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Thursday, Dec. 8, 2011 02:54 am

Keeping tabs

There’s no shortage of tablets worth putting in their hands this holiday season


Before the iPad debuted in early 2010, no one really knew they needed a tablet.
But, gosh, how did we ever live without them?

Lighter than a laptop with more real estate than a smartphone, tablets have quickly become the go-to device for browsing the web, playing games or simply reading a book –%u202Fwhether on the couch or in a cab.

Just like the flurry of smartphones that followed the iPhone, there now is a bevy of tablets from which consumers can choose. They browse, download and multitask at blazing-fast speeds. They snap photos and videos, and they allow users to video chat with anyone, anywhere. And for the ultimate use on the couch, they can even function as a remote control.

If there’s someone on your list who’s pining for a shiny new tablet, check out our list of some of the best new devices, how they stack up against the iPad, and which wireless carriers they place nice with.

Sony Tablet S    
So, there’s no Sony PlayStation 4 this year, but there is the Sony Tablet S – the first PlayStation Certified tablet. The Tablet S comes preloaded with PS favorites “Crash Bandicoot” and “Pinball Heroes,” with other classic PlayStation titles available for download. The Tablet S, one of the newest devices on the scene, also has the most unique form factor –%u202Fa folded-magazine design the manufacturer says fits more comfortably in your hands. The tab, available in 16 GB ($499) and 32 GB ($599) models, runs the latest-greatest Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system, powered by a dual-core 1 GHz processor, and features a 5-MP rear camera and a front-facing web cam. As an e-reader, the Tablet S offers access to more than 2 million titles in the Sony Reader Store. Already got too many devices sitting on the coffee table? A built-in universal remote lets the Tablet S control the TV, Blu-ray player, stereo or cable box – whether it’s a Sony product or not.
Screen Size: 9.4 inches
Resolution: 1280 x 800
Weight: 1 pound 5 ounces (21 ounces)

Blackberry Playbook
Everyone knows a Blackberry addict; this is the tablet for them. The Playbook –%u202Favailable in 16 GB ($499), 32 GB ($599) and 64 GB ($699) models –%u202Fsyncs real-time with BlackBerry smartphones, so their email, calendar, address book, tasks and documents always are up-to-the-minute. The best-in-class 3-MP front-facing camera offers solid video-conferencing quality, and the 5-MP rear camera snaps 1080p high-def video. The ultra-portable tab, which can run on Sprint’s network, sizes in at just 5.1-by-7.6 inches on the outside but packs major guts on the inside: a dual-core 1 GHz processor plus 1 GB of RAM.
Screen Size: 7 inches
Resolution: 1024 x 600
Weight: < 1 pound (15 ounces)

Samsung Galaxy Tab
If you’re looking for options, look no further than the Samsung Galaxy Tab. This Android tablet comes in three sizes –%u202F10.1 inches, 8.9 and 7 –%u202Fand is the only tab to be available on all major wireless networks, if they’re in need of a constant Internet connection. Here’s a look at the Galaxy universe.

Galaxy Tab 10.1
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is slightly taller and narrower than the iPad 2 but is equally thin%u202F(or thick, depending on how you look at it). Available in two sizes, 16GB and 32 GB, and two colors, gray and white, the Tab 10.1 is offered as either a Wi-Fi Only model (16GB – $499, 32GB – $599) or a 4G LTE model for Verizon’s network (16GB –%u202F$529, 32GB –%u202F$629).
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 runs Android 3.1 Honeycomb and features a 1 GHz dual-core processor for blazing-fast browsing, gaming and on-the-go multitasking. A  high-def display delivers crystal-clear picture, whether they’re streaming YouTube videos or slingshotting birds at pigs. A 3-MP rear-facing camera snaps photos, and a 2-MP front-facing camera can be used for video conferencing. As for entertainment, the Galaxy 10.1 is a beast. The Samsung Media Hub provides access to more than 5,000 movies and TV shows, which can be viewed on an HDTV via an HDMI dongle. Amazon’s Music Cloud Player and Kindle apps come preloaded, as does the popular social game Words With Friends, ensuring Tab users never need utter, “I have nothing to do.”
Screen Size: 10.1 inches
Resolution: 1280 x  800
Weight: 1 pound 4 ounces (20 ounces)

Galaxy Tab 8.9
Available in 16GB ($469) and 32GB ($569) models, the Tab 8.9 offers same array of whiz-bang features as the 10.1, just in a slightly smaller package. At around 9-by-6 inches and just a third of an inch thick, the Wi-Fi Only Tab 8.9 packs a gig of RAM and a 1 GHz dual-core processor for ultra-high performance. Like the larger Galaxy Tab, the 8.9 runs Android 3.1 Honeycomb and features 3MP-rear, 2-MP front cameras.
Screen Size: 8.9 inches
Resolution: 1280 x  800
Weight: < 1 pound (15.76 ounces)

Galaxy Tab 7
For a truly single-handheld device, the Galaxy Tab 7 eschews the landscape orientation for a portrait design that weighs in at less than 14 ounces  and can just an easily be tucked into a coat pocket as it can a bag. And while it doesn’t pack quite the guts as it’s bigger brethren –%u202FAndroid 2.2, 1.3-MP front-facing camera – the 16GB Tab 7 makes up for it in carrier options. %u202FIn addition to the Wi-Fi Only model ($349), the tab is available on all the major wireless networks: AT&T ($549), Sprint ($429), T-Mobile ($399), U.S. Cellular ($599) and Verizon ($499). And with a two-year contract, the price usually lands around $199.
Screen Size: 7 inches
Resolution: 600 x 1024
Weight: 13.58 ounces

Dell Streak 7
T-Mobile’s first 4G tablet, the Dell Streak 7 ($299), like the Galaxy Tab 7, offers just the right stuff for being an ultra-productive, ultra-pocketable on-the-go tab: a 1.3-MP front-facing camera for video chat, 5-MP rear-facing camera for snapping photos and recording high-def video, 16 gigs of built-in memory, a 1 GHz processor and Android 2.2, all on a 7-inch display.
Screen Size: 7 inches
Resolution: 800 x 480
Weight: 17.6 ounces

Motorola Xoom
The Motorola Xoom ($499) is a mobile monster. The tablet, which features a 10.1-inch, high-def widescreen display, features a 1 GHz dual-core processor and runs the Android 3.1 operating system (designed specifically for tablets, by the way), making a breeze of browsing, gaming, streaming or video editing. The 5-MP rear-facing camera captures solid stills and records 720p high-def video. It’s ready to run on Verizon’s 3G or super-speedy 4G LTE network, and a Wi-Fi version can be tethered to U.S. Cellular smartphones.
Screen Size: 10.1 inches
Resolution: 1280 x 800
Weight: 24.9 ounces (Wi-Fi), 25.75 (3G)

T-Mobile G-Slate
The G-Slate ($699) is T-Mobile’s latest 4G tablet, running Android 3.0. The 5-MP rear-facing camera is right on par with many smartphone cameras and can record 1080p high-def video and 3D clips, which can be stored on the device’s 32GB of memory and played back on the 8.9-inch high-res display. There’s a 2-MP front-facing camera for video chat, and the 1 GHz dual-core processor multitasks games and apps with ease.
Screen Size: 8.9 inches
Resolution: 1280 x 800
Weight: 21.9 ounces