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(Note: We had our doubts at first, too, but we are now 100 percent sure Aaron is not the real Santa Claus.)

Tablets galore! Last year at this time, the whole idea of modern tablets was a relatively new idea. Who would ever want to carry around a blown-up smartphone? What's the point? Why are they so expensive anyway? Well, it's safe to say a lot has changed, and so has our views on pricing. Some of us are more open to spending $500 or $600 for a nice tablet, if the specs are right. The rest of us, however, are looking to save money while still computing on the go.

Over the last year, tablets have slightly evolved and have started to come in more shapes and sizes. And some companies have realized that there is a very large market for cheap yet powerful tablets. They may not be that big, luxurious iPad you were asking for, but there are some very nice tablets for a fraction of the price. Here are some great tablets for under $300 for this holiday season:

 

Amazon Kindle Fire - $199.00

Released just last week, the Kindle Fire is one of the hottest items to have this holiday season. It's an Android-powered tablet, packed to the brim with content. Users are open to applications in the Amazon Appstore, books in the Kindle book store, magazines in Amazon's Newsstand, music from Amazon MP3 and streaming from the Cloud Player and Prime users are open to unlimited Prime Instant Video streaming.

The Kindle Fire comes with a 1GHz TI OMAP dual-core processor, a 7-inch IPS LCD display, 8GB built-in memory and 5GB cloud storage. The build quality is great and the device can easily fit in a purse or coat pocket. It's a tablet that users of all ages can enjoy. The best part of all? It won't break the bank. At $199, the Kindle Fire is one of the best devices for the money.

 

Barnes & Noble Nook Tablet - $249

Falling right in line with their top competitor, Barnes & Noble fired at Amazon with the Nook Tablet. The Nook Tablet, which looks almost identical to the original Nook Color, also comes with a long list of features. Like the Kindle Fire, it has a 7-inch IPS LCD display and a 1GHz TI OMAP dual-core processor. In addition, the Nook Tablet has 16GB built-in memory with a microSD card slot, a microphone for voice recording and a slightly longer battery life.

For bargain tablet shoppers this season, it's going to be a toss-up between the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire. Unlike the Fire, however, the Nook breaches the $200 mark and sells for $249. That's still a great price for the quality of tablet you're getting. It has much of the same content like Netflix, Hulu and a slew of other Android applications. It comes down to whether you prefer Barnes & Noble or Amazon and whether the additional specs are worth $50 to you.

 

BlackBerry PlayBook - $249.99 and up (Amazon.com)

The BlackBerry PlayBook is a hit or miss device. In light of most other tablets on the market, it's hard to love the QNX-powered PlayBook, especially if you're not a proud owner of a BlackBerry handset. Nonetheless, it's still a great device with very nice hardware. Like the two tablets above, it features a 7-inch IPS LCD display at a resolution of 1024 by 600 pixels and a 1GHz dual-core processor. Unlike those two, though, the PlayBook offers both front and rear cameras, 2-megapixels and 5-megapixels, respectively.

Although native applications on the PlayBook are a bit scarce, with the help of Android Player, you can run you favorite Android games on the PlayBook with minimal setup. The down side? PlayBook 2.0 software was pushed back by RIM until 2012, meaning you will not have native apps like mail, contacts, calendar, etc. if you do not have a BlackBerry handset to pair with Bridge. That said, for $249.99 from Amazon, the PlayBook might be worth giving a once-over.

 

HTC Flyer - $299.99 (Best Buy)

HTC's first entry in the modern tablet space is the Flyer. Again, like the aforementioned tablets, the Flyer features a 7-inch IPS LCD (1024 by 600 pixels) display. It has a 5-megapixel rear shooter and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, 1GB RAM, 16 or 32GB storage and a microSD card slot for expanding memory. Unlike the other three, the Flyer has a 1.5GHz single-core Qualcomm processor.

The unique feature of the Flyer is the stylus, or Scribe Digital Pen, that can be purchased separately. The customized Sense 3.0 software for the Flyer allows the user to write and take notes right on the display and capture said scribblings as a screen capture. If you're constantly jotting things down and prefer handwriting notes over typing them out, the Flyer may be the tablet for you. The 16GB Wi-Fi version is currently sold for $299.99 through Best Buy.

 

HP TouchPad - $239.00 and up (Amazon.com)

This is a tablet we've all come to know by now. HP announced they were pulling out of the webOS hardware business back in August. Shortly thereafter, they discontinued and slashed the price of their webOS tablet, the TouchPad. The price of the TouchPad was cut from $399 (16GB model) and $499 (32GB model) to $99 and $149, respectively. The unexpected fire sale created a wave of tablet-hungry buyers who would stop at next to nothing to get their hands on an HP TouchPad.

By now, you would figure all the TouchPads would be gone. Surprisingly, they aren't. HP is finally out of stock, but some retailers continue to sell TouchPads. Best Buy had some stragglers just a few weeks ago. And the tablets are still available on Amazon, though not for the original discounted price. The 16GB models start at $239 and 32GB models begin at $256. Although they're not quite as cheap as they were a few months ago, the TouchPad is easily one of the best devices at that price point. Not to mention, you will soon be able to load it up with Ice Cream Sandwich, if that's your thing.

 

Honorable Mention:

There are always some devices that I want to include, but for one reason or another they don't make the cut. Those two devices this time are the Galaxy Player 5.0 and the Lenovo K1 IdeaPad.

Galaxy Player 5.0: The Galaxy Player 5.0 in an Android-powered portable media player. As the name suggests, it has a 5-inch (800 by 480 pixels) LCD display and it is powered by a 1GHz Hummingbird processor. It comes with 8GB built-in memory with expandable microSD card slot, 3.2-megapixel rear camera and Wi-Fi connectivity. It may not technically be a tablet (which is why it didn't make the cut), but for $269.99, it's a nice little device worth checking out.

Lenovo K1 IdeaPad: The IdeaPad from Lenovo just barely missed the cut by $20. This tablet comes with a NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 32GB built-in storage, 5-megapixel rear camera with 2-megapixel front shooter and a 10.1-inch display. In essence, it's comparable to most Honeycomb tablets from 2011, but sells for much cheaper at $319.99 on Amazon.com.

Image via International Business Times


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