The tech gift guide: E-readers for bookworms and tablets for multimedia mavens

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Tablets and e-readers are popular gifts for the holiday season, but with so many new releases in 2012 it can be hard to know what to choose. Never fear, as whether it’s a simple e-reader, a mini tablet or a full-screen model you’re after, we’ve got you covered.

According to Irish Publishing News, searches for e-readers and tablets in Ireland have seen a dramatic spike in recent weeks. Amazon’s Kindle and Apple’s iPad dominate the queries, but other devices, such as the Google Nexus and Kobo’s e-readers, are also gaining an interest.

Kindle devices

E-readers are a fairly simple, crowd-pleasing device and, though Amazon is the king of e-readers, there really isn’t much of a variation in specs between a Kindle and e-readers from Sony or Kobo, for example.

That said, the Kindle Paperwhite’s 212ppi display is a clear winner, but you would be hard pushed to get your hands on one in Ireland before Christmas – and no, Amazon.co.uk will not ship Kindle devices to Irish customers.

Amazon Kindle

The basic Kindle and Kindle Touch e-readers (ranging from about €79 to €129) are available from the usual technology retailers, though, as well as Tesco supermarkets and Hodges Figgis bookstore on Dublin’s Dawson Street, where the devices are on display in-store for interested readers to take a look.

Alternative e-readers

Moving away from Kindles, Sony’s PRS-T1 and PRS-T2 e-readers are widely available and priced between €100 and €150. I’ve carried magazines heavier than these super-lightweight devices, which come in pink, white, red and black variants.

Sony PRS-T2 e-reader

There’s also Kobo, a little-known e-reader brand that has made a deal with Hughes & Hughes booksellers to sell Kobo readers in their bookstores this Christmas. The 5-inch Kobo Mini will set you back €89.95, while the Kobo Glo and its LED-lit screen comes in at €239.95. There’s also a 6-inch Kobo Touch available from other retailers for about €100.

Kobo has a selection of more than 3m e-book titles to offer users, and the best part is that every purchase supports their local Hughes & Hughes bookstore – lessening the danger of e-readers putting booksellers out of business.

Better still, Irish bookseller Easons is said to be launching its very own e-reader this December, following the successful model set by Barnes & Noble with the Nook e-reader in the US and now the UK. The Eason Leaf is expected to cost €99 and have a 6-inch E-Ink screen, Wi-Fi capability, ample storage for thousands of books and weeks of battery life.

Let’s talk tablets

While e-readers are relatively inexpensive and a practical gift for avid readers, tablet devices offer much more in terms of gaming, apps and entertainment.

Figures from research firm Amárach released this summer put ownership of tablets among Irish adults at 11pc, with the highest among the 25-44 age bracket at 32pc. This figure is expected to increase to nearly 20pc in the first quarter of 2013, and a lucky few may even find a tablet in their Christmas stockings this year.

iPads

Unfortunately, the popular iPad mini will be a tough purchase for Irish shoppers who weren’t thinking ahead in November, with many retailers having sold out already. But there’s still a range of full-size iPads available across Ireland, and this handy comparison sheet from Apple can help you pick the specifications and price that suits you.

The Android A-team

If Android is more your style, you’re lucky enough to have a range of manufacturers to choose from. The Android makers themselves teamed up with Asus to produce the Google Nexus 7 earlier this year, and this is the ideal mini tablet for gamers, thanks to its 12-core GPU.

Google Asus Nexus 7

Sadly, Google’s low-cost 7-inch tablet isn’t so easy on the wallet this side of the Atlantic, costing around €240. Nor does it come with access to movies, books and music on Google Play.

Alternatively, fandroids who have a lot to be getting on with might be interested in a Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, coming in at around €480. This 10.1-inch tablet is capable of multi-tasking unlike its rivals and comes with a stylus for added input options. It also features integrated Adobe Photoshop software, packs a 1.4GHz quad-core processor, and gets the thumbs up from actor James Franco.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

There’s also the lower-cost Galaxy Tab 2 from Samsung, which works out at about €100 cheaper but doesn’t come with the Note’s multi-tasking abilities or S Pen. It is said to be due a Jelly Bean 4.1 upgrade, though.

Or there’s the Sony Xperia Tablet S with an RRP of €419. This 9.4-inch tablet comes with a 16GB hard drive and a splash-proof body that will protect it from little accidents. It runs on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and processing power is fast and smooth, plus it will integrate nicely with other smart Sony devices you may have in your home.

Sony Xperia Tablet S

What about Windows 8?

Unfortunately, Microsoft’s own-branded Windows 8 tablet, Surface, has not yet surfaced in Ireland. But other manufacturers haven’t forgotten about this market and there are Windows 8 devices from familiar brands out there.

Two that we were quite taken by were the Vaio Tap 20 and Vaio Duo 11. The 11.6-inch Duo can be used as a slate or users can slide out the built-in keyboard. Costing from €1,250, it’s powered by the latest-generation Intel Core processors and comes with an NFC chip and stylus with changeable tips.

Sony Vaio Tap 20

The Vaio Tap 20 is a unique tablet-style device aimed at replacing the family computer. This touchscreen tabletop PC retails at about €1,250 and also comes with an NFC chip. The 20-inch slate with an adjustable stand and optional keyboard and mouse is built to adapt to all the demands of a family computer, be it games for the kids, media streaming for the adults, or general productivity.

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Elaine Burke is managing editor of Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com