The two computer giants, Microsoft and Apple, are busily promoting their newest products as folks start to shop for the upcoming Christmas season. Shortly after releasing the iPhone 5, Apple rolled out its much anticipated iPad mini on October 23rd, while simultaneously announcing the advent of the iPad 4. Not to be outdone, Microsoft showcased its shiny, new Windows 8 a couple days later. Among the new computer models running on Windows 8 was Microsoft’s brand new Surface tablet.

Whatever your needs or preferences are, you’re definitely going to want to check out these devices.

At only 7.9 inches, the iPad mini is significantly smaller than the 10.4-inch “regular” iPad, but its 4:3 aspect ratio gives it a slight advantage over its 7-inch competitors. The mini sports an A5 chip, front-facing FaceTime 720p camera, 5-megapixel camera on the back and the Lightning connector, first seen on the iPhone 5.

iPad mini has the same resolution – 1024 x 768 – as the first and second-gen iPads, which puts it a little behind the higher-res iPad 4.

If you’re an iPad 3 owner and want to get the latest and greatest, the Apple buy-back site, Gazelle, offers $495 for a 64GB iPad 3, which isn’t too bad if you’re looking to pick up the mini, starting at $329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi only version.

If you’d rather stick with the standard size, iPad 4 boasts a new A6X chip, LTE for cellular versions and better Wi-Fi, but it’s got the same 10-hour battery as the third-gen model. The device also has a 720p FaceTime camera on the front panel and the Lightning connector.

The iPad 4, however, is a lot pricier:

  • 16GB Wi-Fi only = $499
  • 16GB LTE = $629
  • 32GB Wi-Fi only = $599
  • 32GB LTE = $729
  • 64GB Wi-Fi only = $699
  • 64GB LTE = $829

Still, if you’re trading in an earlier iPad, you’ll be able to subsidize these prices. Whatever you decide to do, Apple continues to impress with a lot of great options.

But Microsoft will tell you that the show ain’t over yet. Ready to order as of last Friday, Windows 8 is a total overhaul of the major PC operating system. Microsoft’s new OS sports a completely new home screen with tiles designed for a touch interface, looking a lot like the Windows Phone 7 layout. It’ll be used on desktops, laptops, tablets and ultrabooks. And just like Apple, Windows 8 has an app store.

Along with the basic Windows 8, Microsoft is introducing Windows 8 Pro and Windows RT, which will be preloaded on devices such as Microsoft’s new Surface tablet. RT stands for “Run Time” and is basically the Windows Phone OS outfitted for a tablet.

If you already have Windows 7, you can upgrade to 8 with prices starting at $39.99, and if you’ve purchased a PC with Windows 7 since June 2, you get to upgrade to Windows 8 Pro, starting at just $14.99.

But, you want to do your research first, because some users, like one of my own team members for instance, find the interface terrible to use on a desktop.

That’s where the new Surface comes in. It runs on either Windows 8 or RT and provides a much easier interfacing experience. Interestingly, the Surface, Windows 8 and RT have a Desktop mode too that provides a more traditional Windows layout and user experience.

Microsoft’s sleek addition to the tablet family is 10.81 x 6.77 x .037-inches and comes with small stereo speakers, microphones, an audio jack, front and back 720p cameras, rocker power button, mini-HDMI port, a full-sized USB port, a magnetic power jack and a snap-on keyboard channel.

Sporting all these features, the Surface is competitively priced with Apple’s new devices to give you a lot of great options:

  • Entry-level 32GB w/o Touch Cover = $499
  • 32GB with Touch Cover, which includes the integrated touch-sensitive keyboard = $599
  • 64GB with the Touch Cover = $699

As you can see, whatever kind of device or specs you’re going for, both Microsoft and Apple are out to impress. If you’re psyched about the new technology but these prices are a bit too steep, think about snagging one on Black Friday or Cyber Monday, or just wait and see what other holiday sales will come along.


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