Tablets are always a great Christmas gift, and depending on how much you want to spend (and who you’re getting it for), you have quite a few options out there. It’s easy to go to a Black Friday event and buy whatever they have under $100 (PLEASE don’t do that!), but if you would humor me for a few minutes, I’ll give you some recommendations that can help you in your decision making process …
Without question, Apple is the leader in the tablet market. You say tablet, most people immediately think iPad. Pretty much every year Apple does a refresh on its tablets, making it better than the ones of the previous year. So it’s a safe bet to get whatever the newest/latest iPad is, right? Weeellllllll … the iPad Air 2 (starting at $499) is for all intents and purposes better than its predecessor. It’s lighter, it has a better camera, a better screen that’s now anti-glare, a faster processor, and it has TouchID. Here’s the thing: there isn’t anything bad about the first iPad Air (which is now $100 cheaper at $399). It’s light, it’s fast, and the screen is fantastic. Sitting one next to the other you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference at first blush, unless you’re into gold. And the TouchID sensor is a nice bonus security-wise, but it serves more of a purpose on the iPhone than it does the iPad. If you have an iPad Air, there’s nothing to see here, really. An older iPad you may want to get the Air 2 just so you won’t have to think about upgrading for a while, but you can save some pennies and get the iPad Air without any kind of buyer’s remorse. And as far as considering the iPad Mini 3 (at $399), just don’t. Get the iPad Mini 2. The iPad Mini 3 is a Mini 2 with a TouchID sensor and a $100 mark-up. Unless you just have to have TouchID and a different case color I’d get the older one.
With so many Android manufacturers out there, some of them better than others, you have a crazy number options. Usually if someone asks me about getting an Android tablet, I point them towards Samsung. Why? Well, they have a wide array of sizes and capabilities on their tablets, and you won’t have to worry about support or trying to find accessories for it. If you have the money, The Galaxy Tab S line is the one to get. You can get it in large (8.4 inch, $399) and XL (10.5 inch, $499), it’s light, it’s fast, and the screen is beautiful. Need more functionality? The Galaxy Note line also comes in XL (10.1 inch, $549), but adds a XXL model (12.2 inches! $649) and comes with an S-Pen, which is surprisingly functional. If you don’t want to spend that much, the Galaxy Tabs are a very good buy (the 7-inch Tab 4 starts at $179). They don’t have the glitz and glamour of the Note or the S line, but they’re really good tablets.
I have mixed feelings about Amazon’s tablets. Don’t get me wrong, they’re really good tablets, and FireOS (that’s what they run) has really improved over the years. My hang-up is that you’re locked into Amazon’s app store. Despite the fact that FireOS is built on Android, you don’t have access Google’s Play Store. And while Amazon has a nice library of applications, the Play Store has WAY more. That being said, the more popular applications are available on Amazon, so you’ll still be able to play Candy Crush. And this year they’ve figured out a way to get people to really consider a Fire tablet; price. Fire tablets start at $99 for the Fire HD 6, but for most people I’d recommend the Fire HDX ($179)or the HDX 8.9 ($379).
I’m going to be honest … I’m not sold on Windows 8. I have it, I use it, but it’s not moving me. I’m anxiously awaiting Windows 10, but until then, if you want a tablet that runs Windows, you don’t have that many options. There’s always the Surface line, but I don’t really see them as tablets. I see them more as laptop replacement because it’s running a desktop OS. There are a few in the 7-8 inch range from companies like Dell, Asus and Lenovo, but if you’re looking for a tablet and not something to replace your laptop, I’d stick with the others. If you are looking for a tablet/laptop, the Surface Pro 3 (starting at $799) is the one to get.
What about the kiddies?
Getting a tablet for the kids really does depend on what they’re using it for. Some kids need them for school, in which case you’re looking at an iPad or getting something from Samsung if they can use Android. However, if it’s just for entertainment (or to keep them off of yours), then you have a few more options:
Nabi – Nabi tablets have a very large following. And I don’t blame them; the tablets are built to withstand quite a bit of damage. Also, their tablets are Android-based (which is nice because unlike Amazon’s tablets, you can install the Google App Store on a Nabi tablet), but run their own award-winning software that is specifically designed for children. You have a selection of Nabi tablets depending on the age of your child; they start at $100 for the small Nabi Jr. which is aimed at children ages 3-5, on up to the rather large Nabi Big Tab ($449), which is 24″ large, and is designed for families to use.
Galaxy Tab for Kids – I mentioned the Galaxy Tab before, but Samsung makes one specifically for children that costs around $200. It comes with a bumper to protect it, and has child friendly apps pre-installed. Feel free to get a regular Galaxy Tab, buy your own case for it, and save a few pennies.
iPad – Of course, you can always get your kid an iPad. You can get an older one, or if you’re OK with refurbished, Apple has those as well. And they have plenty of case options for them. Or give them your old one and get a new one. Just the right excuse to justify an upgrade.
Amazon Fire HD Kids Edition – I got to give it to Amazon … this Fire HD Kids Edition (starts at $149) is going to be a VERY compelling option for parents that want to give their kids a tablet. So what you have here is a Fire HD 6 or 7 inch tablet (you can choose), with a bumper case and a kid-friendly change to the regular FireOS called Amazon FreeTime, a free year of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, so kids get unlimited access to 5,000 books, movies, TV shows, educational apps, and games. And on top of that, for TWO YEARS they provide a Worry-Free guarantee that includes coverage for ANYTHING that happens to the tablet. All you have to do is return the tablet and they’ll replace it for free. FREE. For TWO YEARS. I’ll let that sink in …