NEW YORK | The tablet computer is without a doubt the gift of the season — just like it was last year. But if you resisted the urge in 2011, now is the time to give in. This season's tablets are better all around. Intense competition has kept prices very low, making tablets incredible values compared to smartphones and PCs.

The first step in the buying process is to decide on the size of the tablet. They fall into two rough categories: the full-sized tablet, pioneered by the iPad, and the half-size tablet, epitomized by the Kindle Fire.

If you've settled on a small tablet, here are some top choices. A review of larger tablets will run Tuesday.

Apple iPad Mini (starts at $329 for 16 gigabytes of storage)

The most expensive of the small tablets is also the prettiest. Its exquisitely machined metal rim sets it well apart from competing tablets clothed in plastic and rubber. It's also thin and light, despite having a screen that's 40 percent bigger than other "small" tablets. But the quality of the screen doesn't quite measure up to the competition. It has fewer pixels than other small tablets, and they're spread over a larger area, making for a relatively coarse, pixelated look. On the other hand, the Mini has two cameras, front and back, which is a rarity.

Amazon Kindle Fire HD (starts at $199 for 16 gigabytes of storage)

A year ago, the Kindle Fire was the plucky, cut-rate tablet, the Dodge Neon to the iPad's BMW. This year, the gap in quality and features has narrowed considerably. The Kindle Fire HD has a better screen than the iPad Mini, and now sports a front-facing camera. The original Kindle Fire had none.

The Kindle Fire is especially useful for members of Amazon's Prime shipping service, since they get access to free streaming movies. On the other hand, anyone could be annoyed by the ads that appear on the lock screen. Getting rid of them costs $15. There's no option for cellular broadband, so you're limited to Wi-Fi connections.

Barnes & Noble Nook HD (starts at $199 for 8 gigabytes of storage)

Barnes & Noble has paid a lot of attention to the screens on its Nooks. This year, it's clearly outdone the competition, with a screen that packs the pixels tighter than any other small tablet. It's very sharp and colorful, approaching the look of the Retina screen that graces the full-size iPad.

Google Nexus 7 (starts at $199 for 16 gigabytes of storage)

Frustrated that Amazon and Barnes & Noble were taking Google's Android software, gutting it and using it to power tablets that don't yield the search giant a red cent in advertising revenue or e-book sales, Google this year launched the first tablet under its own brand. The Nexus 7 has a power-house processor and a screen similar to that of the Kindle Fire HD. Since it runs stock Android, it has access to hundreds of thousands of applications written for Android smartphones, and it has more sophisticated multi-tasking abilities than the competitors, so it's easy to switch from program to program. Like the iPad Mini, it has a GPS chip for navigation. It has a front-facing camera for videoconferencing.

(3) comments

toddhartman1000
toddhartman1000

HERE'S A FEW ANDROID TABLET DEALS on new models released in November-- One of the first resellers to carry these new tablets is a site called TabletSprint - One new model is the W30 HD - by Ramos Technology -- a 10 inch tablet for $279 - that takes on the Surface, Nexus 10, and iPad with comparable features at nearly half the price -- and includes the latest Quad Core performance powerhouse, the Samsung Exynos 4212 / 1.4 GHz processor; as well as a high resolution, 1920 X 1200 Liquid Crystal screen (comparable to Apple Retina display).

toddhartman1000
toddhartman1000

Also recently launched and available through TabletSprint is the Novo 7 Flame - a 7" Android tablet that's available for $189 that offers more features than the comparable Nexus 7- which sells for $249... The Novo 7 Flame includes a 1280x800 High Resolution screen, a powerful Dual Core CPU/1.6 GHz, 32GB Memory, MicroSD portable storage, an HDMI connection to your TV with full 1080p (HD) that's great for movie downloads; Two Cameras - a 5 MegaPixel camera with video recording and AF & Flash and a 2 MegaPixel Webcam; Plus Bluetooth, Ethernet, WiFi and an option for 3G with a USB adapter. There's also a 10-inch version released November 15th... the Novo 10 Hero for $225. Both these models are made by Ainol Electronics, which received a "Best Tablet of the Year" award at CNET Consumer Electronics Show 2012 -- The Novo 7 Legend also launched this week and is the first quality "$100 TABLET" available from any major brand... with many of the same features as the higher end Novo 7 Flame --

toddhartman1000
toddhartman1000

TabletSprint also offers in December, two new tablets with 3G Wireless built in -- the Pipo 763... a 7" Android tablet for $199, and the Pipo M8 for $279, a higher-end, full size 9.4 inch model with a 1280x800 high resolution screen along with GPS & Bluetooth. TabletSprint also offers a nice perk -- a FREE 3G/4G 500MB monthly data plan with full internet access/VoIP calling in the U.S., that works with all tablets they carry -- Each of these new tablet models offer the latest technology and are certainly worth checking out and comparing --

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