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Tablets are right up there with 3D-enabled 4K TVs in terms of gift appeal; no one can resist firing them up the moment they've been unwrapped. Maybe it's their super-thin form factors; maybe it's because they make great couch companions; or maybe it's because they're just plain fun. Whether it's an Android, Windows 8.1 or iOS slate you're shopping for, you'll find suitable picks across all budgets below.
ON THE CHEAP
The MeMO Pad HD 7 is one of my favorite tablets in the sub-$200 class. ASUS' entry-level slate isn't as powerful as its Nexus 7 cousin, but it has expandable storage and longer battery life. I find that the custom Android interface gives it more utility than some of its similarly priced rivals. For that matter, it also has a better display than many of its peers in the same price range. If you only need the basics in a tablet, look no further. -- Jon Fingas, Associate Editor
Key specs: 7-inch (1,280 x 800) display, 1.2GHz quad-core MediaTek processor, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 5MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 0.67 pound.
Price: $129 on Amazon
Amazon's latest Kindle Fire tablet is its strongest one yet, with a high-quality display, a snappy processor and new software features like the Mayday button for troubleshooting. One major bummer: there's no Google Play access, but depending on your tablet / e-reading priorities, that might not be a dealbreaker. If you need Google's full app ecosystem, look no further than the Nexus 7 below. -- Sarah Silbert, Senior Editor
Key specs: 7-inch (1,920 x 1,200) display, quad-core 2.2GHz processor, 16GB of storage, 2GB of RAM, Fire OS 3.0 Mojito, front-facing HD camera, 0.67 pound.
Price: $229 (with Special Offers) on Amazon
Pretty much every company in the world wants to sell you an Android tablet, and plenty of 'em are aiming for the $200 price point. The second-generation Nexus 7 is a strong contender for the best device in this category. Google, along with ASUS, has whipped up a fast and powerful tablet that doesn't scrimp on the specs, but also has a great display and speakers. As with all Nexus gadgets, you'll also get the most up-to-date version of Android, so there's no waiting around for your particular manufacturer/carrier to send you an update. -- Daniel Cooper, Associate Editor
Key specs: 7.02-inch (1,920 x 1,200) IPS display, Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, SlimPort-enabled micro-USB connection, wireless charging, 5MP rear/1.2MP front cameras, 0.64 pound.
Price: $229 from Google
It's a bit pricey, no doubt, but Samsung's Note 8.0 tablet is the perfect size, has a killer screen and runs smoothly. It's a delight to use, and I found myself going to it first thing in the morning before my phone or MBA. True, with the arrival of the iPad mini with Retina display, the Note 8 becomes less easy to recommend at full price -- this one may be best to keep an eye out for during Black Friday sales. -- Ben Gilbert, Senior Editor
Key specs: 8-inch (1,280 x 800) display, Exynos 4400 CPU, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 0.73 pound.
Price: $360 on Amazon
More often than not, when we talk about the construction of Samsung devices, it's to take cheap shots at its flimsy plastic parts. But, the company really knocked it out of the park with the Nexus 10. The soft-touch plastic back and front-facing stereo speakers ooze class, and the gorgeous display crams 30 percent more pixels into roughly the same amount of real estate as the new iPad Air. Of course, it does all this while costing $100 less than a Retina-equipped Apple device. -- Terrence O'Brien, Deputy Managing Editor
Key specs: 10.1-inch (2,560 x 1,600 IPS) display, dual-core Exynos 5 Cortex-A15 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, 5MP rear/1.9MP front cameras, 1.32 pounds.
Price: $398 on Amazon
The original iPad mini was a solid option for anyone who wanted an iOS tablet that's a tad more on the portable side, but the 7.9-inch device launched last year with one glaring omission: no Retina display. That issue has now been addressed in the newest version of the mini. The screen, which is even more pixel-dense than the iPad Air's panel, is absolutely stunning, and Apple's A7 chip makes it just as powerful. It's a huge improvement for the mini, even though it saw no other major changes. -- Brad Molen, Senior Mobile Editor
Key specs: 7.9-inch (2,048 x 1,536) display, A7 processor, 16GB of storage, 5MP iSight rear/1.2MP front cameras, 0.73 pound.
Price: $399 from Apple
MONEY IS NO OBJECT
The latest iPad is lighter, thinner and smaller than any of its predecessors -- by a rather significant margin. The Air, which now weighs only a pound, also features Apple's powerful A7 chipset, compatibility with more LTE networks, faster WiFi and a few other minor enhancements to the overall experience. It's still an iterative jump, but much more iterative than the last two iPads that came before it. -- Brad Molen
Key specs: 9.7-inch (2,048 x 1,536) display, A7 CPU, 16GB of storage, 5MP iSight/1.2MP front cameras, 1 pound.
Price: $499 from Apple
And then there were two. Hot on the heels of the Surface 2 launch comes the Nokia Lumia 2520, giving shoppers a second option running Windows RT. Though this is Nokia's first attempt at a Windows slate, it's mostly a success, with a thin, lightweight design that makes it easier to hold than Microsoft's Surface. Of the two, it also has a brighter, more vibrant screen, along with a better camera. If you'll be doing a lot of typing, we'd still suggest you get the Surface 2 instead, but if you want a Windows tablet to use as an actual, you know, tablet, the Lumia 2520 is the better option. -- Dana Wollman, Managing Editor
Key specs: 10.1-inch (1,920 x 1,080) display, 2.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 6.7-megapixel rear/1.2MP front cameras, 1.36 pounds.
Can't decide between gifting your loved ones a tablet or a laptop? Split the difference: Microsoft's Surface Pro 2 promises to be both. The second-generation slate isn't the best tablet out there, but staggering improvements in performance and battery life shore up its predecessor's shortcomings as a semi-convertible notebook -- and the build quality is still top-notch. -- Sean Buckley, Associate Editor
Key specs: 10.6-inch (1,920 x 1080) display, fourth-gen Core i5 CPU, 64GB of storage, 4GB of RAM, two 720p cameras, 2 pounds.
Price: $899 from Microsoft
In the market for an Android tablet? Sony's Xperia Tablet Z has a lot going for it, including a 1080p display with good viewing angles and an attractive, water-resistant design. As an added bonus: The IR blaster and remote apps let you use this slate to control your TV.a Rafflecopter giveaway
- Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. Comments are no longer accepted as valid methods of entry. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, though we may offer them as opportunities for extra entries. Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given to third parties.
- Contest is open to all residents of the 50 States and the District of Columbia, 18 or older! Sorry, we don't make this rule (we hate excluding anyone).
- Winners will be chosen randomly. One winner will receive one (1) Sony Xperia Tablet Z.
- If you are chosen, you will be notified by email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen. Make sure that the account you use to enter the contest includes a contact email. Social media contact details are not carried over into our system.
- This unit is purely for promotional giveaway. Sony and Engadget/AOL are not held liable to honor warranties, exchanges or customer service.
- The full list of rules, in all its legalese glory, can be found here.
- Entries can be submitted until December 31st, 2013 at 11:59PM ET. Good luck!
- Key specs
- Form factor Tablet
- Operating system Android (Jelly Bean [4.1])
- Screen size 8 inches
- Storage type Internal storage (16 GB, Flash), Memory card
- Camera (integrated) 5 megapixels
- Dimensions 8.3 x 5.35 x 0.31 in
- Released 2013-04-11
Apple iPad Air 2
Apple iPad mini 4
Amazon Kindle Fire 2nd-gen
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch
Nokia Lumia 2520
ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7
Samsung Nexus 10
ASUS Nexus 7 2nd-gen
Microsoft Surface Pro 2