Last year promised to be the year of the tablet, and at least for Apple, it was. The nearly ubiquitous iPad managed not only to outsell every other tablet on the market by a wide margin, it also exceeded Mac sales in Q4 with a record 7.33 million units moved. Apple is not likely to lose its throne anytime soon, but competition is now making itself present from every possible angle. If Android's smartphone gains serve any indication this should be an interesting year for tablets.
We've compiled a comparative table with what we consider are the hottest tablets either currently available or announced so far. We'll update this guide as new tablets that catch our attention are announced and approaching their release, but with more than a dozen already in the market, this will serve as a starting point for narrowing down your purchase.
Click on the arrow to the right to expand and view the full comparison chart (11 tablets)
|Apple iPad 2||Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1||Asus Eee Pad Transformer||HP TouchPad||B&N Nook Color||Motorola Xoom||HTC Flyer||BlackBerry PlayBook||LG G-Slate||Toshiba Thrive||Acer Iconia Tab A500|
|Review/Info||Review||Review||Review||More info||More info||Review||Review||Review||Review||More info||Review|
|Processor||1GHz dual-core Apple A5||1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2||1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2||1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8660||800MHz single-core Ti OMAP||1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2||1.5GHz single-core Qualcomm MSM8255||1GHz dual-core ARM Cortex A9||1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2||1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2||1GHz dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2|
|Display||9.7-inch||10.1-inch||10.1-inch||9.7-inch||7-inch||10.1-inch||7-inch||7-inch||8.9-inch (3D capable)||10.1-inch||10.1-inch|
|Resolution||1024 x 768||1280 x 800||1280 x 800||1024 x 768||1024 X 600||1280 x 800||1024 X 600||1024 x 600||1280 x 768||1280 x 800||1280 x 800|
|Rear camera||720p||3MP||5MP||None||none||5MP||5MP||5MP||5MP (3D capable)||5MP||5MP|
|Storage||16GB, 32GB, 64GB||16GB, 32GB||16GB, 32GB||16GB, 32GB||8GB||32GB||16GB, 32GB||16GB, 32GB, 64GB||32GB||8GB, 16GB, 32GB||16GB|
|USB||No||Yes||(with $150 dock)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|HDMI||(with $40 cable)||(with $40 cable)||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Wireless Connectivity||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G/4G||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G/4G||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G/4G||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|GPS||(on 3G models)||Yes||Yes||(on 3G models)||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Operating System||iOS 4.3||Android 3.1 Honeycomb||Android 3.1 Honeycomb||webOS 3.0||Android 2.2 Froyo||Android 3.1 Honeycomb||Android 2.3 Gingerbread||BlackBerry Tablet OS||Android 3.0 Honeycomb||Android 3.1 Honeycomb||Android 3.0 Honeycomb|
|App Marketplace||iTunes||Android Market||Android Market||webOS
|Nook Apps||Android Market||Android Market||App World||Android Market||Android Market||Android Market|
Apple's iPad remains one of the best options out there, largely due to its relatively mature ecosystem and overall polished operating system. The second-generation model hit store shelves in March, taking the same $500 starting price as its predecessor while sporting a slimmer design, a faster dual-core A5 processor with up to 9 times faster graphics, and rear and front facing cameras. Furthermore, iOS 5 is set to arrive this fall packing more than 200 new features, including wireless sync, revamped notifications, a new BBM-like messaging application, and iCloud synchronization.
On the Android camp, Motorola made a splash earlier this year when it released the first tablet to run Google's tablet-optimized operating system (aka Honeycomb). But initial enthusiasm for the device didn't translate into stellar sales, in part because of its high price but also due to its thick design and the fact that some features were missing at launch.
Eventually more Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablets made it to the market and now we have options like Acer's Iconia Tab, offering features on par with the Motorola Xoom at iPad-beating prices (but weighing in among the heftiest Android tablets), and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, which has a tempting $400 starting price and an optional keyboard dock.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 was launched recently amid positive reviews, taking the title for slimmest tablet on the planet, and we're curious to see how Toshiba's Thrive fares when it launches next month for $430. Other noteworthy options include the 3D capable G-Slate (or Optimus Pad) from LG, though it's certainly priced at a premium, and the HTC Flyer that offers an optional stylus and has a 4G variant known as the EVO View ($400 with 2-year contract).
In our opinion Windows tablets simply cannot provide the same level of experience as their iOS and Android counterparts, so we're not including any model in this update -- and most don't even make it to retail anyway.
Lastly, there's the BlackBerry PlayBook and HP TouchPad. The former hasn't been doing too well, but diehard BlackBerry users will stand behind the platform, while the latter is set to face an uphill battle when it debuts on July 1. At least on the surface webOS seems like a very polished OS but it hasn't had much luck on the adoption side and thus with third-party developers.
Added: Asus Eee Pad Transformer
Added: Barnes & Noble Nook Color
Added: HTC Flyer
Added: Toshiba Thrive
Added: Acer Iconia Tab A500
Removed: Apple iPad
Removed: Dell Streak 7
Removed: Notion Ink Adam
Removed: Asus Eee Slate EP121