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HotHardware Holiday Gift Guide: Tablets
Date: Nov 25, 2011
Author: Ray Willington
Holiday Gift Guide: Tablets with Keyboards
This Holiday Gift Guide is sponsored by Epson—makers of the World’s Fastest 2-sided inkjet printer, the Epson WorkForce Pro. Run your business at full speed with Epson.
As the holiday season rapidly approaches, there’s one question that gets asked rather frequently: Have you been naughty or nice? Of course, we all know that a lot hinges on this one question. If you’ve been nice, then perhaps Santa will bring you an awesome gift; that one piece of hardware you've been jonesing for. On the other hand, if you’ve been naughty and have cursed your computer (who hasn’t at one time or another?) or ignored your significant other because Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3 beckoned, then you’d better shape up before it's too late.

As we look back on this past year, and wonder why each year seems to have flown by so much quicker than the last, we also reflect on our many traditions here at HotHardware. One of our favorites is our annual Holiday Buyer’s Guide.  Whether you’re looking for the perfect gift for that special geek in your life, or if you’re dreaming of putting together a new system for yourself, we hope this guide will help you make some informed buying decisions. We're kicking things off this year with tablets -- a product category that has taken off in a huge way. The iPad started the modern-day tablet surge in 2010, but 2011 has seen dozens of rivals pop up with Windows 7 and Android Honeycomb at the forefront.

Tablets with Keyboards -

Let's face it: some of those on your gift list aren't willing to sacrifice their keyboard just to get a tablet. Good news! 2011 has seen a great number of keyboard-included tablets launch, and we'll cover the best options for those you love below.

Asus Eee Pad Slider (HotHardware Review)

Asus managed to just about nail the "slider" form factor... on a tablet, not just a smartphone. The aptly-titled slate was one of our favorite Android tablets of the year, and given just how recently it was released, there's a great chance for this guy to get Ice Cream Sandwich in time. From a pure performance standpoint, the Eee Pad Slider is up there with the best of the current 10" Android-based slates. Given the hardware similarities to the Eee Pad Transformer, we aren't surprised to see it hit so many similar marks.

Touch performance is buttery smooth, and even with multiple tabs open, the browser never felt laggy. Playback of HD video was seamless, and battery life didn't seem to suffer at all. NVIDIA's Tegra 2 has proven to be a winner once more in the tablet space, even with a keyboard flanked on the bottom. The IPS display is one of the most beautiful ones we've seen in the mobile arena, and those who plan on enjoying multimedia will have plenty of gorgeous pixels to look at. Overall, the Eee Pad Slider is a strong tablet for a specific subset of the market. Those who won't routinely use the keyboard are certainly better off with a normal slate, or perhaps even the Transformer, which allows you to bring along the keyboard only when you're planning to take advantage of it.

Price: $479 (16GB) / $579 (32GB)

Asus Eee Pad Transformer (HotHardware's Review)

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer was one of our early favorites here at HotHardware, so much so that, at the time, it scored and Editor's Choice Award.  Since that time, lots of other options have come to the market for standard slates without keyboards, but if you want the option to detach that extra bulk and tuck this little fella away, it's still one of our favorite slates -- at least util the Transformer Prime ships but you'll have to wait for well after the holidays for that unfortunately.

Price:  16GB WiFi, No Keyboard - $399 - Docking Station - $109.99

Acer Iconia Tab W500

Outside of the Slider, not too many tablets ship with a keyboard fused into the design. For the most part, companies have assumed that consumers would rather buy a two-piece design. That way, they can take the slate alone some places, and bring along the keyboard dock attachment only when they know they'll need it. Acer is one of those companies. If Android isn't in the purview of whoever on your gift list is hounding you for a tablet, take a look at Acer's Iconia Tab W500. This 10.1-inch tablet runs Microsoft Windows 7 and runs on an AMD C-50 processor. Other key hardware specs include 2GB of DDR3 memory, ATI Radeon HD 6250 graphics, and a 32GB SSD

For users who also want a notebook-like experience, the Iconia Tab W500 has a full-size chiclet docking keyboard. For transportation, the tablet connects to the keyboard with magnets, making the device an easy to carry clamshell notebook. You can also choose to leave the keyboard behind and carry just the tablet which weighs 2.14 pounds. The docking keyboard weighs 1.34 pounds. Acer claims you’ll get up to four hours of unplugged HD video playback and six hours of Internet browsing from the Acer PowerSmart long-life 3260 mAh Li-polymer battery pack. The Acer Iconia Tab W500 comes in two models: the W500-BZ467 with Windows 7 Home Premium and the W500P-BZ841 with Windows 7 Professional.

Price: $549.99 (Win 7 Home Premium) / $619 (Win 7 Professional)


Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet (HotHardware Preview)

It's a ThinkPad, but it's not a notebook. Lenovo's heralded quality has bled over into the tablet realm with this guy, boasting Android onboard and having a beautiful "Folio" accessory that bundles in a tried-and-true ThinkPad-quality keyboard. If you have a ThinkPad lover in your life -- the kind that won't buy any other laptop due to the keyboard alone -- this is probably your best bet. The Tablet is a business-oriented slate with a 10.1" panel, a Tegra 2 (1GHz) chip, and most importantly, a full-size USB port. That's crucial because Lenovo's also introducing a $99 Keyboard Folio case, which will wrap around the device to keep it safe, but also provide a full QWERTY keyboard and an optical trackpad for moving around the OS. It features Android 3.1, access to Lenovo's App Store a 2MP front-facing camera, 1080p video output, Wi-Fi, 3G, 16/32/64GB of storage, a 5MP rear camera, Bluetooth 2.0 and a 2-cell battery that will get 8 or so hours in ideal conditions.

Price: $449 - $615 (+$99 for keyboard Folio)

Holiday Gift Guide: Touchscreen-Based Tablets

Touchscreen-based Tablets -

The list of potential touchscreen tablets is enormous in comparison to the number of options for keyboard-equipped slates, but if that special someone figures that Swype or SwiftKey (or whatever virtual keyboard they choose) is good enough, here are our recommendations for oversized stocking-stuffers.

Apple iPad 2 (HotHardware Review)

Yes, it's cliche, but it's warranted. You can't think "tablet" without thinking "iPad," and the second iteration of Apple's hot-selling slate is better than the first in a number of important ways. There's a camera for FaceTime chats, and it's more powerful and compatible with that Smart Cover you've already wanted an excuse to buy for someone. ARMed with a custom dual-core 1GHz processor, PowerVR GPU, and 512MB of RAM, Apple's second generation tablet has the horsepower to outrun some would-be iPad killers. This is especially true for the tasks you'll end up doing most on the iPad 2, such as browsing the Web and firing up apps, both of which are noticeably faster than on the iPad 1.

The iPad 2 is slimmer than an iPhone 4 and up to 15 percent lighter than the iPad 1. Apple also managed to upgrade the iPad without upgrading the price as well, which means the cost of entry is still $499 (16GB Wi-Fi model). With over 100,000 iPad-tailored apps in the App Store, you can bet that gifting this to anyone will put a smile on their face.


Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (HotHardware Review)

Samsung's Galaxy line has been booming this year, from tablets to smartphones. None, bigger than the Galaxy Tab 10.1. It was the first major Android slate to ship and be thinner than the iPad 2, and it has largely set the pace for slate-style Android tablets in the months since. It's still one of the stronger, slimmer, sleeker options out there, making it a great option for sprucing up someone's holiday season. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is competitive with the best of the Android tablets -- both in terms of benchmark scores and real-world performance.

Some may scoff at the fact that dedicated HDMI or USB ports are missing, but the media connector at the bottom is a suitable alternative given that adapters can be made for just about any connection out there. For what it's worth,
Samsung throws a USB adapter in with the slate. The 16GB Wi-Fi model is priced at $499 -- the iPad 2 is priced at the same starting point. The 32GB Wi-Fi model is $599. This makes the Tab 10.1 highly competitive on the Android landscape, considering what you get for the money.


Amazon Kindle Fire (review forthcoming!)

Here's an unexpected one: the $199 Kindle Fire. It's not your typical tablet. It's the first "tablet" from Amazon, and as you might expect, it's strongly centered around reading -- just like their Kindle e-reader line. The smaller 7" form factor makes it easier to slip into stockings, and if you have a bookworm that needs a tablet, look no further. The Kindle Fire is a 7” tablet with a screen resolution of 1024 x 600 that runs Android 2.3. The display uses IPS technology and features an anti-glare coating, which should help make it somewhat more readable outdoors than untreated screens.

There is also a dual-core CPU at the heart of the Kindle Fire, 8GB of storage on-board, 512MB of RAM, Wi-Fi, and Amazon claims up to 8 hours of battery life during continuous reading or 7.5 hours during video playback. In terms of its hardware features and specifications, it’s obvious the Kindle Fire isn’t targeting more powerful tablets like the iPad 2 or Galaxy Tab 10.1 and is more in-line with the B&N Nook. There’s no 3G/4G connectivity, no camera, the screen is only two-point multitouch, and the device is thicker than some other tablets at 11.4mm. Perhaps, most importantly, Amazon will also be leveraging its massive ecosystem of content that’s already available for current Kindle variants. Having the Amazon content and Android apps seamlessly integrated on a single device will give owners access to a myriad of content and apps. And all for under 200 bucks.


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