The tablet market doesn’t look very different than it did a year ago from the perspective of who’s doing well and who’s not. Perhaps the most exciting developments came towards the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 from the usual big guys: Google released the Nexus 10 and updated the Nexus 7, Apple launched a smaller and cheaper iPad mini, while Microsoft went all in with the Surface RT and Pro.

As we move closer to the end of the year everyone’s moving to refresh their lineups in preparation for the lucrative holiday season. To summarize: Apple just announced a new iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display, Microsoft pushed out the second generation Surfaces, Amazon hedged its bets on high-end hardware and real-time support for the Kindle Fire refresh, Samsung did its own thing with numerous Android devices at different price points and sizes, and Google is set to refresh the Nexus line later this month (we’ll update this article as soon as they’re out).

Below is a compilation of what we consider are the best options either currently available or announced so far, complete with metascores from our Product Finder engine and review links where available.

Full-size Tablets

Click on the arrow to the right to view the full comparison chart (7 tablets)

Apple iPad Air Google Nexus 10 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Microsoft Surface 2 Pro Nokia Lumia 2520 Microsoft Surface 2 Sony Xperia Tablet Z
Price $499 - $929 $345 - $400 $549 - $600 $899 - $1,799 $499 $449 - $549 $469 - $550
Availability Nov. 1 Now Now Now Q4 2013 Now Now
Metascore 92 85 84 79 76 75 84
Review More info More info More info More info More info More info More info
System chip Apple A7 Samsung Exynos 5250 Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Intel Haswell Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Nvidia Tegra 4 Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064
CPU Dual core, 1300 MHz, 64-bit Dual core, 1700 MHz, ARM Cortex-A15 Quad core, 2300 MHz, Krait 400 Dual core, 1600 MHz, Intel Core i5 4200U Quad core, 2200 MHz, Krait 400 Quad core, 1700 MHz, ARM Cortex-A15 Quad core, 1500 MHz, Krait
GPU PowerVR G6430 ARM Mali-T604 Adreno 330 HD4400 Adreno 330 T4 Adreno 320
Display 9.7-inch IPS LCD 10.1-inch PLS 10.1-inch Super Clear LCD 10.6-inch IPS LCD 10.1-inch IPS LCD 10.6-inch IPS LCD 10.1-inch TFT
Resolution
(PPI)
2048 x 1536 (264) 2560 x 1600 (300) 2560 x 1600 (299) 1920 x 1080 (208) 1920 x 1080 (218) 1920 x 1080 (208) 1920 x 1200 (224)
RAM -- 2GB 3GB 4GB 2GB 2GB 2GB
Front camera 1.2MP 1.9MP 2MP 3.5MP 2MP 3.5MP 2.2MP
Rear camera 5MP 5MP 8MP 5MP 6.7MP 5MP 8.1MP
Storage 16/32/64/128GB 16/32GB 16/32GB 64/128/256/512GB 32GB 32/64GB 16/32GB
Data connection Lightning micro USB micro USB USB 3.0 micro USB USB 3.0 micro USB
microSD No No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Video out $40 adapter micro HDMI micro USB (MHL) $40 adapter micro HDMI $40 adapter micro USB (MHL)
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 3G/4G Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 3.0, GPS, NFC Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 3G/4G Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC, 3G/4G Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS
Sensors Ambient Light, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass, Barometer Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass
Operating System iOS 7 Android 4.3 Android 4.3 Windows 8.1 Windows RT 8.1 Windows RT 8.1 Android 4.1.2
App Store iTunes Google Play Google Play Windows Store Windows Store Windows Store Google Play
Weight 469g 603g 547g 907g 615g 676g 495g
Size 240 x 169.5 x 7.5 mm 263.9 x 177.6 x 8.9 mm 243.1 x 171.4 x 7.9 mm 275 x 173 x 13 mm 267 x 168 x 8.9 mm 275 x 172 x 9 mm 266 x 172 x 6.9 mm
Other Airplay Built-in stylus, IR emitter Keyboard covers (sold separately) Keyboard covers (sold separately) IR emitter, Water & dust proof



Seven and Eight Inchers

Apple iPad mini Retina display Google Nexus 7 Acer Iconia W4 Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 Kindle Fire HDX 7
Price $399 - $829 $229 - $349 $330 - $380 $379 - $594 $229 - $424
Availability November Now October Nov. 7 Now
Metascore 92 86 N/A 80 82
Review More info Review More info More info More info
System chip Apple A7 Snapdragon S4 Pro APQ8064 Intel Bay Trail-T Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Qualcomm Snapdragon 800
CPU Dual core, 1300 MHz, 64-bit Quad core, 1500 MHz, Krait Quad core Quad core, 2200 MHz Quad core, 2200 MHz
GPU PowerVR G6430 Adreno 320 Intel HD Adreno 330 Adreno 330
Display 7.9-inch
IPS LCD
7.0-inch
IPS LCD
8.0-inch
IPS LCD
8.9-inch
IPS LCD
7.0-inch
IPS LCD
Resolution
(PPI)
2048 x 1536
(324)
1920 x 1200
(323)
1280 x 800
(186)
2560 x 1600
(339)
1920 x 1200
(323)
RAM -- 2GB 2GB 2GB 2GB
Front camera 1.2MP 1.2MP 2MP 720p 720p
Rear camera 5MP 5MP 5MP 8MP none
Storage 16/32/64/128GB 16/32GB 32/64GB 16/32/64GB 16/32/64GB
Data connection Lightning micro USB micro USB micro USB micro USB
microSD No No Yes No No
Video out $40 adapter HDMI micro HDMI -- --
Connectivity Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, 3G/4G Wi-Fi 802.11n, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0, 3G/4G Wi-Fi 802.11n, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0 Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth, GPS, 3G/4G Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth, GPS, 3G/4G
Sensors Ambient Light, Compass, Gyroscope, Accelerometer Proximity, Ambient Light, Gyroscope, Accelerometer Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Compass Ambient Light, Gyroscope, Compass, Accelerometer Ambient Light, Gyroscope, Compass, Accelerometer
Operating System iOS 7 Android 4.3 Windows 8.1 Fire OS 3 Fire OS 3
App Store iTunes Google Play Windows Store Amazon Appstore Amazon Appstore
Weight 341g 299g 412g 384g 304g
Size 200 x 134.7 x 7.5 mm 200 x 114 x 8.65 mm 10.75mm thick 231 x 158 x 7.8 mm 186 x 128 x 9.0 mm
Other Airplay Second Screen, Mayday, Free month of Amazon Prime Second Screen, Mayday, Free month of Amazon Prime

Making your pick

The same advice we’ve offered before applies today: If you mostly care about specs or price, it shouldn’t be hard picking out a winner. But you should know that when you are buying a tablet you’re buying into an ecosystem. The fastest processor or sharpest screen are worthless if you can’t use them for the things you want.

Apple’s iOS often comes on top when it comes to app availability. Not because it offers the largest app catalog -- the total number of apps is a meaningless metric after a certain threshold -- but because high profile apps and games usually launch for Apple’s platform first and sometimes remain exclusive for a while. Android isn’t that far behind. They are definitely doing much better in smartphones than tablets where they are still catching up a bit, so it’s your job to do a little research based on your intended usage.

If you’ve decided to jump on the Android camp then definitely wait for Google’s Nexus refresh in the coming days. Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX tablets are definitely worthy contenders, and if you are buying for a non tech-savvy person, the free 24/7 live tech support it offers through Mayday could be a killer selling point.

It’s another story for Windows RT. Microsoft’s Windows Store is growing but despite the company’s best efforts a lot of the big names are still missing. For this reason we feel the Surface 2 just doesn't measure up to the competition unless you live inside Office and that's one of the key uses you plan to give your next tablet. The Lumia 2520, sadly, is destined to be afflicted with the same limitations as the Surface 2, though if you are set on getting a Windows RT tablet at least Nokia’s offering includes LTE for an extra $50.

On the other hand, the Surface Pro 2 is great if you definitely need desktop applications but you should note that at $899 without a keyboard (or $999 with) it's dangerously close to ultrabook territory. Arguably, the original Surface Pro was already one of the best ultrabooks around, so the Pro 2 simply reinforces that. If you don’t mind the sacrifice in horsepower and screen real estate consider the cheaper yet still full Windows 8.1-powered Acer Iconia W4.

TechSpot's Holiday Gift Guide 2013 is sponsored by Best Buy.