INSIDE MOBILE: What Tablet Should You Buy for the Holidays?

Amazon's Kindle, Barnes & Noble's Nook, Apple's iPad and Samsung's Galaxy Tab are among the tablets currently on the market. Here, Knowledge Center mobile and wireless analyst J. Gerry Purdy discusses the features of each tablet and suggests the tablets you should really buy for your loved ones this holiday season.

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I've had a number of friends and relatives ask me, "What tablet should you buy for the upcoming holidays?" The question is a good one to consider because there are so many choices this year. Remember that, just a year ago, the only "tablet" in high-volume production was the Kindle e-reader.

Now, the tablets on the market are the new, better (but still B&W) Kindle and the color Nook from Barnes & Noble (both really e-book readers). There's also the full-function Apple iPad, the Galaxy Tab from Samsung and products announced from Dell (Slate) and RIM (BlackBerry PlayBook). I'll focus on the first four products in this column, as I haven't yet seen the Slate or PlayBook (which are not yet shipping in volume).

Each one of these tablet devices may be right for you depending on your personal preferences. Of all the current tablets, Apple has created the most emotional appeal with its commercials emphasizing the "magical iPad."

Amazon's Kindle

First, if you only want to read a book, then the Kindle will adequately meet your needs. The latest offering includes a 6-inch B&W display that provides higher contrast than previous models. It includes Wi-Fi and free 3G to download books from any location in the world. It costs $189. There's a Wi-Fi only version for $139 but I recommend spending $50 more to get one with built-in 3G. Amazon has the largest book collection, so the Kindle is a great gift for someone who's an avid book reader and not likely to want the advanced features of a tablet.

Barnes & Noble's Nook

The next step up is Barnes & Noble's Nook. It now includes a color display. They have announced support for a number of magazines that predominantly include color diagrams and photos. This isn't a full tablet as it doesn't support an operating system such as Apple's iOS or Google's Android, but it greatly expands the classes of content that can be displayed on a tablet device. This first version of the color Nook only has Wi-Fi, but I expect you'll see a color Nook with 3G cellular wireless (since 3G is already provided in older Nook models).