Tablets rule holiday gifts

2011 Holiday Tablets
Graphic by Bill Portoghese

Thanksgiving is over; people have already eaten their fill of turkey and pepper-sprayed each other to get to the good Black Friday deals, and now we are nearing the frantic sprint to the official holiday season. This year, some of the biggest items are tablets. There are a lot of them out there running different operating systems and doing slightly different tricks, so here is a quick guide to the best tablets you can get in the upcoming month.

One great thing about new tablets is the price range. You can pay between $200 and $800 for a tablet, and the ones in the middle of that range can be just as good as the end. Forget about the Motorola XOOM, which topped the price range with a ridiculous $800 price tag when it was released last year, and its upcoming sequel the XOOM 2 – while the price will go down to $500 and $600, the specifications still cannot compete with other arrivals. Also forget about those $150 tablets you see advertised running Android 2.1 at the drugstore, because they will be unwieldy and difficult to use. At the bottom of our price range are the Amazon Kindle Fire and Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet, selling for $200 and $250, respectively. Both come with a few similar specifications: 1GHz dual-core processors, seven-inch screens and heavily skinned Android operating systems. The Nook Tablet can be read for 11.5 hours straight, beating out the Kindle Fire’s eight hours soundly, and the Nook Tablet also has 16GB of internal storage compared to the Kindle Fire’s 8GB, although only 1GB of storage is set aside for personal media (application data will continue to be stored in the 15GB reserved for Barnes and Noble content). Both tablets have 2-3GB set aside for operating system data, which definitely gives the upper hand to the Barnes and Noble Nook Tablet.

For mid-range tablets, you can pick between the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 Plus and the Blackberry Playbook. While the Playbook is not shiny and new, and neither being much bigger than the previous tablets, their price points of $400 and $500 respectively are nothing to laugh at. The Galaxy Tab has a 1.2GHz processor and runs Android 3.2, while the Playbook has a 1GHz processor like the previous tablets and runs its own operating system. They are both also seven-inch tablets. While the price points do not seem to help them to seem worth more than the previous tablets, they are not primarily e-book reading devices. The Kindle Fire and Nook Tablet are still e-readers at heart and have their primary memory dedicated to this; the Galaxy Tab and Playbook are full-media devices, ready for as much music, pictures, movies and pictures as you want.

Now for the big boys, Apple’s iPad2 and the ASUS Transformer Prime. While the iPad2 has been all over the media and loved by many, the Transformer Prime is a serious competitor. The iPad2 is 9.7 inches, goes from 16GB to 64GB of memory, has a 1GHz dual-core processor and lasts up to 10 hours. The App Store has over 140,000 applications and its design is sleek and minimal. The Transformer Prime will be priced at $500 for the 32GB version, breaking even with the iPad2’s 16GB version. That is twice the memory for the same price. The Transformer Prime will come with Android 3.2, an 8MP rear camera and 1.3MP front camera, a screen protected by Gorilla Glass and a 12-hour battery, but its defining feature definitely has to be its quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor. It will be the first quad-core tablet when it releases sometime this month. Of course, only time will tell if it beats out the iPad2, but shoppers should wait for it to release before deciding. Whether you go for the cheap yet enjoyable Nook Tablet, the Galaxy Tab 7.0 or the more expensive iPad2, you will still have a great choice for a tablet.

3 thoughts on “Tablets rule holiday gifts

  1. My bf got me a Kindle Fire for my birthday and I love it. It’s lightweight and easy to use straight out of the box. The first thing I recommend anyone with a new Kindle do is install the nook app. We got our instructions through google. It basically unlocks all the Android marketplace apps and unlocks the device. Super happy!

  2. They say Nook Tablet has 16GB internal memory. But of that memory 3GB reserved for system and software. Of the remaining 13GB — 12GB allocated to content purchased from Barnes & Noble and only 1GB to user’s content which came from third parties.

    My content is books in PDF format in Russian which Barnes & Noble does not carry. So how many books can I fit in a 1GB space? And why is there 12GB useless void on my Nook Tablet? I don’t care about netflix or hulu because I use cablevision.

    B&N tech rep told me that the only way to fix the problem is the use of microSD memory card, and that B&N does not plan any software updates to make more memory available to user content originated from the third parties.

    The big problem with memory card as I discovered it with my old Nook Color as well as with my new Nook Tablet is this: Nook’s shelves that are populated with books from the memory card would go empty after device power off / power on and would have to be re-populated again!

    Also Nook Tablet’s PDF reader is very basic. I had to purchase ezPDF Reader to be able to interact with my ebooks i.e. highlight and annotate.

    I love the tablet for it’s speed and handling of heavy pdf files but I do not appreciate B&N imposing storage restrictions. More importantly I hate when B&N and re-sellers like BestBuy and QVC state 16GB storage capacity for Nook Tablet without mentioning its storage restrictions. I calling it false advertising and I am reporting it to FTC.

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