Best gifts for Christmas 2013: tech gifts for less than £200
Asus Memo Pad HD 7
PRICE £108 (£130 inc VAT)
When Asus released the Memo Pad HD 7″ there wasn’t much competition in its price bracket. Shift forward a few months, however, and the situation has changed dramatically, with the Nook HD receiving another brutal price cut and the emergence of a cheaper challenger – the Tesco Hudl – threatening its place in our affections.
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We still like the HD 7, though. Its 7in, 800 x 1,280 display is bright and colourful (a touch brighter than the Hudl’s, in fact). It has a decent line-up of features, including 16GB of storage, a microSD slot for expansion, and both front (1 megapixel) and rear (5 megapixel) cameras. Its rear snapper takes better pictures than the Hudl’s 3-megapixel unit, and we like the design, with its curved profile and smooth, matte finish. It’s also significantly less bulky than the Tesco device, but has similar battery life (10hrs 28mins in our video test) and performance to the Hudl. Only the slightly higher price and lack of an HDMI output counts against it.
Read our full Asus Memo Pad HD 7 review
Barnes & Noble Nook HD
PRICE 8GB, £66 (£79 inc VAT)
Barnes & Noble has been on a price-cutting splurge of late, hacking the cost of all its products, but its Nook HD has to be the most tempting bargain of the lot. Equipped with a top-quality, 900 x 1,440 resolution display, a 1.3GHz dual-core Ti OMAP 4470 processor, 8GB of storage and a microSD slot for expansion, its price – only £79 – is amazing value for money.
Understandably, perhaps, the hardware can’t match the all-round excellence or speed of the latest Nexus 7 tablet, but for this sort of money, who’s complaining? We are disappointed by its poor performance in the latest games (graphics-heavy titles such as Despicable Me: Minion Rush can look choppy), and lack of front or rear cameras, front or rear. However, for reading books, running non-graphics-intensive apps, reading emails and browsing the web, it’s perfect. Hurry, though: at this price, stocks may not last much longer.
Read our full Barnes & Noble Nook HD review
PRICE 16GB, £142 (£170 inc VAT)
The Asus Fonepad may look like a standard Android tablet, with its 7in 800 x 1,280 IPS display and Nexus-esque dimensions, but it has a unique party trick: it adds 3G data and voice-call capabilities, so you can pick it up, hold it to your ear and make phone calls.
This isn’t the Fonepad’s only unusual aspect, however. Under the hood is a single-core, Hyper-Threaded Intel Atom Z2420 processor,the frugal energy demands of which ensure stupendous battery life. We tested it as a smartphone, where it retained an impressive 80% charge after 24 hours, and as a tablet, where in our video playback test it lasted 12hrs 58mins.
On the downside, performance isn’t up there with the best modern hardware: intensive games such as Despicable Me: Minion Rush and Real Racing 3 feel a little stuttery. Plus, the Intel hardware means that not all apps are compatible. That said, with smartphone and tablet capabilities squeezed in to one package for only £170, it remains a steal.
Read our Asus Fonepad review
Nexus 7 (2013)
PRICE 16GB, £166 (£199 inc VAT)
Last year’s Nexus 7 was a great success, and the new version is even better. It’s slimmer and lighter than most of its compact-tablet rivals, measuring 8.5mm from front to back and weighing only 290g.
Its new 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor eats benchmarks for breakfast, making this tablet not only snappy and responsive, but also capable of delivering smooth frame rates in the latest tablet games and online HD video content. Running Despicable Me: Minion Rush is no problem for the Nexus 7, and its bright, punchy Full HD screen displays photos, graphics and video in glorious detail.
It isn’t the cheapest compact tablet around, costing £80 more than the Tesco Hudl and £120 more than the Nook HD, and it lacks niceties such as microSD expansion (HDMI out can be added via the appropriate adapter), but if you’re not tempted by a new iPad mini with Retina screen, this certainly won’t disappoint.
Read our Nexus 7 review
PRICE £99 (£119 inc VAT)
Tesco’s recent entrant in the compact-tablet arena is a surprisingly competent piece of kit. It’s sturdily designed, with a rugged-feeling, rubbery case, and although it’s on the chunky side at 376g, there isn’t much missing from the specifications list. You get a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 16GB of storage (with a microSD slot for expansion), an HDMI output, a high-resolution, 900 x 1,440 IPS display and a pair of cameras (2 megapixel at the front and 3 megapixel at the rear).
That’s all the Android tablet basics covered, and in general use it’s perfectly functional. The quality of the screen is particularly impressive, with balanced colours and a decent level of brightness. Playing games on it is a different matter, however. The latest titles, such as Despicable Me: Minion Rush and Real Racing 3, aren’t so smooth.
Still, there’s plenty here to like. If you leave your bargain-bucket buying late and can’t get hold of a Nook HD, this is the next best bet.
Read our Tesco Hudl review
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX
PRICE £166 (£199 inc VAT)
As with previous Kindle tablets, the new 7in Kindle Fire HDX it isn’t as flexible as a pure Android tablet like the Nexus 7, because it runs Amazon’s own, heavily modified version of the OS – which has a narrower selection of apps available to it. Make no mistake, though, this is one top-quality compact unit. In looks it’s a little squatter and thicker than the Nexus 7, but it’s just as well made and boasts a similarly sharp, 1,920 x 1,200 resolution display. Impressively, it’s even more powerful than Google’s tablet, with a quad-core 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 under the hood delivering the best set of benchmark scores we’ve seen for a compact tablet. It falls just behind the Nexus 7 due to that proprietary OS, but it runs it very close.
Read our full Kindle HDX review