Holiday Gift Guide: Tablets, Smartphones, Laptops

Tablets: Android, Windows 8, and All The Rest

Portable devices are becoming ever more powerful, and users are increasingly utilizing them to keep up with news and friends, get work done, and for entertainment. Smartphones and tablets have never been so powerful, and if you're in market for either, it's going to be a fun holiday season packed with some great options to choose from.

Whether it's for yourself or someone else, consider this your go-to guide for picking out the perfect tablet or smartphone. We're all about spreading the holiday cheer around here, and if it means sifting through dozens or even hundreds of devices to find the best ones, then so be it. This is what we do, and we'd much rather you spend your time this holiday season with your family and friends than clicking frantically through the web trying to make sense of all the available models. We've already done it, and these are our picks.

Holiday Tablet Favorites

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX: $179 to $219

In just a few short years, Amazon has become a force not just in the e-tail industry, but in the tablet industry. It's a sector that has been tough for ever mainstays to crack (just look at Sony's efforts to break in), but the Kindle Fire line of slates has increasingly grown more powerful. All the while, the value proposition is strong, and it's tough to argue the bang-to-buck ratio on the new HDX. Plus, there's a Mayday feature that'll pull up a live assistant if you run into trouble, making it the ideal gift for someone who isn't exactly a nerd. The 7" version is just $179, while the 8.9" edition goes for $379.

Google Nexus 7 (2013): $229

It's easily one of our favorite 7" slates ever, and if you're angling for a pure Android experience, this is the one to get. In fact, we found it to be the best Android tablet to date when we reviewed it back in August. Put simply, you won't find a better all-around tablet in this size or price range. From the exterior design and its display to its internal engine, this is the total package, and it's affordable to boot. If you're giving this one as a gift, whoever is on the receiving end will be quite pleased. $229 for the 16GB and $269 for 32GB of Nexus 7 goodness is the current going rate - not bad at all.

Microsoft Surface 2: $449 (32GB)

Microsoft righted a lot of wrongs with the Surface 2. If you held off on the first-generation Surface, the Surface 2 (our review) is worth a look. It offers up Windows 8.1, a beautiful 1080p display, Bluetooth 4.0, up to 10 hours of battery life, and it's definitely the one to get if productivity is on the brain. Microsoft has a firm grasp on how to make a great tablet, hardware-wise, and the company is starting to understand how to build a good mobile operating system and ecosystem that still offers desktop-like capabilities.

Asus Transformer Book T100: $379 (64GB)

The Transformer Book T100TA is a 10.1-inch Windows 8.1 tablet with companion keyboard dock that runs a full version of the Window 8.1 OS, not Windows RT.  ASUS also includes Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 and it's powered by a quad-core Intel Atom Z3740 Bay Trail SoC, paired to 2GB of RAM and 32 or 64GB of on-board storage. Along with the keyboard dock and copy of Office, the system retails at $349 for the 32GB version and $379 for the 64GB model we’re looking at here. At those price points, with a companion keyboard dock and Office, it's a great value.

iPad Air: $499 16GB, $599 32GB and up...
It took 3.5 years, but Apple finally changed the actual exterior design of the iPad in a major, meaningful way. While the iOS ecosystem is strong, the iPad always felt a little on the heavy side. The iPad Air earned its name, dropped a full pound and is far more nimble with the new 64-bit A7 processor on board. It's an excellent travel companion with excellent battery life, and the 64-bit A7 chip within is capable of blasting through whatever games you purchase this holiday season. As is typical, it's a little pricey versus the other options we've listed here.

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