A cheap Asus tablet is spotted, but is it Google's $99 Nexus?

Google tablet concept

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Despite speculation that Google will aggressively go after the cheap tablet market with a $99 Nexus tablet, the company announced no such device in its latest wave of Nexus hardware.

But that won't stop the rumors from humming along. As Slashgear reports, a recent benchmark test from GLbench shows a new Asus tablet, model ME172V, with a weaker processor and lower screen resolution than the Nexus 7. The device was running Android 4.1.1, codenamed Jelly Bean, when benchmarked.

Could this be the budget Google Nexus tablet in question? It's hard to say. The benchmark shows a 1 GHz processor (number of cores unknown) and generation-old Mali 400 graphics, which would both be a step below the Tegra 3 quad-core chip inside the Nexus 7.

Also, GLbench lists a screen resolution of 1024 by 552 ppi. While the actual screen resolution is likely 1024 by 600, some space may be subtracted for Android's software navigation bar. In any case, the resolution is lower than the 1280 by 800 screen on the Nexus 7.

Still, nothing in the benchmarks specifically suggests this is a Nexus device—that is, a device built in conjunction with Google, running the latest version Android without any bloatware or modifications by Asus. As Slashgear speculates, it could just be a dirt-cheap tablet for limited release outside the United States.

The only reasons to think otherwise are two earlier rumors, one from the unreliable DigiTimes, and another from NPD analyst Richard Shim, who accurately predicted Google's high-resolution Nexus 10 tablet. As it stands, this rumor seems too shaky to call either way, but if you've been holding out for a sub-$100 Jelly Bean tablet, there's hope for you yet.

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