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10 best tablets to gift for Christmas 2013

We list the 10 best tablets to give as gifts this Christmas along with all the buying advice you need.

10 best tablets to gift for Christmas 2013

If you're buying someone a tablet this Christmas, the sheer amount of choice can be bewildering. Apple's iPads are sure to be popular, but their high prices mean they're out of reach for many. See also What's the best tablet you can buy in 2013?

Cheap Android tablets can be a lottery: some don't let you buy apps, music and movies from Google's Play Store, while others have terrible screens or poor performance. Take a look at the 12 best kid's tablets for Christmas 2013 too.

Fret not, as spending a couple of minutes reading this buying guide will stand you in good stead when it comes to choosing the perfect tablet.

First, it's worth checking what the recipient already has. If they have an Android tablet, they may want to stick with Google's operating system as they will be able to continue to use all the apps and other content they've already paid for.

The same goes for iPads. If you buy an iPad owner an Android tablet, they will have to pay for apps again: games, movies, magazines and most other purchases are not transferable between different systems.

Your third option, after an iPad or Android tablet is one of Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets. These could be a good choice if the recipient is happy to be locked into Amazon's system for buying apps, games and other content. If they have a Kindle eReader, they can access any books they've bought on practically any tablet – it doesn't have to be an Amazon one.

Barnes & Noble's Nook tablets have dropped in price hugely, and since they allow access to Google Play, they're a good choice now. The operating system looks very different from an Android tablet, but it's very easy to use.

Hardware

Software is important, but so is the hardware. Crucially, you want a good-quality screen. Only reviews will tell you if a tablet has a good or bad screen – don't believe everything in adverts or on manufacturers' websites.

Performance is also key, since nobody likes to be waiting around for their tablet to respond to taps and swipes, for it to launch apps or load web pages. Again, reviews will say if a tablet is fast or slow; looking at specifications won't tell you much at all.

Battery life is important. Take most manufacturers' claims with a pinch of salt: our reviews let you compare how long each tablet lasts using the same benchmark. The longer the better, but consider around six hours as the absolute minimum. The best tablets will play video for around 11 hours.

The last point to bear in mind is storage. iPads, plus quite a few others, have no memory card slot for adding more storage. That doesn't mean you should rule them out, but it does mean you should buy the highest capacity model you can afford. Storage is quickly filled with things such as videos and games, so you can never have too much.
Bearing that advice in mind, here, in no particular order, are 10 tablets worth considering this Christmas.

The 10 best tablets to gift for Christmas 2013

1. iPad Air

The 9.7in iPad was long overdue a redesign, and the Air sets the new benchmark against which other tablets will be measured. It's the lightest 10-inch tablet around and now has double the performance compared to the previous model. The Air starts at £399, and for that you get 16GB of storage. If you want the equivalent 4G model, it's £499.

2. iPad mini with Retina display

With a 7.9in screen, the iPad mini feels a lot smaller than the iPad Air, but thanks to a screen that has the same resolution, everything looks super-sharp. Again, there's a choice of Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi + 4G models. Storage can't be expanded and starts at 16GB. The cheapest is £319, with the 4G version costing an extra £100.

3. iPad mini

At £249, the original iPad mini is a more affordable gift. It has a much lower-resolution screen, but it's still a good one. Most people probably won't notice the performance deficit between the old and new iPad mini, and it's great for games, watching videos and reading ebooks.

4. Google Nexus 7 (2013)

The new Nexus 7 is a superb Android tablet. It's small and light and the full HD screen is superb. It's more expensive than the model it replaces, but it's still a good deal at £199 (there's a 32GB version for £239; the 32GB 4G model is £299). If there's a niggle, it's that the Nexus 7 has no memory card slot for adding extra storage.

5. Tesco Hudl

Almost out of nowhere, Tesco has blasted into the tablet market with a real bargain. The 7in Hudl costs just £119 (some eReaders cost more) yet it doesn't have any notable flaws. It has a decent high-resolution screen, good performance and a microSD slot to add 32GB to the internal 16GB. There's access to the Google Play store and you can even get one for £60 worth of Clubcard vouchers!

6. Barnes & Noble Nook HD+

Originally, the 9in HD+ cost £229 but you can buy one today for just £129. This slightly odd-looking tablet has a fabulous full HD screen and is both thin and light. It runs a highly customised version of Android and is great for families thanks to user profiles. The Nook is made even better by the recent addition of the Google Play store.

7. Google Nexus 10 (2013)

Note: This is based on speculation - Expected to launch 1st NOvember - price is TBA

The original 10-inch Google tablet was an impressive affair, but the new version is better still. It has the same fantastically high-resolution display, but gains a performance boost and loses some weight (not quite as much as the iPad Air, though). You get the very latest version of Android (KitKat) and some upgraded cameras.  

8. Barnes & Noble Nook HD

This 7in Android-based tablet runs the same custom operating system as the Nook HD+. And, like its big brother, it has also had a recent price cut: the 8GB version costs only £79. Yet you can easily add more via the microSD card slot. There's access to Google Play and the decent-quality screen has the same resolution as the Tesco Hudl. If you have a tight budget, this is a great choice.

9. Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7”

As long as you can live within Amazon's walled garden, the new HDX is a fine tablet. It has the same HD screen as Google's Nexus 7, plus a new ‘Mayday' button which gives you access to a tech-support person any time, night or day. That makes it a good choice for the less-technical family members. It starts at £199 (16GB), but you can have a 4G model for £269. There's also a 64GB version, which costs £259 if you can live with Wi-Fi only.

10. Microsoft Surface Pro 2

This isn't a cheap option, but the £719 Surface Pro 2 runs full-blown Windows 8.1 so can run all your Windows programs. It doubles as a tablet, too, albeit it a somewhat chunky, heavy one. We recommend buying the Type Cover accessory since you don't get a keyboard as standard.

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