Take a look at the gift lists out there this holiday season and you'll see one type of product tops most of them: tablets.
Ah, tablets. Such a simple word, but, oh, what a confusing area right now. You've got more than one iPad, lots of Android tablets that cost $199, then e-readers, and now Windows 8 devices. So what is the best choice? We explain our top picks below in our first of many ABC News gift guide articles.
Apple pioneered the modern-day tablet category with the iPad. And its tablet still leads the pack. It is the most well-rounded tablet you can buy. The hardware is top-notch, but the apps especially set it apart. None of the other tablets on this list can brag about having over 275,000 real tablet optimized apps. It makes a load of difference when using the big screen to have apps that were designed especially for it.
But, of course, you now have a few iPad choices.
iPad with Retina Display
The $499 fourth-generation iPad is the best choice for those seeking a larger screen. The very high resolution 9.7-inch Retina display makes everything crystal clear and makes images and video look incredibly crisp. It is also powered by an A6x processor and quad-core graphics, making it the fastest iPad yet. The $399 iPad 2 has a larger screen, but its resolution is not as high. ($499, Apple)
The Mini, which starts at $329, is, well, mini. The only reason to buy this version is if you are looking for the iPad to be smaller. It fits nicely in a purse and is easier to hold when reading in bed or on an airplane. The only problem? The screen isn't as high-resolution as the one on the regular iPad. Check out our full review here. ($329, Apple)
Google Nexus Tablets
Apple's got its iPads and Google's got its Nexus tablets. The Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 run the latest version of Android - Android 4.2 - and were made in partnership with Google and the hardware makers. They are the best Android tablets out there. These tablets are great for those who prefer the features of Android and are looking for something less expensive than the iPad. But the apps are not as high quality on the larger screens.
Made by Samsung, the Nexus 10 is the best large-screen Android tablet around. It has a soft-touch back and a high-resolution 2560 x 1600 screen. And with an dual-core ARM processor inside, it runs everything very smoothly. But even with all those high-end specs the Nexus 10 is still relatively affordable for what it is. ($399, Google)
The Nexus 7 has been selling like hotcakes since it launched in June. Part of that has to do with its $199 price. The other part has to do with its small form factor. The 7-inch tablet weighs only 340 grams and is very light and easy to hold. There are other $199 tablets, like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Barnes & Noble Nook HD, which are good if you've already bought into Amazon and Barnes & Noble's respective offerings of media content, but the Nexus 7 is the best all-around $199 tablet. It's fast, portable, and very affordable. Here is our full review. ($199, Google)
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite
Why would you get an e-reader if you can get a 7-inch tablet that's great for reading books and magazines? Two reasons: you want a device with which you can read in the sun, and you want a dedicated reading device.
The Kindle Paperwhite is the best e-reader if you want either of those things. It's EInk screen is crisp and readable in direct sunlight (unlike those tablet LCD screens), it has an integrated backlight so you can see in the dark, and you can swipe to turn the pages or move through menus. The Paperwhite starts at $119, but you can pick up a Kindle from Amazon for as low as $69. ($119, Amazon)
Microsoft Surface RT
You may have started to see the ads - the ones with lots of people dancing with tablets as they click the tablet into a thin keyboard. The Microsoft Surface won't make you a better dancer, but it might make you more productive on a tablet. And that's the reason to buy this one.
Running Windows RT, which is a version of Microsoft's new Windows 8, the tablet-turned-laptop has the new operating system with its tiles and apps, but also has a regular Windows desktop to run Microsoft Office, including Word and Powerpoint. The Touch Cover keyboard clicks into the bottom and provides a unique typing experience. The tablet isn't perfect and there are not as many apps for Windows RT as there are for the iPad and Android tablets, but those looking for a unique package and access to those productivity apps will be well served by the Surface. Full review here. ($599 for tablet / keyboard, Microsoft)