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Holiday Buyer’s Guide: The Best Tablets Money Can Buy

TechnoBuffalo recently brought you our top choices for the best smartphones of the holiday season, and now we’re back with a list of our favorite tablets that money can buy right now. Again, we’re going to make sure we address every operating system, because we know that some people prefer iOS to Android or Windows, and vice versa. There should be something for everyone here.

Additionally, we know that tablets can be expensive, so we’re also going to try to address every market segment in some way or another. Some tablets are going to be on the more expensive side, while others shouldn’t hurt that wallet too much. After all, you have a lot of people to shop for, right?

Let’s take a look at some of our favorite tablets right now.

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iPad Air 2

The iPad Air 2 is Apple’s best tablet to date and easily earns a spot on our holiday buyer’s list. We’ve been most impressed with Apple’s ability to create an even thinner tablet than last year, while also boosting the muscle under the hood by adding a new A8X processor. It’s also equipped with Touch ID, which can be used for making payments online or through enabled applications and a display that’s easier to read outside. We also love Apple’s new iOS 8 features, including Continuity, which makes the experience between your other iOS devices and OS X Yosemite seamless. Whether it’s for gaming, movies or work on the go, the iPad Air 2 should be a perfect fit for most folks.

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NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet

The SHIELD Tablet was our favorite Android tablet when we first reviewed it, and now it’s even better. The company recently pushed out an Android 5.0 Lollipop update, one of the first manufacturers to do so, and also added its brand new and free GRID gaming service. GRID allows you to stream 20 popular PC games from NVIDIA’s servers with new titles coming every month, including hits like Borderlands 2 and Batman: Arkham Asylum. The SHIELD Tablet starts at just $299.99, and features HDMI-out, a powerful Tegra K1 processor, a 1920 x 1200 8-inch display, front-facing speakers and more. We recommend you also pick up the $59.99 SHIELD controller. It’s perfect for gamers, but it’s also the best 8-inch Android tablet on the market.

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Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

We first met the Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact during the IFA trade show in Berlin this past September. It’s now finally available to purchase and stands-out against other tablets for several reasons. First, it’s waterproof, which means you won’t have to freak out if someone accidentally spills liquid on it. Second, it features PS4 Remote Play so you can play PS4 games over your home Wi-Fi connection, right on your tablet using the PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 wireless controller. Other features include a Snapdragon 801 processor clocked at 2.5GHz, a solid 1920 x 1200-pixel display, an 8.1-megapixel camera and more. Android, gaming and protection against the elements – what else do you really need?

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Lenovo Yoga 2 10.1

Lenovo recently unveiled its family of new Yoga tablets for the holidays and the Yoga 2 10.1 really caught our eye. It’s an Intel Atom-based tablet with Windows 8.1, a 10-inch display, an 8.1-megapixel camera and 32GB of storage. However, since that’s a full version of Windows, it’s also capable of doubling as a fully functional Windows computer with its bundled Bluetooth keyboard, which is included in the $369.99 price. You can either carry the tablet around and prop it up on its kickstand when you want to watch movies, or pop it into the keyboard stand for laptop mode, the choice is yours.

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Nexus 9

The Nexus 9 was the first Android 5.0 Lollipop tablet to ship, but if you’ve been reading along you know it’s no longer the only Lollipop tab on the market. Still, it features some compelling hardware including an 8.9-inch 2048 x 1536-pixel resolution, front-facing speakers, brushed metal sides, and a Tegra K1 processor that easily handles everything we’ve ever thrown at it. The Nexus 9 is best suited for Android purists who don’t want any additional OEM skins on board, and who want quick access to the latest updates as Google pushes them out. We’re more attracted to the white option, but you can also pick one up in black or, soon, sand. Also keep an eye out for the LTE model, which we know will at least hit T-Mobile in early December.

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Amazon Fire HDX 8.9

The Amazon Fire HDX 8.9 should be a top choice on your list for a number of reasons this holiday season. First, if the loved one you’re shopping for is a Prime subscriber, the HDX will provide access to Amazon’s Instant Video service and free music streaming library. You’ll also be able to download plenty of Android applications, easily access Amazon’s massive library of books and more. The highlight here is definitely Amazon’s sprawling ecosystem, but don’t forget about the 2560 x 1600 display, which is incredibly sharp, or Amazon’s free Mayday video support service, which is perfect for anyone who might run into technical difficulties while using the tablet. Also, thanks to Fire OS 4, you can now create multiple user profiles on the device, which means it can be shared by the whole family.

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Galaxy Tab S 8.4

The Galaxy Tab S 8.4 has one of the best displays you’ll find in a tablet, hands-down. Using it is kind of like peering through a window into a different dimension  – that’s how clear the 8.4-inch 2560 x 1600 Super AMOLED display is. It also features 3GB of RAM, expandable storage – and you’ll need it since the base model only packs 16GB – up to 10 hours of battery life, an Exynos 5 Octa processor, and more. It’s also just 0.26-inches thick and weighs less than a pound, which means it can easily slide into a small bag for on-the-go travel. The Galaxy Tab S is not to be overlooked by anyone on the market for a new tab this season. Oh, one more thing: want something bigger? Check out the Galaxy Tab S 10.5.

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Final Thoughts

There are plenty of great tablets on the market for the holidays, and this is a list of what we think should be some of your starting points. Sure, if you like iOS and want something smaller, maybe check out the iPad mini 3, but keep in mind that it’s using last year’s processor. Also be sure to peruse the Black Friday sales from Target, Best Buy, Walmart and others, many of which are also offering savings on tablets for the holidays.


Todd Haselton

Todd Haselton has been writing professionally since 2006 during his undergraduate days at Lehigh University. He started out as an intern with...

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