Holiday Gift Guide 2014: Tablets, Smartphones, Laptops

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Best Smartphones For Smart Shoppers

Google Nexus 6: from $649+ off contract

If you’re after the purest Android experience out there, this is it. The Nexus 6 is available in Midnight Blue or Cloud White, and features a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera, 2-megapixel front-facing camera, 2.7GHz quad core Spapdragon 805 processor, and 3GB of RAM while offering two memory options of 32GB or 64GB. With Android 5.0 Lollipop, the new smartphone will have access to a better keyboard, feature new call and message notifications, and will support 64-bit architecture. With a starting price of $649, the Nexus 6 will be sold unlocked and comes with a Motorola turbo charger that will provide six hours worth of battery life with just 15 minutes of charging.

Moto X (2014 edition): from $99+ on contract

When you consider the price, performance and features of the Moto X, this phone is hard to beat. In addition to smooth performance, we like some of the extras that Motorola has included on the Moto X which enable the phone to act as somewhat of a personal assistant. These features include Moto Assist, Moto Actions, Moto Voice, and Moto Display. It’s the little features such as the ability to approach the phone and instantly see the time and any relevant notifications that make it a joy to use. High-end hardware allows the phone to perform well, but it’s the user interface and experience that can make or break a phone. In the case of the Moto X, Motorola has chosen to let Android shine without a bunch of skins and overlays. This results in a user experience that is top-notch in our opinion. Read our review here.

HTC One (Windows Phone edition): $.01 - $599 on or off contract

If you’re a loyal Windows Phone user who’s been ogling the Android version of the HTC One M8, your time has come. HTC released the smartphone with Windows Phone 8.1 through Verizon and AT&T is readying a model for its customers.  The HTC One M8 has a sleek metal unibody and solid performance, and deserves lots of love for its HTC One Duo Camera. The camera’s low megapixel count doesn’t prevent it from taking excellent photos, even in low light. Another feature, HTC BlinkFeed, appeared in the Android version and is present in the Windows Phone model too – it’s built into the Live Tile layout. The phone also includes an Action Center to give you quick access to notifications and messages and the like. And, of course, the phone has Cortana, Microsoft’s rival to Siri, for appointment setting, reminders, and other tasks.

iPhone 6 Plus: from $749 off contract

We said this in prior years with the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, but we'll say it again this go around; the latest iPhone (the 6 Plus, in this case) is indeed the best iPhone yet. Not only have Apple's internal upgrades delivered a phone that's fast and a pleasure to use, but its expansive 5.5-inch 1080p panel brings about an entirely new iPhone experience. At long last, Apple offers a jumbo-sized iPhone. Performance wise, the iPhone 6 Plus is also a very strong competitor. It's markedly faster than the iPhones before it, and its optimized CPU cores and powerful GPU make it a formidable opponent for even best-of-class Android-based devices as well. And despite some initial missteps, iOS 8 is also a step up in our opinion, marking a new era of openness for Apple perhaps, as it allows third-party keyboards and gives developers access to parts of the OS that it had previously kept off-limits. Read our review here.

Samsung Galaxy S5: $1 - $520 with or without contract
Samsung Galaxy S5 Review -
Samsung's new Galaxy S5 rips through benchmarks, besting many of the top smartphones on the market today.  It competes with the HTC One M8 and the two are on par performance-wise since they're based on the same Snapdragon 801 SoC processor complex. Performance with the Samsung Galaxy S5 is, as expected, exceptional. Battery life is also fantastic as well, especially with the GS5's Ultra Power Saving mode as your ace in the hole, should a charger not be handy. In addition, the Galaxy S5's camera electronics really deliver both quality stills and exception UHD video recording that actually push the boundaries of what traditionally has been expected from smartphone cameras. Read our review here.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4$0, $299 - $785 on or off contract

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

The Galaxy Note 4 wields a 5.7-inch Quad HD (2560x1440) Super AMOLED display powered by a 2.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor. This heavily armed device also features 3GB of RM, 32GB of internal storage expandable via a microSD card slot (up to 128GB), 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera with f1.9, 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with auto focus and smart optical image stabilization, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, built-in heart rate monitor, various other sensors, and Android 4.4.4 KitKat. Those who log a lot of hours on their mobile device will appreciate the Galaxy Note 4's Adaptive Fast Charging capability. According to Samsung, the Galaxy Note 4 can go from no battery to 50 percent charged in about 30 minutes. It also features an Ultra Power Saving mode that offers standby time up to 24 hours on only 10 percent of battery life, while still allowing access to select applications.

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