Welcome to the PandaApp holiday gift guide! Picking presents for friends and loved ones is never a simple task, and with thousands of options for each category, buying technology can be an especially frustrating experience. We're here to help.
Samsung Galaxy Note II
While the Galaxy Note II certainly isn't for everyone, many users will absolutely adore the additional functionality that comes with the S Pen stylus. What's more, it currently leads the pack in terms of raw performance, and it packs a spacious, beautiful display and amazing camera to boot. Better yet, upon its release, the Galaxy Note II will come dashing out of the gate with Jelly Bean.
HTC One X+
While the One X remains awesome to this day, power hungry shoppers may prefer to wait for the One X+, which combines a quad-core Tegra 3, a larger 2,100mAh battery and 32GB or 64GB of internal storage. As another reason to smile, it'll ship with Jelly Bean from the get-go. Keep in mind that you'll likely need to pony up a decent chunk of cash to snag this untamed beast, but if you insist on living on the bleeding edge, it could be well worth it.
Samsung Galaxy S III
While most of us prefer HTC's high-end offerings at AT&T and Sprint, that's not to suggest that the Galaxy S III isn't an excellent smartphone in its own right. More importantly, its our pick for the majority of subscribers at T-Mobile. Unfortunately, this Galaxy S III is also the most expensive of all the major carrier variants, which means that shoppers will need to find value in T-Mobile's unique offerings such as free WiFi calling and unlimited data usage to make the handset a worthwhile purchase. Despite the carrier's lack of LTE coverage, its 42Mbps HSPA+ network offers excellent data speeds in areas where it's available.
Key specs: 1.5GHz dual-core Snapdragon S4, 4.8-inch HD (1,280 x 720) Super AMOLED display, 8MP rear / 2MP front cameras, 16GB or 32GB built-in storage, Android 4.0.
Price:$280 (16GB) or $330 (32GB)
HTC One S
The HTC One S isn't quite as impressive as the One X on AT&T, although it offers roughly the same level of performance and the same excellent camera. The most glaring weakness of the One S is its inferior qHD display, which is less pixel dense -- and thus not quite as sharp -- as the Galaxy S III and Galaxy Note II. That said, it's still an excellent smartphone and is nearly ideal for those who'd prefer a more compact handset.
Motorola Droid RAZR Maxx HD
If gobs of battery life is at the top of your smartphone desires, you'd be wise to hold out for our review of the Droid RAZR Maxx HD, which promises to lead the pack for overall endurance. Like its predecessor, it boasts a massive 3,300mAh cell, but more importantly, it's keeping up with the times with a speedier processor, higher-res display and a (hopefully) better camera. While the phone will debut with Ice Cream Sandwich, Motorola has promised to deliver an update to Jelly Bean in short order.
Google Nexus 4
This year’s Nexus phone is made by LG and it has much better specs than the Galaxy Nexus, if you can live without LTE capabilities. Introduced together with the Nexus 10 and Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the LG-made Google Nexus 4 is extremely cheap. The 8GB Nexus 4 will run you about $300, though without room to expand that, you might want to go with the 16GB model for the nonetheless affordable $350. Under the hood there’s a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC, 2GB of RAM, a 4.7-inch HD IPS LCD display, eight-megapixel camera at the back, 1.3-megapixel webcam on the front, NFC, wireless charging capabilities, plus all the usual suspects. If you’re looking for a pure-Android experience on great hardware, the Nexus 4 is the way to go.
Price:$299(16GB) or $349(32GB)
The big brother to the Nexus 7 impresses with a stunning 2,560 x 1,600 display, great gaming chops and strong audio quality. The downside is middling battery life: we're talking about seven and a half hours when the competition delivers 10-plus.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
Famous for its S Pen, the Note 10.1 is both a costly sketchpad and a capable Android tablet. Its plastic design isn't the most premium, and the price tag should be a good $100 lower, but features like pen input and multi-screen view are nifty and useful.
Microsoft Surface with Windows RT
Redmond's slate boasts a business-friendly pedigree, with the sold-separately (but mandatory, as far as we're concerned) Touch Cover providing the productivity chops with a comfortable set of keys. The 10.6-inch slate is also impeccably built, and the cool matte surface feels great in the hand. That said, those who favor apps and entertainment over getting work done on the go will want to stick to the Android or Apple ecosystems, which offer larger content selections.
Key specs: 10.6-inch (1,366 x 768) display, quad-core NVIDIA Tegra T30 processor, 32GB internal memory, 2GB RAM, weighs 1.49 pounds, rated for up to eight hours of battery life.
Price:$599(with Touch Cover)
Acer Iconia Tab A110
Looking for a slate that offers Jelly Bean and a lightweight design on a budget? The 7-inch A110 delivers, and it runs a 1.2GHz Tegra 3 processor, to boot.