Holiday buying guide: tablets

Monday, December 16th, 2013. Filed under: Holidays Home & Garden Online Science & Technology
iPad Air ©Apple

iPad Air

(Relaxnews) – If consumer reports and research firms are to be believed, tablets will be the must-have gift of 2013, beaten only in popularity by clothing and gift cards, which will probably be redeemed against the cost of a tablet anyway.

The best of the best: The iPad Air from $499
The only thing stopping this particular tablet from being absolutely perfect is the price. At $499 for the 16GB model, it is probably the most expensive tablet currently on the market. But for that money consumers get access to 1 million apps, a gorgeous Retina, better-than-HD display, a device with a 9.7-inch display that is still easy to hold with one hand and an attention to detail that none of Apple’s competitors have come close to matching. Underneath the anodized aluminium exterior is a 64-bit processor — the first ever in a tablet, and a second, dedicated motion tracking processor for fitness, wellbeing and even gaming apps.

Best small tablet: The Nexus 7, from $229
The Nexus 7 wins in this category partly on price. The iPad Mini offers serious performance in a very nice form factor, but it is simply too expensive to otherwise compete with what the best 7-inch Android tablets have to offer for much less. The second-generation Nexus 7 is the best Android tablet money can buy. The screen is wonderful and although some early adopters have reported one or two software issues, these bugs will be ironed out with over-the-air updates soon. The latest version of the tablet also has rear and front facing cameras for taking pictures and for video calling (the old one only had a front-facing camera for video calls), a great battery, good for 9-to-10 hours’ heavy use and a full 2GB of RAM for smooth switching between apps and for running apps side by side. It comes with either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage and can be specified as Wi-Fi only or with LTE/4G mobile internet support too. Just don’t forget, mobile broadband needs a data plan.

Best screen: Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, from $229

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX tablets ©Business Wire

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX tablets
©Business Wire

If you’re buying a tablet primarily for consuming content, then it had better have a fantastic display. And the latest Kindle has exactly that. According to DisplayMate, which really puts new devices through their paces as part of in-depth reviews, the HDX has the best display of any 7-inch tablet and it’s all thanks to something called Quantum Dots technology. The result is a level of color fidelity and saturation that the Nexus 7 or iPad Mini can’t match. However, the Kindle has one drawback, because it doesn’t run the standard version of Android, it can’t access Google Play and therefore the 1 million plus aps it has to offer. Still, Amazon’s own apps store isn’t too shabby. And then there’s the innovative Mayday feature which will let you video call an expert when a technical problem arises. But, seeing as Kindles run a ‘forked’ version of Android and don’t have access to Google Play apps, they’re for content.

The No Glasses 3D Tablet. © Hammacher Schlemmer & Company, INC

The No Glasses 3D Tablet.
© Hammacher Schlemmer & Company, INC

Best value for money: Dell Venue Pro 8, $299.99
This is where Windows 8.1 slates come to the fore. They can be used as touchscreen panels or, when mated with a keyboard are half-decent laptops complete with the full desktop version of Windows 8.1. Ok, there are nowhere near as many Windows apps available as there are apps for Apple or Android tablets, but Windows tablets can run Office and are compatible with pretty much any legacy software written for a PC over the last 10 years. The Dell Venue Pro 8 boasts an 8-inch HD display, 2GB of RAM, a 32GB hard drive, Microsoft Office pre-loaded as standard, weighs less than 400g and yet costs just $299.99.

Best gimmick: The No Glasses 3D Tablet $349.95
This tablet claims to be the first in the world to offer glasses-free 3D viewing. It uses the same screen technology found in the Nintendo 3DS handheld games console and can give 2D content the appearance of being three-dimensional too. However, there’s no mention of what sort of processor is running the show, or of how much RAM is on board. Still, it does come with 16GB of internal storage as standard, supports expansion via USB drives and MicroSD and runs Android 4.1.


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