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11/19/2012
04:29 PM
Chris Spera
Chris Spera
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5 Best Tablets For The Holidays

Looking for the perfect gift for your beloved this year? Something tells us a tablet might be just the ticket. BYTE looks at five: The Apple iPad 4, the iPad Mini, the Samsung Galaxy 10.1, the Microsoft Surface, and the Kindle Fire HD.
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Kindle Fire HD

The Kindle Fire is a 7-inch Android-powered tablet. It can run a large selection of Android apps available in the Amazon App Store. Its strengths are its small size and its ability to function as an e-reader. The Amazon "ecosystem" is another one of its strengths -- the ability to have all of your Amazon music, video and e-book purchases instantly accessible on your device.

The new Kindle Fire HD ups the ante in the tablet space with two different sizes and a few different data plan options. There's the traditional 7-inch tablet, and also an 8.9-inch version with a 1920-by-1200-pixel, 254-ppi, laminated, anti-glare touch screen for 25% less glare and an overall better visual experience. The 8.9's OMAP 4470 processor, the Android 4.0 operating system, and the stereo speakers -- an upgrade over the original Fire's mono speakers -- help round out the improved multimedia experience.

For improved communications, Amazon has equipped the Fire HD with a dual-band 2.4ghz/5.0ghz receiver with dual antennas and MIMO radio technology. The 4G LTE version sports AT&T connectivity for high speed Internet access when you're out and about. Wi-Fi-only models come with 16 GB and 32 GB of internal storage. 4G models come with either 32 GB or 64 GB of space. Bluetooth is now built in.

Amazon is now charging users for Whispersync. If you go the 4G LTE route, you'll have to cough up $50 bucks a year for a monthly allotment of 250 MB of data, 20 GB of Amazon Cloud storage, and a $10 Amazon App Store credit. If that's not enough bandwidth, 3-GB and 5-GB plans will be available for purchase right from the device, but pricing wasn't available at the time of this writing.

The improvements here are clearly aimed at direct competition with Apple's fourth-generation iPad and iPad Mini. The Fire HD in any of its forms is likely a decent choice for anyone on your gift list who wants a tablet but doesn't want you to spend too much. You're not going to get the same abilities for screen annotations as you do on the Samsung Galaxy Note, though the device will still function well with Evernote and other note taking apps.

The Fire is the least business-focused of these tablets. If you plan to use it in a BYOD scenario you should check first with IT to see how much support they can give.

The Amazon Kindle Fire HD 7" is available from Amazon and sells for $199.99. The Kindle Fire HD 8.9" is $299 for the 16-GB version and $369 for the 32-GB version. The Kindle Fire HD 8.9" with 4G LTE is $499 for the 32-GB version and $599 for the 64-GB version.

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