I have a U.S. Pandigital Noel 7" I bought on a clearance sale for about $60. I have it updated to the "tablet" version from the Pandigital site and, yes, it does not connect to the Android Market, but I have found and loaded various APK files from the creators' sites with no issue. I have also loaded various MP4 videos and watched with fairly decent playback.
I second the suggestion to check Slatedroid from above. They are a good source of information, hacks, custom firmware, etc.
Give them a try and don't give up completely on the Novel just yet.