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Gift-getters prefer tablets to laptops, survey finds

The Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T switches

The Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T switches between a notebook and a tablet. On June 20, 2013 Samsung announced its successor which will run on Windows 8 and Android. Credit: Samsung

If you’re shopping for a high-priced tech gadget this holiday season, your loved one would probably prefer a new tablet to a laptop, according to a survey released Nov. 8, 2012. The online price comparison service found that 59 percent of the 1,475 online U.S. shoppers it polled late last month would prefer a tablet to a laptop.

So is this the beginning of the end for the laptop? Should you scrap your plans to buy a notebook and instead hit the Apple store for an iPad?

Well, not so fast.

With some exception, the two categories of the tech sector are still quite distinct. For example, if you’re shopping for a student that owns neither a tablet nor a laptop, he or she won’t get much use out of the tablet when it’s time to write a research paper, create a presentation or put together other school projects. By the same token, the laptop probably won’t get the same use the tablet would in more recreational situations. The same logic applies to most professionals.

But many teenagers and adults already own a laptop, or at least a desktop. That’s probably why the tablet came out on top in the survey. In this day and age, a computer is a necessity while a tablet is a luxury – and everyone loves the gift that they want, but can’t pull the trigger on buying for themselves.

With that in mind, if you’re going with a tablet, the person you’re buying for probably wants an iPad. According to the survey, 63 percent of consumers want an iPad (starting at $499) above all other tablets, and, among lower-priced options, 45 percent would opt for an iPad mini (starting at $329). The Kindle Fire was the next most coveted item in the lower-priced category (the latest version starts at $199).

On the other hand, if you think a laptop is probably what the person needs, but you know their eyes would light up at the sight of a new laptop, check out the Samsung ATIV Smart PC line. The device is a touch-screen laptop running Windows 8 that can instantly transform into a tablet thanks to a detachable keyboard. At a base cost of $750, it’s priced much closer to a laptop than a tablet, but it also possesses all of the capabilities of the typical computer (i.e. it can be used for serious work and for fun).

The Samsung Smart PC is not to be confused with the Microsoft Surface tablet, which makes heavy use of a keyboard accessory (sold separately for $120) in its advertising campaign. While a keyboard that doubles as a screen cover is a nice accessory, the device isn't designed for serious computing and the keyboard lacks raised buttons so it's impossible type as fast as you would with a standard keyboard. 

That said, we’d strongly recommend the pricier $1,100 Samsung Smart PC model over the cheaper base one because its specifications and processing speed rival those of a true high-end laptop. The $750 base model is more of a ‘tweener – solid when compared to other tablets, but lacking a bit when lined up against most laptops.

Still not sure what to get? Check out Newsday's complete set of holiday gift guides here.

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