Tablet computers have become the go-to gadgets for gaming,
browsing, reading and generally goofing off. And as demand for
tablets heats up, the choices get more interesting. (Unfortunately,
the Nook Tablet HD wasn't available in time to include it in this
Great Gadgets for Less Than $100
The most intriguing entry is the
Microsoft Surface RT
($500 and up). It comes loaded with Internet Explorer and Microsoft
Office 2013, which is compatible with previous versions of Word,
Excel and PowerPoint. But the Surface RT can't run standard desktop
Windows programs such as iTunes and Photoshop. Tablets and PCs with
Windows 8, including the pricey Surface Pro (due out soon), will be
able to run your other apps and programs.
If Microsoft can successfully explain the difference between
Windows RT and Windows 8 to customers, the Surface looks like a
winner. It has a thin yet sturdy magnesium case, and its 10.6-inch
display is crisp and colorful. The Surface RT comes with a built-in
kickstand and two optional covers with built-in keyboards: the
Touch Cover ($120) and the Type Cover ($130). And the tile-based
Windows RT software is intuitive, colorful and comes with plenty of
Other worthy competitors.
Google recently added the
($400 and up), a 10-inch model, to its tablet roster. The best
feature of the new version is its eye-catching display with
2560-by-1600 resolution-better than any other tablet's, including
the iPad's. The Nexus 10 costs $100 less than a comparably
equipped, 16-gigabyte iPad. All Nexus slates run Google's Android
software, which has become a reasonably good tablet operating
system-although users have far fewer tablet-specific apps to choose
The first-generation Kindle Fire from Amazon, a 7-inch model
with a plastic shell, didn't exactly wow critics, but its $200
price tag made it a hit with consumers. Amazon recently upped its
game with two new tablets: the 7-inch
Kindle Fire HD
($200 and up) and the
Kindle Fire HD 8.9"
($300 and up). The smaller unit has a 1280-by-800 display and dual
stereo speakers that deliver quality audio. The larger model, which
wasn't shipping at press time, has a 1920-by-1200 screen; upgrade
to the $500 version and you get 4G LTE wireless (Amazon charges a
flat $50 for 250 megabytes of data a month for 12 months).
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
($500) is a stylish, 16GB Android touch tablet with a 1280-by-800
display. The Note is speedy and easy to use; a stylus allows users
to write directly on the screen, and there is a small selection of
apps for taking notes, drawing and so on.
Apple weighs in.
Apple is fighting to keep its title. The full-size, 9.7-inch iPad
recently got a faster processor and a smaller connector for
peripherals. Plus, Apple recently unveiled the
($330 and up), with a 7.9-inch display. A sleek aluminum-and-glass
shell gives the mini an upscale feel, and optional 4G LTE wireless
(an additional $130, plus a monthly service charge) is handy for
when you're nowhere near a Wi-Fi hot spot. Plus, mini owners have
access to 275,000 iPad programs, games and utilities. Still, it's
hard to justify the mini's premium price when the device's
1024-by-768 display has the lowest resolution in its class.
This article first appeared in
Kiplinger's Personal Finance
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