If you are looking to give the gift of gadgets this holiday season, the hottest items on the market are tablets. It is no longer just an iPad world, this year, there are more and better tablets to choose from than ever before. But that means there is no longer a one-size-fits-all tablet that you can confidently present to every member of your family.
In my family, for instance, everyone has diverse interests and different needs. It would not do to just give each of them an iPads, it would not match their particular personalities.
So, who is getting what tablets in my family this year? Let’s break it down:
Mom - iPad Mini (16GB – Wi-Fi + Cellular): $459
Mother infamously reviewed the Nexus 7 for ReadWrite back in the summer and was inclined to like it, outside of a few quirks. During the review, she stated, “I can’t help feeling that with a few more days of use, I could really get used to this [the Nexus 7]. My iPad is already looking kind of clunky. Hey, Apple, where is that iPad Mini?”
Well Ma, here you go. A brand new iPad Mini with cellular connectivity. When you asked for one in July they did not yet exist, so I had to wait for Apple to, you know, actually make one. I hope you enjoy it.
I am tempted to give you a brand new Nexus 7 with cellular connectivity (they make those now too) just because I think you might like it. I also know that you like the iPad and iOS, are starting to get into using FaceTime and find the interface easy to understand and navigate. I can totally imagine you using it for FaceTime chatting with us kids or Pa from the grocery store or on business trips.
Dad - Fourth-Generation iPad (16GB Wi-Fi + Cellular): $629
You recently told me a story, Pa. You were traveling for business and were lugging around a fairly heavy laptop in addition to your old iPad. The laptop was deemed basically unnecessary because all you were doing on the road was receiving and responding to emails. Your iPad did not get a cellular connection and that frustrated you since you could not send emails from it wherever you were.
So here is a brand new, fourth-generation iPad. Just like Ma, you like the iOS interface and find it simple to use. I know you like to sit and eat your morning toast and read news about the Packers and that your eyesight is not what it once was (hey, whose are?). So, you are going to like the Retina Display on the new iPad. It is very crisp and eases the strain on eyes when devouring news.
Brother - Nexus 10 (16GB Wi-Fi): $399
As a Google enthusiast, I know you are going to want a Nexus device with unadulterated Android on it. Something you can hack into if you want, maybe add a custom ROM. Something that you can tune to help you in your own engineering pursuits but also use to read a book if you want. I figured you might also like a larger tablet this time around as opposed to the old Nook that you hacked last year.
I seriously considered giving you a Galaxy Note 10.1. I think you might actually like the S Pen stylus that goes with it. You could practice writing in Tibetan on it and it is big enough to do everything you might want. I also know that you really would prefer a device without a manufacturer skin on it, so the Note 10.1 goes out the window.
Eldest Sister - Galaxy Note II: $615
OK, I realize this is not technically a tablet. Nor is it a smartphone. It’s a phablet. What the hell is that, you ask? Well, it is half tablet, half smartphone. And, in many ways, it is perfect for you.
I know you are going to be doing a lot of traveling coming up. I hope India is awesome, by the way. I am getting you this device unlocked (that's why it's so expensive... it comes in at $299 if you were to get one on contract through one of the carriers) so you can connect it to an international data plan when you are abroad. You can also use it over Wi-Fi if you happen to find a hotspot somewhere. I think you might like the size too (5.55 inches), so you can read and watch videos on a decent-sized screen without having to haul around a larger tablet in your luggage. Big enough to be useful while small enough to easily fit in your purse. You are going to want to take a lot of pictures to, and Samsung includes some decent photo tools with this device.
Older Sister - Microsoft Surface (32GB Wi-Fi): $499
Earlier this year you were asking me about how to easily use Microsoft Office products on your iPad. I pointed you to a couple apps, like QuickOffice, that are supposed to integrate Office properties to your iPad. But you know what? Let’s skip all that nonsense and go straight to the source. Microsoft just came out with Windows 8 and released a new computer/laptop hybrid tablet that will make it easier for you to integrate all your lists, schedules and spreadsheets with once device.
As a small business owner (how is the restaurant doing, by the way?), the ability to have a tablet attuned to productivity is important to you. The Surface should satisfy those needs. It is also aesthetically pleasing, with its Hubs and Tiles interface. Really, the Surface looks pretty slick.
Notes On Playing Tablet Santa
Really, now is a great time to give a tablet. There are so many different options available that its easy to find perfect for every member of almost any family. There are five very different individuals in my family and I was able to find a tablet that meets each of their requirements. And there are plenty of other great tablets that didn't quite meet the needs of my family, but might fit perfectly in yours.
For instance, if I was buying for some of my media-loving, Amazon-shopping friends, the new Amazon Kindle Fire HDs might be great choices. One friend would get the 7-inch Fire HD and another would probably receive an 8.9-inch Fire HD.
Samsung also makes a variety of tablets outside of the "phablet" Note II. The Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 hit stores this week and is a quality addition to the Galaxy Tab series. The Note 10.1-inch comes with the S Pen as well and could be a replacement for student's notepads. The Nexus 7 is perhaps the best tablet for its size and price on the market - good for anybody who wants to have a smaller slate without having to break the bank.
So, what about me? Well, I get all of them. I have an iPad with a cellular connection and a Nexus 7 (Wi-Fi only) for reading books and lounging on my couch. I get a Surface so I can test out Microsoft’s new operating system interface. It is a professional obligation for me, mostly, but I can find value in every one of these devices.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock. And no, that is NOT Dan Rowinski's family.