I have pretty much decided to buy a cheap Chinese generic / no-name tablet before I leave Taiwan.
This will be my first Android and my first touchscreen device of any kind. I'm buying something very cheap because right now I don't have much disposable money and don't need a serious bit of hardware. This will be more or less a toy to play with the tech.
That being said I still want to avoid the worst pieces of hardware and get the best value for my money. But of course reviews for generic devices are hard to find and sometimes they don't even seem to have brand names or model numbers.
So what should I do to evaluate an Android tablet that I physically can play with in a consumer electronics market?
Not easy to say. Android version is an obvious starting point and is much more important than with bigger names because with this cheap ones, you normally don't get any support and updates, so you will be stuck with the version that came with the tablet. Don't go below KitKat if you can afford it. Jelly Bean is the absolute minimum, never below that.
After having seen a couple of smaller tablets and related user problems, I'd say the second most important point is the memory. Cheap tablets come with smaller amounts of memory and while they usually offer a card slot, this can be very deceiving. Android only allows you to move apps between the first and second memory area (provided the app itself allows it, which is usually rare, so better not counting on it). And I saw quite a few tablets where the internal memory is already partitioned in two, the memory card coming in as third, for instance, a 8 GB tablet:
In this setup, you can't move apps to the memory card, only to the secondary ("USB") memory. And because most of your apps will not move at all, you're practically limited to 1 GB of actual app storage that is hardly enough for the standard selection of browsers, video players, Facebook and similar stuff and the memory card won't help you, either. The problem is, the manufacturer will not tell you this, they will simply state that you have a 8 GB tablet, 6 GB available. Which is, of course, true, considering that 1 + 5 = 6 but this doesn't reveal the whole situation.
Somehow you have to make sure that it isn't partitioned this way, that you will have at least 2-4 GB of real, app-usable memory to play with. The more the better, of course. But you'll need either personal testing or at least a reliable review somewhere where they describe it precisely enough. If you can check it out in the flesh in a store, that would really help.