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December 12, 2013

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Best Gifts to tickle your techies this year

Since the original iPad came along in 2010, tablets have been the must-have gift for Christmas, and this year is no exception. Except this year, the iPad actually has some competition.

In the world of “pure” Android Tablets, Google sets the standard with the new Google Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. Priced from $229 (or $399 for the 10), these tablets feature all the Google apps you use on your desktop computer, along with access to the Google Play Store, where you can choose from hundreds of thousands of other ap23ps. 

And, there are other Android tablets that are cheaper still. A good, solid alternative to the Nexus would be the Barnes & Noble Nook HD or Nook HD+. These tablets, priced at $129 and $149 respectively (and frequently on sale), offer most of what the Nexus tablets offer, including access to the Play Store, at a much lower price. The catch? Barnes & Noble is supposedly getting out of the tablet business, so support might be hard to come by in years to come. But if that’s not an issue, these are excellent Android tablets at great prices.

Of course, Amazon has its own highly regarded, Android-based tablets: the Kindle Fire HD and HDX. These have prices ranging from $229 to $594, depending on the features you want. The main drawback of the Kindle is that it locks you into the Amazon app store (and Amazon doesn’t publish a number of available apps, at least none I could find), rather than allowing access to the main Google Play store like the Nexus and the Nook. 

Still, there are more than 1 million books on the Amazon store, and a hefty selection of apps, including most of the big names that you’ll find on the Google Play store. The Fire does have one other big advantage over most other Android tablets: it has an optional LTE cellular antenna, so that you can stay online at all times.

Now, all these Android tablets don’t mean that the iPad isn’t still the gold standard in tablets. It is. With its superior materials (aluminum bodies versus plastic, for instance), much larger app selection (more than 1 million apps on the Apple app store as of October, as opposed to about 875,000 in the Google Play store, and even less on the Nook and Amazon stores), and, honestly, better apps, the iPad is the tablet to have if you can afford it. (And, yes, you can get an LTE version for an always-on connection to the Internet.)

But there’s the rub. While you  can get “Angry Birds” on any of these tablets, the iPad itself will set you back quite a bit more money. The new iPad Mini with Retina Display starts at $400 and the new iPad Air starts at $500. Of course, you can still get older, less expensive versions of each device (last year’s iPad Mini is just $299 and 2011’s iPad 2 is just $399), but who wants last year’s iPad? Likely not the tech-head on your list.

Another reason to get an iPad? Starting with the release of the iPhone 5s earlier this year, Apple has been providing free downloads of their iLife and iWork productivity apps for all new iPhone and iPad purchases. 

Taken together, those apps previously cost about $100, and they turn the iPad into an excellent content-creation device, right out of the box.

If your techie likes their music a bit less wearable, and just straight up weird, then check out the Otamatone Deluxe. The Otamatone is a… well, it’s hard to explain. 

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December 12, 2013

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