‘Tis the season for high-tech gift giving—well, almost. But with Black Friday on the horizon, it is most definitely the season for purchasing high-end electronics. And here at Hardcore Droid, we want to help you find the perfect gift for that Android gamer in your family. And while phones are all fine and good, to be a truly hardcore mobile gamer you need a bigger screen, faster processor and ultimately a richer gaming experience. Enter: a shiny new Android tablet. And to help you sift through the piles and piles of options floating around out there, we thought we’d highlight our favorites, all with the most hardcore specs (in no particular order, of course).
Nexus 7 Second Generation
One would imagine that a device that’s the product of a joint venture between the masterminds at Asus and Google would have to be pretty special. And they would be right. Our personal favorite line of tablets, the Nexus 7 are sleek, powerful and versatile. When the first version came upon the scene in early 2012, they revolutionized the market with Tetra 3 power for under $250. So this year, the second generation Nexus 7 was a must for our “Most Hardcore” list. This 7.02-inch powerhouse features a 5MP rear-facing camera (with 1.2MP user-facing), surround-sound emulating speakers, a lightning-fast Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, Bluetooth capability and, of course, the option for Wi-Fi or 4G LTE. There’s the choice between 16 and 32 GB of storage, which is pretty standard. But what really sells us on this one is its portability and graphic capability. It’s pretty small, and at less than 9mm thick, you don’t need to worry about it taking up a ton of space in your bag. What’s more, its 1900×1200 pixel display gives it the highest resolution of any tablet on the market. Best of all it bears the rare distinction of being one of the best and cheapest quad-core tablets on the market.
Nexus 10 Second Generation
Just like the Nexus 7, we’re excited to highlight its big brother in Google’s famed cheap-yet-awesome Nexus series: the 10-inch version. Again, there’s a 5MP rear-facing camera, but this time there’s a 1.9MP user-facing option—pretty ideal for video chatting on the huge, gorgeous screen. And that brings us to one of the biggest differences. The screen itself is obviously bigger, but it also packs a 300 pixels-per-inch resolution with a really powerful dedicated graphics processor. The processor maintains those smoldering speeds, too. The downside here, of course, is that it’s larger and heavier, so you’ll have to sacrifice a certain degree of portability. But if a big screen is your selling point, then this puppy won’t disappoint.
Kindle Fire HD
The “Kindle” name has come a long way from “do I really need that?” e-Ink readers to full-fledged tablets. These guys are much more than just readers, because they run an Android-derived OS (we say “derived” because it’s a fairly altered Android version to fit with Amazon’s proprietary eBook store and whatnot). There are 16GB and 32GB options for this 8.9-inch powerhouse and it’s perfect for the readers and gamers alike on your holiday shopping list.
Kindle Fire HDX
The Kindle Fire HDX is a model that has expanded on its first gen in a huge way. With a quad-core processer, it’s arguably one of the fastest options out there for the $140 to $400 price range. Storage options range from 16GB all the way up to 64GB, making it pretty versatile for gamers who want to load up their device with tons of games. And of course, it offers the Amazon marketplace feel (with special app launcher) that other Kindle models boast. Something to remember about this one, and the HD itself, is that Amazon offers a “budget” version with “special offers.” This way you can save a few bucks on your Kindle purchase, provided you don’t mind an ad popping up here and there when using your device.
Galaxy Note 10.1
The 2014 tablet addition of the Galaxy Note line sits somewhere between tablet, presentation tool and posh notebook (or at least that’s what the advertising campaign would have us believe). But when the phone version started out the line a few years ago, most Android users were skeptical about the inclusion of a stylus model this far away from the PDA trend (which was so 2002). But the 10.1-inch tablet does succeed in making a pretty sexy device. It boasts a “magazine-style” user experience, an 8MP, full HD camera and even a leather back for those who want the tactile nostalgia of a moleskin journal. Of course, the appeal doesn’t stop at aesthetics. The quad-core processor sits at 1.3GHz for each one (and 2.3 for the LTE model), making this lightning fast tablet as great for gaming as it is for everyday use.
Samsung Galaxy Mega
Simply put, the Galaxy Mega is a strange little device. Samsung seems to be pitching it as a mobile phone, but if you read through the articles floating around, you’ll find that most people find it more effective as a tiny tablet. And at 6.3-inches, it truly is tiny. But that isn’t necessarily a make-or-break, especially for gamers who want to hit the road with strategy in their pocket. And though it has a small screen, they’re able to make the resolution pretty stunning. It also boasts a dual-processor chip at 1.7GHz each. The name of the game here is physical size. So if you’re looking for something really small and portable (but powerful), this one may be for you.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 3
The third installment of Samsung’s traditional tablet play is the Galaxy Tab 3, and it is everything you’d expect of an essentially entry-level tablet. It’s small with a 7-inch display, fitting into our “portable” category. It also looks pretty sleek and it doesn’t go for the tactile gimmicks of the Note 10.1, such as the leather back and included stylus. Its resolution isn’t anything to write home about, but it works. And at a lower price point than several other models, it’s definitely worth consideration for a holiday gift.
Sony Xperia Z
With a name like Sony you might find yourself at a loss: you trust it for electronics but maybe not for mobile devices. However, the specs are pretty impressive. It offers the look of a Bravia TV, super-fast dual-core processor speeds and a decent 13MP camera to boot. It features a 10.1-inch screen with 1920 x 1200 resolution and that super impressive Qualcomm Snapdragon S4. As a bonus, it’s even advertised as “water-resistant.” So while we don’t recommend submerging these guys straight into water like Sony would have you try, it will certainly handle most unexpected inclement weather.
Motorola Xooms have been kicking around the tablet market for a few years now, and for good reason. They’re nice-sized devices with beautiful screens and pretty tried-and-true UX. The front and rear cameras don’t break any molds at 5 and 2 MP, but where these models shine is the combination of beautifully sharp screens at such a low price point. The resolution doesn’t really match up to some of the more HD tablets, but you’ll also find the Xoom for significantly cheaper than most of the other HD models. And at 10 inches for less than $300, it’s a great little device for the budget-conscious.
This particular model strikes a great balance between premium features and a not-so-premium price. This machine is 10.1 inches of quick-action gaming glory, because it boasts a full-fledged 1.6 GHz dedicated NVIDIA graphics processor. So it’s giving some serious attention to the gaming and movie-ing crowds that flock toward the tablet market during the holidays. Plus with a standard detachable keyboard (similar to, but arguably better than the Windows Surface keyboard) you can bang out a quick email and be back to gaming even as soon as possible. It’s a great little device from a tried-and-true brand. Don’t pass this one up; you may be pleasantly surprised.