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The Globe and Mail

Last minute gift ideas: Best tablets of 2012

Apple's not the only company in this category

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Nexus: This is Google’s own take on tablets. As such it runs the Android operating system. And it’s now offered in two sizes. The Nexus 7 has a seven-inch display and weighs just 340 grams. It comes in a WiFi-only version (16 GB for $209, 32 GB for $259) and a 32 GB model with WiFi and cellular ($309), which comes unlocked, so you can choose the carrier you want for the data plan. The Nexus 10 (16 GB for $409, 32 GB for $509) has double the resolution, the highest resolution available on a tablet, on its 10.1-inch display. It runs the latest version of Android, dubbed Jelly Bean, and has WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. The Nexus 10 can accommodate multiple users, too, so you can share one tablet with the family and each person can have the device personalized to suit his or her needs. Just tap on your photo to sign in.

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Kindle eReaders: Not all Kindles are available in Canada. The models that are available north of the 49th are six-inch electronic ink readers, and include the basic device ($89), the Kindle Keyboard ($189) and the Kindle Touch ($139). If you ship to a U.S. address you can get a Kindle Paperwhite, which illuminates for nighttime reading. The 3G isn’t supported in Canada, so opt for the WiFi-only model ($119 U.S.; ad-free for $139 U.S.).

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Kobo Arc: The Arc is Kobo’s version of the Kindle Fire, which is to say that it’s a full-featured tablet, not just an eReader. The seven-inch device with a full-colour, liquid crystal display (LCD) runs on Google’s Android operating system so you can use any of the Google apps available. It comes in black or white and is available in three hard-drive configurations: 16 gigabyte ($200), 32 GB ($250) and 64 GB ($300).

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Toshiba Excite: The 7.7-inch Excite (16 GB for $500, 32 GB for $580, and 64 GB for $680) comes the closest to feeling like an iPad mini. Its bright, clear organic light-emitting diode (OLED) is quite remarkable; no other tablet uses this screen technology. The 13-inch model (32 GB for $650, 64 GB for $750) doesn’t have an OLED display but has the distinction of being the largest tablet available; it has a 16:9 cinematic display. Both run the Android operating system and have WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity.

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iPad mini: Not just a small iPad, the 7.9-inch form factor of the mini makes it a completely different device than anything else on the market. It’s bigger than the seven-inch displays used by many competitors, but still small enough to be held comfortably in one hand. Thin and light, the devices sport an aluminum and glass design similar to that used by Apple on the new iPhones and are available in either black with slate trim or white with silver trim. It’s not the cheapest small-size tablet – WiFi only is $329 (16 GB), $429 (32 GB), $529 (64 GB); WiFi and cellular goes for $459 (16 GB), $559 (32 GB), $659 (64 GB) – but the benefit to getting an iPad mini is that it runs the thousands of apps that have been designed for the iPad.

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The fourth generation iPad is much the same as the so-called new iPad that came out last spring. But the upgraded processor – the technically minded will want to know that it’s an A6X chip – makes this a much faster iPad. It also has an improved FaceTime camera on the screen side of the device which allows for high-definition video conferencing. The 9.7-inch Retina display is a thing of beauty. Available in black or white, the iPad comes with WiFi and unlocked cellular (16 GB for $629, 32 GB for $729, 64 GB for $829) or WiFi only (16 GB for $499, 32 GB for $599, 64 GB for $699).

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