Demand for tablets is expected to be high this holiday season, and why not? Tablets are the ultimate in luxury accessories: while they can be used for work-related purposes, they're a great way to bring movies, games and other diversions with you on the go. They tend to be more about fun and entertainment over function, and if you've got someone on your shopping list asking for a tablet this year, you want to make sure it satisfies all the ways they want to enjoy it.
Here's a list of five tablets you may want to consider when you're shopping for that perfect present this year:
Microsoft Surface RT
If it's good enough for Oprah, then it may be good enough for the person on your list looking for a tablet that's a little bit different. Released in October, this tablet has an optional keyboard which doubles as a cover. In reality, the keyboard cover is pretty indispensable to what makes this tablet so innovative, letting you turn your tablet into a laptop anywhere you have access to a flat surface. It operates on a modified version of the new Windows 8 called Windows RT, which operates using the same Metro interface as the desktop version — except touchscreen experiences are where this interface really excels. This tablet is ideal for people who want to get work done while on the go. Microsoft has also announced the pricier Windows 8 Pro version of the Surface tablet, but that version, which is like having a full PC and tablet, Microsoft says, will start at $899.
$619 CDN with cover, sold exclusively through the Microsoft Store online, at pop-up Microsoft stores, or at Microsoft's only international location at Yorkdale Mall in Toronto.
Apple iPad Mini
For anyone who has been living under a rock, Apple's newest device, the iPad mini, is here in a big way. With a screen measuring 7.9", it's significantly smaller (0.28" thick) and lighter (0.68 lbs) than the latest iPad. It doesn't have the same Retina display that the full-sized iPads do, but that doesn't mean you should overlook it. In a smaller package, you'll have access to the full library of iPad apps and can connect to the Internet over Wi-Fi networks, as well as cellular networks (including LTE) if you get one of the Wi-Fi + cellular models. Reviewers across the web have praised the Mini for being comfortable to hold and much more suitable for reading than the iPad. If you want Apple quality and all the entertainment value that comes with it, the iPad Mini is a great choice.
$329 CDN for 16GB Wi-Fi only model, available online at the Apple Store online or at various brick-and-mortar and online retailers across Canada, including Apple Store locations.
Google Nexus 7
If Android is your OS of choice, however, you can still get a great 7" tablet experience with the Google Nexus 7. With a higher screen resolution than the iPad Mini (1280 x 800 versus the Mini's 1024 x 768), the Nexus 7 has a sharp screen and a vast Android app library to choose from (although some complain that there aren't as many tablet- optimized apps). At a new lower price point, this tablet runs Android 4.2 and has a solid battery life, too. The 32GB model is now available with optional HSPA+, which will let you surf the Internet wirelessly across the country with a wireless Internet plan from a provider like Rogers or Bell. That top-end HSPA+ model is still relatively affordable, too, running you $309 CDN — still $20 less than the base iPad Mini model. For anyone looking for a less expensive, but still high performing 7" tablet that plays well with all their Google products like Gmail, Google Maps, Chrome and Google Calendar and delivers a great media experience, check out the Nexus 7.
$209 CDN for 16 GB Wi-Fi only model, available at the Google Play Canada store online, or at various retailers nationwide.
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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
For those interested in full-sized tablets, the market is awash with options in a 10" form factor. While the iPad is still the go-to choice for many, those looking for an Android tablet or something that really stands out from the others may want to consider this offering from Samsung. What sets the Galaxy Note 10.1 apart from the rest of the tablets on this list is the inclusion of the S-Pen, which gives users a whole new way to interact with their tablet. Stored in the base of the tablet, the S-Pen lets you write out notes or edit images in Photoshop Touch, included free with the purchase of the tablet. The tablet currently runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but Samsung has said that a Jelly Bean update is in the works. In addition to Photoshop touch, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 also includes 50 GB of free cloud storage with Dropbox for two years.
Many people were left somewhat disappointed after the launch of Kobo's first tablet, the Vox. It took months before users could access the Google Play store with the device, had an inadequately responsive screen and functioned quite slowly overall. Kobo has returned to the drawing board and come back with the new Kobo Arc, the company's attempt to overcome those old problems. Out of the gate, the Kobo Arc is superior to the Vox in that it runs Android 4.0, and gives access to the Google Play store. The HD display has a 1280x800 resolution, matching the Nexus 7. The lag issues are also gone, with faster performance on the built-in applications. Unsurprisingly, the Arc still emphasizes e-reading above all else, with a variety of built-in social reading functions (some of which are detailed in our Kobo Vox review, if you aren't familiar with them). Best of all, it comes in at a lower price point than the rest of this list. If you know someone who is interested in an e-reader, but still wants much of the functionality of a tablet for a low price, this could be the perfect present.
$199 CDN for 16 GB model, available online at Indigo, and at various retailers online and in store across Canada.