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iPad Mini is Max

If you’re looking at the new iPad Mini for yourself or as a holiday gift, it looks like a winner to us. But there are plenty of other choices if you’re looking to give a tablet as a gift this year. We have a few ideas, so let’s start with the Mini

It’s the same configuration as the iPad, and it will compete with the Fire, Nexus and any other smaller tablet likely to hit the market. You’ll be able to download all the Apple apps, and at a much lower price than the “big” iPad, it might be a good gift idea. It could also work well for younger students who may find the smaller size easier to handle.

If you’re thinking about it for business, there’s a lot to recommend. If your network is already set up for iPads and iPhones, the new model will fit right in. You shouldn’t miss a beat for the apps, email, calendars and anything else you need.

As for the smaller size, we seem to like smaller devices. They’re easier to carry to meetings, and they take up less table space at your favorite coffee shop.

If the iPad in any of its models and derivatives don’t work for you or the person you’re giving it to, you can choose from several manufacturers, sizes, operating systems and features. Here are five considerations.

1. Size it Right

Today’s two most popular sizes are 7-inch and 10-inch models. The smaller ones are great for people who love to read books or play games during their commute or when traveling. The larger ones are better for working on documents, editing photos and, in some cases, replacing a laptop.

2. Pick the Best OS

Apple’s iOS for the iPad is the easiest to learn and use and has the largest library of apps for tablets. The latest iOS 6 software provides Facebook integration and Siri for the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad with Retina Display. Lower-cost tablets like the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Barnes & Noble Nook HD use customized versions of Android with interfaces geared toward watching movies, reading e-books and magazines and enjoying other content on the go. The Nexus 7 uses Android Jelly Bean, which has the look and feel of an Android phone. Google Now lets you search using your voice and remembers your searches. Windows 8 (and its close cousin, Windows RT) has a dynamic Live Tile interface that streams updates right to your Start screen on everything from email and news to social updates. And, you can run two apps at once on the same screen using Microsoft’s Snap feature.

3. Anticipate its Use

If the primary use will be surfing the Web and playing games, smaller, lower-cost tablets like the Kindle Fire HD, Nook HD, Nexus 7 and iPad mini will fill the bill. For a student, artist or mobile professional, think about a tablet with a built-in pen, such as the Galaxy Note 10.1 or the Galaxy Note II, which is a cross between a phone and a tablet. The ThinkPad Tablet 2 running Windows 8 is a great option for traveling executives. For work and play, the fourth-generation iPad with Retina Display and the A6X chip is great for editing HD video, and you can add an external keyboard. A Windows RT tablet, such as the Microsoft Surface or ASUS Vivo Tab come with external keyboards and Office 2013 preloaded.

4. Make it Kid-Friendly

There are a lot of kid-friendly tablets, many under $200. The Fuhu nabi 2 is a 7-inch Android with a drop-safe bumper, built-in parental controls and more than 2,500 lessons in English, math, science and other subjects from kindergarten to fifth grade. The Amazon Kindle Fire HD and Nook HD are also great options for kids. Amazon’s FreeTime feature lets you set daily screen-time limits and decide which content your kids can access from within profiles that you set up for each of them.

5. Price it Right

You have a lot of choices, ranging from $200 to $600. The Internet makes it easy to compare prices and features, and the competition will be hot.

If you get one (or more) and need help configuring with your network and other systems, we’re more than happy to help and share reviews of our favorite apps and features. A phone call – 973-433-6676 – or email will do the trick.

This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.