Once upon a time, people who craved a tablet computer bought an iPad. But Apple faces its strongest slate of challengers this holiday season, with several tablets besting the trend-setting iPad on price and features.
There are still plenty of reasons to get an iPad -- either the full-size iPad Air starting at $499 or the iPad Mini at $399. Versions of both are available for $100 less, but you get a slower device with a lower-resolution screen. The Air is lighter and thinner than previous full-size models, and it feels nice in your hands.
Whichever one you get for your loved one, the iPad offers this:
- An unmatched selection of high-quality apps, many of them adapted for the tablet's larger screen. Many apps for Android tablets are simply phone apps blown up, while the Windows app store has a smaller selection.
- A screen with a 4:3 aspect ratio. That's the standard size for photos and older television shows, and it displays more content when Web surfing with the tablet held horizontally. That said, the wider aspect ratio found on Android and Windows tablets are better for widescreen video.
- Great syncing with other Apple devices, if the recipient of your gift has any. When setting up an Apple TV streaming device, for instance, you can simply place your iPad near it and bypass screens of prompts. Directions on the Mac's new Maps app can be sent to the iPad with two clicks. You can read and reply to iPhone texts from the iPad or a Mac.
But for a top-notch experience, you'll pay a top-notch price. That's where Android tablets come in.
You can get Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 for $120 less than the iPad Air, at $379. It's even lighter, by about 17 percent, though I couldn't feel much of a difference holding the two side by side. The Kindle's screen has a higher resolution, but the display measures just 8.9 inches (22.6 centimeters) diagonally compared with the Air's 9.7 inches (24.6 centimeters).
For a smaller tablet, you can get a 7-inch (17.5-centimeter) Kindle Fire HDX or a 7-inch Google Nexus 7 for $229, or $170 less than the latest iPad Mini.
With the Mini, though, you get a larger screen, at 7.9 inches (20 centimeters). LG Electronics' G Pad 8.3 offers an 8.3-inch (21-centimeter) screen for $350, or about $50 less than the Mini. Sync the G Pad with an Android phone to see who's calling on your tablet, though you still need the phone to answer it. You can read and reply to texts from the tablet, as long as they don't have photos or video attached. You're limited to one reply and can't initiate a text from the tablet, however. That's where iPads do better. (continued...)
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