I recently purchased an Eken M001, one of the cheap android tablets that you can find on eBay.
There are a lot of the super cheap tablets using Via WonderMedia chips. Based on online specs, the biggest differentiator between different models is whether it has 128 or 256 megs of RAM. It is possible that the displays vary.
My first complaint is that the screen and audio quality are poor. The screen has a strong screen door effect. The audio is subject to hiss and a large amount of internal interference (so, you can somewhat hear the machine “think”).
My second complaint is that the device is slow. I suspect that it is possible to wring a lot more performance out of this chip through better optimization of Android better for it, but while the SlateDroid team has made updated firmware for this device, I see no evidence that further optimization can be expected.
Battery life is poor, and the device doesn’t seem to go into much of a power saving mode. Again, I think this is largely a software issue, but also again I see no evidence that anyone is going to try and fix it.
The touch screen feels very unresponsive. I don’t know if this is a poor choice in touch screen technology and hardware, or if this is also software. Some people say it is obviously going to be poor since it is resistive instead of capacitive, but it is much worse than the resistive screens in old handhelds, such as Palm devices.
I will say that on the upside, Android 1.6’s web browser works extremely well (albeit sluggishly). In some ways, that makes the speed issues all the more aggravating, since it is a painful taste at what could be a really nice experience.
One possibility for this machine is to run Debian on it. I haven’t tried this yet, but it is supposed to be a simple operation. Debian on this would allow you to write code to use it as a control panel or display status information on it. You could also use it as a digital picture frame, but there are cheaper digital picture frames out there with a much nicer display.
In writing this, I see that there is a newer SlateDroid firmware available (now based on Android 2.0), so I will have to try that and post an update in the future.