabs for example. No offence, but I've never been a fan of Archos devices. I've seen too many bad reviews to ever buy a tablet from them, even for $299. The Kindle Fire is not an Android tablet. And without a SD card slot, it's going to be harder to modify than a Nook Color. So it really should not be compared to the Archos or Acer tablets. So in short, there are issues w/ mainstream tablets as well. Nobody is perfect.
I don't know what my next tablet purchase is going to be yet. But I suggest really taking your time to research any tablets to try to find one that have been around long enough to get most of the quirks fixed on internet threads like this. I don't recommend being an early adopter for any tablet, no matter how much hype is being generated.