Review: Gift guide to full-size tablets

Associated Press
File - This Monday, June 18, 2012, file photo, shows a profile view of the new Microsoft Surface, a tablet computer in Los Angeles. Tablets are at the top of many wish lists this holiday season. The choice used to be pretty limited, with the iPad dominating over the latecomers. But this year, the field is more even, as tablets from Apple's competitors have matured. In addition, Google and Microsoft have dived in with their own tablets, providing more choice. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
.

View gallery

NEW YORK (AP) — Tablets are at the top of many wish lists this holiday season. But what to get? The choice used to be pretty limited, with the iPad dominating the latecomers. But this year, the field is more even, as tablets from Apple's competitors have matured. In addition, Google and Microsoft are diving in with their own tablets, providing more choice.

The first step in the buying process is to decide on the size of the tablet. They fall into two rough categories: the full-sized tablet, pioneered by the iPad, and the half-size tablet, epitomized by the Kindle Fire.

Full-sized tablets, which generally have screens measuring about 10 inches on the diagonal, are better for surfing websites designed for PCs, and far better when it comes to displaying magazines and documents. Overall, they go further toward replacing a laptop. They cost $400 and up.

Half-sized tablets, which have screens measuring roughly 7 inches on the diagonal, are cheaper and lighter, but just as good as full-sized tablets for e-book reading. It's an excellent first computing device for a kid, or a gentle nudge into the digital world for an older adult with little computing experience. This year's crop costs $199 and up, but last year's models are available for less.

If you've settled on a large tablet, here are some top choices.

— Apple iPad, fourth generation (starts at $499)

Apple usually updates the iPad once a year, so it was a surprise when it dropped a new model in October, with a faster processor and the new "Lightning" connection and charging port, replacing the wide port inherited from the iPod. Like the third-generation iPad launched in March it has an ultra-high-resolution "Retina" screen. The model's resolution of 2,048 by 1,536 pixels is only surpassed by the Google Nexus 10.

That means the current iPad is two generations ahead of the iPad 2 that was on sale last holiday season. It packs enough improvements to make the upgrade worth it. The iPad 2 is still on sale for $100 less, but it's not a very good value for the money: if $400 is all you can spend, there are better tablets out there than the iPad 2.

While other tablets are starting to approach it in terms of hardware, the iPad still enjoys the best support by far from third parties, both in terms of quality applications and accessories like cases.

One caveat: the base model of the iPad has only 16 gigabytes of storage, which fills up fast these days. The thoughtful giver goes for at least a 32-gigabyte model, for $100 more.

Other than that, there are few downsides to the iPad: no one will frown when opening this package.

— Barnes & Noble Nook HD+ (starts at $269)

For a book store, Barnes & Noble makes some amazing tablets. The HD+ is its first model that approaches the iPad in size, with a screen that's 9 inches on the diagonal. That makes it slightly smaller than the iPad, and the resolution is lower as well, but still very respectable. At 1,920 by 1,280 pixels, it can show more detail than a living-room HDTV.

The Nook is family-friendly too. You can create user accounts and restrict them from certain content, so there's less risk that your kids will stumble on your copy of "Fifty Shades of Grey."

Like the basic iPad, the basic Nook HD+ comes with just 16 gigabytes of storage memory, but it can be expanded with a microSD memory card. That means another 32 gigabytes will cost you just $25 — a good deal.

But the Nook is the least versatile tablet in our roundup. The number of apps available is small, and it's focused on Barnes & Noble content like e-books, magazines and movies. It doesn't have any cameras, while the competitors have two each. It's best for someone who's likely to stick to media consumption, and doesn't need the latest apps and games.

— Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (starts at $499)

If the Nook is for the avid reader or movie watcher, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is for the creative type. It's the only tablet in our roundup that comes with a "pen" that can be used to write and draw on the screen. In our test, this worked well, though the number of apps that take advantage of the pen is still small. (Other tablets, like the iPad, only respond to finger-like objects, so third-party styluses for them are of necessity thick and clumsy.)

The Note 10.1 runs Google's Android software, giving it access to a wide array of apps originally written for smartphones. The selection is not on par with the iPad's but better than other alternatives.

The Note's screen falls into the low-resolution category, sporting 1,280 by 800 pixels. That's a third of what the iPad musters.

Like the Nook, the Note 10.1's storage memory can be expanded with cards.

The Note's appeal is somewhat niche, but it could be just the thing for the budding or established artist.

— Microsoft Surface (starts at $499)

Microsoft's first tablet seems at first like a throwback to the first iPad. It's thick, heavy and rugged. But it's really doesn't have much in common with the first iPad or any Apple- or Google-powered tablet. It runs Windows RT, a version of Windows 8 adapted for tablets. It comes with a version of Microsoft's Office suite and the ability to connect to wireless printers and some other peripherals, like USB drives. The covers for it have functional keyboard printed on the inside.

The screen resolution is 1,366 by 768 pixels, placing it in the low-resolution category.

The Surface screams "work, work, work." It's the tablet for those who are wedded to Word and want to take their writing on the go.

One thing to note about the Surface: the basic model starts out with "32 gigabytes" of memory, but of that, only 16 gigabytes are available to the user. It accepts memory cards of up to 64 gigabytes, however, so expanding the memory is cheap.

Note that even though it runs Windows, the Surface doesn't run standard Windows applications. It will run only programs specifically adapted for Windows RT. The selection is, for now, quite limited.

— Asus Vivo Tab RT (starts at $599 with a dock)

Asus has a quality line of Android tablets they call "Transformer" because they dock into a keyboard with an extra battery. The combination folds up just like a small laptop and has excellent battery life. The Vivo Tab RT essentially takes a Transformer and stuffs it with Windows RT instead of Android.

The tablet part is smaller and thinner than the Surface. Together with the keyboard, it makes for a familiar little setup: a tiny laptop running Windows. Like the Surface, it has a memory card slot and a USB port. The screen resolution is the same.

The Vivo Tab is a good tool for those who want to get some work done on the commute or plane, or those who can't decide if they want a laptop or a tablet.

— Google Nexus 10 (starts at $399)

This is Google's first full-size tablet and the only tablet from any manufacturer that beats the screen resolution of the iPad. It boasts 2,560 by 1,600 pixels, a third more than the fourth-generation iPad.

It's also the only tablet in this roundup that has speakers on either side of the screen when it's held horizontally, making for good stereo reproduction when you're watching movies. It has a grippy, rubberized back and widely rounded corners. There's no memory card slot or an option for a cellular modem.

The array of third-party software is wide, just as it is for the Note 10.1. Most people don't associate Google with online books, music or movies, so it may feel odd that the Nexus steers buyers to Google's Play store. Of course, given the open nature of Google's Android operating system, there are apps available for other entertainment stores, including Amazon's, and for streaming services like Netflix.

The Nexus 10 is a snappy performer, and among the iPad's competitors, it comes the closest to matching the versatility of Apple products.

___

Peter Svensson can be reached at https://www.twitter.com/petersvensson

Sorry you didn't like this comment. Please provide a reason below.

Are you sure?
Rating failed. Try again.
Request failed. Try again.
We will promote constructive and witty comments to the top, so everyone sees them!
Sorry, we can’t load comments right now. Try again.

    Recommended for You

    • People
    • Fake Florida doctor who ‘enhanced’ buttocks with cement, caulking gets 10 years for manslaughter

      From a Florida prison in November 2011, Shatarka Nuby penned a letter to the state’s health department about her cosmetically enhanced buttocks. Her rear end had hardened and turned black, she wrote. Side effects from the years-old injections left the mother of three feeling sick. And she claimed her surgeon — Oneal Ron Morris — was the same faux cosmetic doctor that police had arrested and accused of pumping a near-lethal formula of cement, mineral oil, bathroom caulking and Fix-a-Flat tire sealant into other women’s bodies. Her patients called her “Duchess.” Officials began investigating and interviewed Nuby. But four months later, she was dead. The official cause of death was respiratory failure

      Washington Post q
    • Chris Kattan Tells All About His Secret 20-Year Health Nightmare After Breaking His Neck

      DWTS' Chris Kattan Reveals Devasting History of His Broken Neck Nightmare

      People
    • The Democratic National Committee just asked all its staffers to resign

      The newly-elected Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez has asked all of the...

      Business Insider 46 min ago
    • Reality TV Show Drops People into the Wild for a Year, Doesn't Tell Them Show is Canceled

      After a year spent in the isolation of the Scottish wilderness, the contestants of Channel 4’s 'Eden' have returned to civilization, where they’ve been greeted by a few surprises.

      Entertainment Weekly
    • Fake doc gets prison for deadly butt injections

      A woman dubbed the “Toxic Tush” doctor will spend a decade behind bars for using Super Glue and Fix-a-Flat tire sealant to enlarge women’s behinds and causing one patient to die. Oneal Ron Morris, 36, who is transgender, was sentenced to 10 years Monday in Florida’s Broward County court after pleading guilty to manslaughter and injecting several women with the toxic mixture, according to CBS Miami. Shatarka Nuby, 31, died after receiving as many as 10 injections from Morris between 2007 and 2010. She paid Morris as much as $2,000 for the deadly procedures, the Sun-Sentinel reported. “There’s no closure. Putting [Morris] in jail won’t bring her back,” said Nuby’s aunt Juanita in court. Morris,

      New York Post q
    • Stars Who Wear Leggings to the Airport (19 photos)

      Leggings on United Airlines: See Which Stars Wear Leggings to Fly

      People
    • WWE's Paige: 'I wanted to physically harm myself' after photo leak

      "Not only for what millions was telling me but because my family and my husband were suffering the same fate from the internet because of my mistake," she wrote in a statement released on Twitter on Monday night. Paige, a two-time Divas champion who has been sidelined following neck surgery, acknowledged last week that "personal and private photos of mine were stolen" and shared without her consent. In Monday night's tweet, she spoke about the harm and the hurt the incident brought. "The one thing that was the hardest was thinking 'my husband is going to leave me' 'my family will disown me' but I'm blessed beyond words to have a family and a husband that stuck by me because they know who I am," she wrote.

      USA Today q
    • Seventeen
    • Cops: Fla. man hugs, fatally stabs roommate who was saying goodbye

      WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- A Florida man is accused of fatally stabbing his roommate when she stopped by his home on Saturday morning to say goodbye before moving back to Pennsylvania where she grew up, according to sheriff’s investigators. Palm Beach County Sheriff’s deputies said in an arrest report that Brooke Preston, 21, had recently moved out of the home she’d shared with Randy Herman Jr., 24. Preston hugged Herman, who gave her a T-shirt commemorating the death of a mutual friend. Then, according to deputies, Herman stabbed her repeatedly in the abdomen, back and throat. She also had defensive wounds on her hands. Herman then drove Preston’s vehicle to a park near West Palm Beach, where

      CBS News q
    • Investor burned by Bernie Madoff jumps to death from Manhattan hotel

      Charles Murphy's Fairfield Greenwich fund had invested more than $7 billion with Madoff before it became known that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme.

      CNBC
    • 'Stop shaking your head': Sean Spicer unloads on reporter who asks about Trump-Russia connections

      The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, got into a heated exchange with a White House...

      Business Insider
    • Man kills 3 home burglars; woman who aided robbers arrested

      A woman believed to have driven three burglars to an Oklahoma home where they were shot to death during a suspected home invasion has been arrested on murder and robbery warrants but the homeowner's son who shot them has not been arrested while police investigate whether he acted in self-defense under the state's "Stand Your Ground" law.

      Associated Press
    • Special Ed Teacher Arrested Over Alleged Relationship With Student at All-Boys Middle School: Cops

      Rebecca Goerdel, 28, was arrested Friday for the alleged relationship with an unnamed boy.

      Inside Edition
    • NASA just captured a photo of Jupiter that you won’t believe is real

      NASA has managed to capture some pretty stunning photos of all the cool stuff they've spotted over the years, and rarely does it fail to amaze. There's images of planet surfaces, the rings of Saturn, and even black holes flying through space totally unchecked . Rarely, however, does a photo look so unreal that at first glance you'd be likely to mistake it for a work of Earthling art. A new photo captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft falls into that category, and oh what a sight it is. The image, originally taken by Juno's "JunoCam" camera, was taken in early February and shows Jupiter's ever-swirling mass of storm clouds from an altitude of roughly 9,000 miles. The storms which continually rock the planet take on a milky appearance when captured up close, and a citizen scientist named Roman Tkachenko took the liberty of enhancing the photo's colors to bring out even more of the defining lines and edges. The Juno craft, packed with all kinds of fancy monitoring equipment, made its fifth flyby of the planet on Monday, which is also the fourth "science orbit," which is the name they give the flybys when all the instruments on board are up and running. The craft's next flyby won't happen until late May 2017, so it's a rare and exciting event when one of these close passes goes by without a hitch. The craft's data is currently being sent to Earth where researchers will continue to mine it for precious information about our solar system's most intimidating planet.

      BGR News
    • Trump’s intriguing idea: Cut debt by selling off federal assets

      One of the president’s more intriguing ideas: why not sell off some of those rights and pay down part of the debt?

      MarketWatch q
    • Former Google exec: Here's how to know it's time to fire an employee

      Top CEO coach Kim Scott explains when and how to let someone go.

      CNBC.com q
    • Bill O’Reilly apologizes after mocking Rep. Maxine Waters’ ‘James Brown wig’

      In a statement obtained by the Hollywood Reporter, O’Reilly said, “As I have said many times, I respect Congresswoman Maxine Waters for being sincere in her beliefs. O’Reilly was appearing on “Fox & Friends” when the show aired a clip of Waters denouncing President Trump.

      Yahoo News
    • Oklahoma man kills three suspected burglars with AR-15 rifle

      The three had forced their way into the house near the Tulsa suburb of Broken Arrow on Monday when the homeowner's son opened fire with an AR-15 military-style rifle, Deputy Nick Mahoney, spokesman for the Wagoner County Sheriff's Office, said by telephone. The male intruders were wearing all-black clothing, masks and gloves, while one was armed with a knife and another had brass knuckles, according to authorities.

      Reuters