COMPUTE: Tablets, phones and e-readers for the holidays

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Acer Iconia Tab (A700)


The Acer Iconia Tab is an impressive 10-inch Android tablet with a 1920x1200-pixel screen that's great for movies and games.

Colors are clear and sharp, and content looks generally excellent. If you know a frequent traveler in need of an option for Netflix and Bad Piggies (believe me when I tell you that the Angry Birds sequel is a lot of fun on the Iconia Tab), this might be a great choice, since it's focused heavily on media use.

In fact, you might almost say that the device is built around its exceptional display, with little room left over for other niceties - we had some issues with ours. For one thing, the touch sensitivity seemed in need of calibration or something, because we had trouble getting it to respond to lighter touches. The screen also seems to pick up fingerprints like it's investigating crime, as ours was quickly smudged into a fog, requiring frequent cleanings. It's also kind of hefty, and the styling isn't anything to write home about.

Nevertheless, used for things it's good at and when it's in the right mood, the Iconia Tab is a pretty excellent Android gaming and video platform. It's tough to see why you'd get one instead of a cheaper Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7 for general use or e-book reading, but for the dedicated mobile gaming enthusiast, it's a solid choice.

- Jon Gold

Motorola PhotonQ 4G LTE smartphone for the Sprint Network

$550 or $200 with two-year activation

The big selling point of the Motorola PhotonQ is the slide-out QWERTY keyboard. If you text a lot and are willing to accept the tradeoff in terms of size and weight, this device has a lot to offer. We're talking a legit keyboard with a top row of numbers/symbols, a big space bar and raised letters with a nice feel to them. The tradeoff is that it weighs 6 ounces and is a half-inch thick.

The phone itself is state of the art, with front (1.4 megapixel) and rear facing (8 megapixel) cameras, the Android 4.0.4 Ice Cream Sandwich OS, a 1.5Ghz dual-core processor, and a 4.3-inch LCD display. The look and feel of the phone is all business - black front and back, and the keyboard mimics a PC keyboard with white letters on black keys. The phone features a ton of enterprise-focused features in terms of security, privacy, and backup. There's also a data usage indicator, Bluetooth tethering, mobile hotspot capability, VPN settings, near-field communication (NFC), plus all the apps and widgets you'd expect on an Android device.

Unfortunately, we were not able to get 4G service in the suburbs west of Boston, and that's something potential customers need to consider when going with a carrier that promises 4G.

- Neal Weinberg

Fujitsu LifeBook U772


Sometimes the most difficult person to buy for on your holiday list is the one who has everything, but sometimes it's the person who's all work and no play. If you find yourself in this situation, have no fear - Fujitsu has come to your rescue.

The Fujitsu Lifebook U772 is a slim line ultrabook that's all business. It has a lightweight three-pound magnesium-alloy frame that makes it a perfect machine to travel with. There were many times over the past few months I would opt to take the Lifebook with me over my Lenovo and MacBook Pro.

I have a confession, I am a huge offender of closing my laptop and taking it on the run. Because of the U772's Solid State Drive (SSD), I didn't have to worry about putting the laptop in standby mode first. Having an SSD also aided in providing excellent battery life for the notebook. After a full charge the 45Wh battery lasted me a little more than a very impressive 7 hours.

Another thing I really appreciated about the Lifebook was the vibrancy of the colors on the display - while it has a substandard 1,366 by 768 resolution, the colors are more robust than on many other notebooks I've seen. The black pixels were more solid and the colors more rich. It also helps that the U772's 13-inch frame allows for a 14-inch diagonal display.

An additional feature that will catch your attention is the ports - the U772 houses an HDMI port as well as two USB 3.0 ports, a third USB 2.0 port and an integrated card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC). The machine also boasts a HD webcam with 1280 x 800 pixels with status indicator light and digital microphone.

The U772's Internet connection is a blessing and a curse. The good news - wireless options aren't just limited to the 802.11n WLAN - you can have an optional 3G connection through a SIM card, as well as connecting through Bluetooth. The bad news - like other ultrathin notebooks of this generation, it lacks a real Ethernet port. Even though the notebook offers an Ethernet connection, it's not through a standard port on the back or side, but rather a non-standard slim port that requires a port adapter. This became a huge downfall for me, as there were several times I found myself without the adapter, and therefore without Internet. For those who might use the U772 in the office as well as on the road and at home, the Lifebook is equipped with a port replicator docking connection. Even though in most business environments the use of a docking station would solve this problem, when you're on the road it's just one more (very small) thing to keep track of.

The U772 is a wiz at security, featuring Intel's Anti-Theft Technology and an integrated Computrace BIOS tracking agent. It also comes with an integrated fingerprint scanner that provides simple biometric security. Also I felt with its 2GHz Intel Core i7-3667U dual-core processor and 4GB of DDR3 it could easily compete with some of the other quad-core machines on the market. The machine's performance certainly is strong enough for most professional applications.

Overall the machine packs enough punch to perform with even the most demanding business applications, as well as offering graphics rich enough to enjoy casual games. You can compare this to the Sony VAIO Z13 (retails at $1,999), but at the cost of $1,679 direct from Fujitsu, this comes across as a better deal.

- April Ramalho

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