U.S. Markets closed

Gift Ideas: The Best Tablets to Buy as Presents

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor
Yahoo Tech
iPad Air and iPad mini

If you’re doing some holiday shopping, there’s a good chance that someone on your list is hoping to unwrap a new tablet this year. And why not? Tablets let you surf the Web, play games, watch movies, and even edit photos in a lightweight package.

But with so many options available, it can be tough to decide which tablet to get for your favorite person. So to help you, we’ve put together a list of the best tablets that will make finding the perfect gift a cinch. Check it out.

Apple iPad Air 2
$499 with 16 GB of memory, $599 with 64 GB of memory, $699 with 128 GB of memory

If someone on your list has asked for a tablet this year, she’s likely asked for Apple’s iPad Air 2. And there’s good reason for that. The reigning king of full-size tablets is now even slimmer and more powerful.

iPad Air 2

The Air 2’s 9.7-inch screen is fully laminated, which means it offers richer colors than its predecessor, the iPad Air. And with a speedier processor, you’ll see faster performance while gaming, editing photos, and even just browsing the Web. There’s even a new 8-megapixel iSight camera, so your shots will look great, even if you look ridiculous taking pictures with a tablet.

And with its new Touch ID fingerprint sensor, you can log in to the Air 2 and make online purchases with a tap of your finger.

Buy it for: The person who wants the absolute best full-size tablet around.

Check price.

Apple iPad mini 2
$299 with 16 GB of memory, $349 with 32 GB of memory

So the Apple fanatic in your life wants an iPad but doesn’t want a full-size tablet? Then get him the iPad mini 2. Sporting a gorgeous 7.9-inch Retina display, the iPad mini 2 may be small, but it packs all the goods of its larger brethren.

iPad mini 2

The mini 2’s processor is the same chip found in the previous generation iPad Air, so it’ll easily be able to handle anything you throw its way, and its price tag is an impressively low $299 for a 16 GB model.

Why not go for the iPad mini 3, you ask? Well, because the mini 3 is essentially the same tablet as the mini 2 with the addition of Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor at the cost of an extra $100. The mini 2 is just a better value.

Buy it for: The Apple fan who wants a smaller slate and doesn’t mind last year’s model.

Check price.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and Tab S 10.5
$399 for Tab S 8.4, $499 for Tab S 10.5

If you’re shopping for a tablet for your favorite Android fan, you’re going to want to check out one of Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S slates. The best tablets Samsung has ever made, the small-size Tab S 8.4 and full-size Tab S 10.5 each pack the same features, making them nearly identical.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 and Tab S 10.5

Both slates come with Samsung’s absolutely gorgeous 2560 × 1600 pixel screen and microSD card slots that let you expand the tablets’ storage capacities up to 128 GB.

The tablets also come with Samsung’s excellent multitasking features that let you run two apps onscreen at the same time. The only question you need to answer is whether you’ll get the person on your list the 8.4 or the 10.5.

Buy it for: The Android fan who wants a slate that can multitask like a PC.

Check price.

Nexus 9
$399 with 16 GB of memory, $479 with 32 GB of memory

Know someone who wants a tablet that runs an unaltered version of Google’s Android operating system? Then you need to check out the tech giant’s Nexus 9. A full-size tablet with a 2048 × 1536, 8.9-inch screen, the Nexus 9 is powered by Google’s new Android Lollipop, and that’s it.

Nexus 9

There are no interface add-ons like you’ll find on other Android slates, which makes the Nexus 9 a simpler tablet to use. Beyond its operating system, the Nexus 9 is a powerful tablet with a sleek design and excellent dual front-facing speakers that are good for watching movies. And with its powerful Nvidia processor, the Nexus 9 has the performance chops to hang with the best tablets in the world in gaming and productivity.

The downside is that the Nexus 9 doesn’t come with an available microSD card slot, which means you can’t add on more storage if you run out of room.

Buy it for: The person who wants a full-size Android tablet without the clutter.

Check price.

Sony Xperia Z2
$449 with 16 GB of memory, $499 with 32 GB of memory

Is the person on your holiday shopping list the type of gal who likes to browse the Web by the pool? Then you might want to consider hooking her up with Sony’s Xperia Z2 tablet. That’s because, in addition to being one of the thinnest full-size tablets in the world, the Xperia Z2 is also waterproof.

Sony Xperia Z2

That’s right: This slate can take a dip in up to 5 feet of water for 30 minutes without suffering any ill effects. Of course, there’s more to the Xperia Z2 than its scuba skills. The tablet also features a beautiful 10.1-inch, 1920 × 1200 display that’s great for watching Netflix or just catching up on your Twitter feed.

And for the movie buff in your life, the Xperia Z2 also features a microSD card slot that lets her expand the tablet’s storage capacity by 128 GB. That’s a whole lot of movies.

Buy it for: The person who can’t bear to be away from her tablet, even by the pool.

Check price.

Amazon Fire HDX 8.9
$379 with 16 GB of memory, $429 with 32 GB of memory, $479 with 64 GB of memory

We all know someone who is completely obsessed with Amazon. And if that person is asking for a tablet this holiday season, you might want to get him the Amazon Fire HDX 8.9. The most powerful tablet Amazon has ever made, the Fire HDX features a beautiful 8.9-inch display with a 2560 × 1600 resolution, which means images and videos will look razor sharp.

But, more importantly, the Fire HDX gives your Amazon fan quick and easy access to all of Amazon’s apps, including Amazon Instant Video, as well as unlimited cloud storage for Amazon Content. Oh, and if he ever runs into problems with the tablet, he can use its built-in Mayday button, which provides him with a live video chat with an Amazon customer service agent. That makes Amazon’s tablet a good option for someone prone to tech troubles.

Better still, if you’re searching for a tablet for someone with kids, the Fire HDX 8.9 comes with a host of parental control features he can use to set limits on how long his kids can use the slate, and even keep them from using certain apps.

Buy it for: The Amazon user who wants a tablet for all his favorite movies and books, and that he can hand off to his little ones with ease.

Check price.

Nvidia Shield Tablet
$299 with 16 GB of memory, $399 with 32 GB of memory and 4G LTE connectivity

Tablet gaming has come a long way in a short amount of time. We’ve gone from ports of years-old games like Grand Theft Auto 3 to incredible works like Wolf Among Us. But for the discerning gamer looking for a tablet, the best choice is Nvidia’s Shield tablet.

Nvidia Shield Tablet

The slate, which features a colorful 8-inch, 1920 × 1200 resolution screen and excellent dual front-facing speakers, is literally built for gaming. In fact, two of the best PC games ever made, Half Life 2 and Portal, are available exclusively on the Shield.

But the big to-do with this slate is the fact that it now comes with Nvidia’s Grid cloud gaming service for free through June. Grid lets you stream a growing list of games like Batman: Arkham City, Borderlands 2, and The Witcher 2 directly from Nvidia’s servers to the Shield. That’s right: You can play high-end PC games on a tablet. Now, that’s cool.

Buy it for: The gamer in your life who wants a tablet and could always use a gaming fix.

Check price.

Email Daniel at dhowley@yahoo-inc.com; follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley or on Google+ here.