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Tablets Prices, Reviews and Specifications


Since the release of the iPad in 2010, tablets have steadily gained in popularity as portable interactive computing devices. Available both with monthly data plans or as Wi-Fi devices, tablets are available with Apple's operating system or with Google's open-source Android operating system. Windows tablets were introduced late in 2012 by Microsoft and provide an alternative to both Android and Apple platforms.


Apple iPads

Apple iPad 2

The iPad remains the standard for the entire tablet market. Released in 2011, the second-generation iPad consistently ranks as the best-selling tablet and receives high marks from reviewers.

The iPad 2 comes with Apple's iOS operating system and functions in many ways like an oversized iPhone. The iPad comes in both Wi-Fi only and Wi-Fi and 3G models (available without contracts through AT&T and Verizon).

The iPad 2 features front- and rear-facing cameras which can be used for video calls or for creating HD-quality movies. The iPad also has access to the Apple App Store, with more than 200,000 apps specifically designed for the iPad.

When the New iPad was released in March 2012, Apple discontinued all other capacities except for the 16GB Wi-Fi and the 16GB 3G models, slashing the prices by $100.

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Apple iPad Mini

With a 7.9" screen, the iPad Mini, as the name implies, is the smallest version of its iPad family. Available in both Wi-Fi and cellular models, the iPad Mini has a 7.9" screen with the same high-definition resolution screen as the iPad 2, but no Retina display. The Mini is also available with the same storage capacities as previous models -- 16GB, 32GB and 64GB sizes.

The Mini comes with both video and still HD cameras. The FaceTime HD camera provides 720p video chatting capabilities. The rear camera is 5MP and has auto focus and face-detection abilities. The rear camera also can record videos at 1080p.

The Mini provides access to nearly 300,000 iPad-specific apps available in the App Store. Cellular coverage is available through Sprint, Verizon and AT&T.

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Apple New iPad

The release of the most recent iPad brought a new naming scheme from Apple: Instead of iPad 3 following iPad 2, it is called the New iPad.

The big news about the New iPad is the screen. It offers a ground-breaking 2048x1536-pixel resolution, packing millions of pixels into the 9.7" retina display screen.

Other improvements on the New iPad include the iSight 5MP rear-facing camera capable of 1080 HD quality, a big step up from the 0.7MP camera on the iPad 2. The New iPad connects wirelessly on 4G networks and is capable of streaming movies.

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Android Tablets

Asus Eee Pad Transformer

Update: THe Asus Eee Pad Transformer was discontinued in 2012, but remaining inventory is available at select retailers.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer is an Android-based tablet that sets itself apart from others in the field by having an optional $150 keyboard/charging dock that turns the tablet into a notebook. The Eee Tab Transformer is one of the least expensive Wi-Fi tablets available -- until the optional keyboard is added.

The Eee Tab Transformer rivals other tabs with its connectivity options, offering up an HDMI port (for mirroring images on a high-definition TV) and a micro SD card reader (for expanded memory) in the tablet itself. Add the dock and there are also two USB ports and a full-size SD card reader. In addition to the 32GB of memory offered on the Asus Eee Tab Transformer, owners get unlimited cloud storage through Asus WebStorage for the first year after purchase.

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Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime is the sequel to Eee Pad Transformer, and the Prime is consistently called one of the best Android tablets currently available. It's also award-winning, following the Consumer Electronics Show at the beginning of 2012.

Like the original Eee Pad Transformer, the Prime has a $150 docking station that can be attached to virtually transform the tablet into a netbook with a full-size keyboard and touchpad mouse. The dock also adds a 6-hour boost to the battery life. It offers quite a bit of versatility in terms of connectivity options -- there is a micro HDMI port for mirroring images on a TV and a micro SD card reader for expanded memory. Add the dock and there's also a USB port and a full-size SD card reader. In addition to the 32GB or 64GB storage on the device, there's also 8GB of Asus WebStorage.

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Asus Transformer Pad

On the heels of the release of the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime comes a more affordable version with slightly fewer features. Starting at $379 for the 16GB version, the Transformer Pad delivers comparable power, but the shell is composed of plastic instead of the sturdier aluminum found on the Prime. The Transformer Pad is also slightly thicker and heavier than the Prime.

Like its transforming predecessors, the Pad is available with a $150 wireless keyboard dock that can turn the device into a netbook, although Asus made each dock proprietary, meaning older docks don't work with newer models.

The Transformer Pad offers a variety of uses: Polaris office allows editing and reading Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents; SuperNote allows a variety of note-taking features including scribbling with a finger; and PaintBook which transforms the tablet into a canvas with sensitive drawing tools.

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Asus Transformer Pad Infinity

The Asus Transformer Pad Infinity was released in early 2012 and is a modified version of the Prime. It has a sharper screen and a faster processor, but offers virtually the same features and dimensions. It uses an Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system that launches apps quickly.

Like its transforming predecessors, the Infinity is available with a $150 wireless keyboard dock that can turn the device into a although netbook. The dock is also compatible with the Prime.

The Infinity improves on previous Transformer versions' rear camera, boosting quality to 8MP. It has a F/2.2 aperture and a five-element lens.

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Google Nexus 7

Google's Nexus 7 uses an Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) operating system that offers super-fast functions. Jelly Bean also includes a Google Now feature that provides current information to users including local weather, traffic conditions and their appointment calendars. The Nexus 7 has a voice-activated feature that answers spoken questions.

The Nexus 7 is made by Asus, creator of the popular Transformer series of tablets and a leader in the Android tablet market. But the Nexus is tied to Google's services including Maps, Books, Play and, of course, the search function.

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Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Update: The Lenova ThinkPad was discontinued in 2012.

The Lenovo ThinkPad tablet is an Android-based tablet with a 10.1" screen that is aimed more for professional business needs rather than personal use.

It comes loaded with apps to accommodate a variety of business uses from video conferencing to editing and reading Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. The MyScript Notes app can turn handwriting into digital text on the fly, which is helpful for quick -- and legible -- note-taking.

An optional stylus is sold separately ($30-$40). A Printer Share app makes sending documents wirelessly to a printer easy The tablet also comes preinstalled with McAfee security software.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet offers option 3G access, but not directly through a service provider: Customers must purchase a broadband stick to insert in the USB drive to access 3G connectivity.

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Motorola Xyboard

Update: The Motorola Xyboard was discontinued in 2012.

The Motorola Xyboard is a 10.1" Android tablet that replaces the world's first Android tablet, the Xoom. Running on an Android 3.2 platform (Honeycomb), the device is upgradable to the latest version, Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich).

Like other new tablets on the market, the Xyboard's new feature is a home entertainment remote control hub -- Motorola calls the app Dijit and it serves as both a guide for what's on TV as well as a universal remote to control TVs, cable boxes and other devices.

Motorola clipped the edges on the Xoom, which makes the tablet easier to hold. The device comes in both Wi-Fi models as well as 4G models offered through Verizon. Also, the tablet comes with a stylus and several note-taking apps.

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Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Update: The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 was discontinued in 2012.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 offers similar pricing and capabilities as the iPad 2, but on Google's tablet-specific Android platform called Honeycomb. It doesn't stand up to comparison with Apple's 3rd generation iPad.

Honeycomb comes standard with an array of applications including Camera, YouTube, Maps, Android Market, Browser, Google Talk, Gmail, and Music, all of which are located on the home screen. But the market of Honeycomb-optimized applications is relatively limited (a few hundred) compared with Apple's 140,000 applications for iPad.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 does support Flash, a key difference over iPads. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 comes with a set of ear bud headphones, which is rare for tablets.

While the Samsung Galaxy Tab was replaced with a new model, Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, the original model is still available from several retailers.

Samsung and Apple are involved in litigation that places restrictions on the sales of the device in the US. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is the clear successor to the original Galaxy Tab, but there are few changes from the original. The specifications are nearly identical, including the dual-core processor and 1280x800 resolution.

The second-generation Galaxy Tab is run with an Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) operating system and comes with a host of applications for productivity and connectivity. Samsung touts the Peel Remote Control feature that controls TV features and choices.

There are few features that separate Samsung tablets from the pack. Samsung has its own market of apps which the Galaxy Tab can access, in addition to all of the Android apps available through Google Play. The TouchWiz feature is also unique and allows users to customize their tablets.

While the predecessor to the model was involved in litigation, the refresh was not banned from sale in the US. [See Prices, Reviews and Specifications]

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus

Update: The Samsung Galaxy Tab 7 Plus was discontinued in 2012.

While the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 is a slimmed-down Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Galaxy Tab 7 Plus is a slimmed-down version of 8.9". The 7 Plus uses a different processor than its larger siblings, and it delivers fast speeds both on Wi-Fi and on T-Mobile's 4G network.

Samsung bills the Android tablet as an entertainment hub, offering extensive gaming choices. Samsung also offers an app called the Peel Smart Remote that integrated home entertainment through the tablet allowing browsing of TV shows and control of TVs and cable boxes. It also provides access to audio and video in the MediaHub where users can download songs and videos at prices similar to iTunes -- songs for about $1, TV shows for about $2.

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Sony Tablet S

Update: The Sony Tablet S was discontinued in 2012.

Introduced in September 2011, the Sony Tablet S is an Android-based tablet with a 9.4" screen -- almost an inch smaller than most Android tablets, and smaller than an iPad as well.

The Tablet S is Sony's attempt to put its best technology in one place: There is access to the PlayStation store, access to Sony's massive music and movie archive, Sony's TruBlack technology to make the screen pop, and a universal remote app that borrows technology from a $250 Sony remote control model.

The remote control app can control TVs, Blu-ray players, cable boxes and game consoles, all of which don't necessarily need to be Sony products.

The Tablet S also has a unique wedge shape that many reviewers say makes it the most comfortable to hold. The wedge shape also reduces glare on the screen when it sits on a flat surface.

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Toshiba Excite 10 LE

Update: The Toshiba Excite LE was discontinued in late 2012. Remaining inventory is still available at some retailers.

The Toshiba Excite 10 LE comes with the standard array of connectivity and productivity tools including various ports such as micro HDMI and mini USB and apps such as QuickOffice and Kaspersky Tablet Security.

Reviewers, despite showing early enthusiasm for the features, were less than impressed with the tablet's capabilities.

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Toshiba Thrive 7

The Toshiba Thrive 7 runs on an Android 3.2 operating system and uses a fast NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor. It comes with the standard array of Google apps like Talk, Books, Reader, Mail, Maps and Search, but also adds Kaspersky Security software and QuickOffice for editing and reading Microsoft documents. There is also an integrated media player for movies and music.

The Toshiba Thrive 7 is not considered a slimmed-down version of its 10" sibling; it loses several features in the process. For example, the 7" has micro USB, SD and HDMI ports, instead of the full-size ports. There is also no longer a removable battery.

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Windows Tablets

Microsoft Surface Pro

The Microsoft Surface Pro is in many ways an upgraded version of the Surface RT, which was released in mid-2012. The Surface Pro boasts a new Windows 8 operating system and an array of apps through the Windows app store, but it is not tied to apps alone. With a laptop-like processor, it's capable of running PC software.

The Microsoft Surface Pro is somewhat larger and bulkier than both its predecessor and other tablets, weighing close to two pounds (without the keypad attached). The keyboard attachment is sold separately ($120-$130). The Surface Pro does come with a stylus for both writing and drawing which magnetically attaches to the side -- when in place, the stylus covers the charging port.

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Microsoft Surface RT

The Microsoft Surface RT is the first tablet with a Windows 8 operating system.

One feature Microsoft is touting with the Surface tablet is an optional Touch Cover that doubles as a screen protector and a keyboard, and attaches with magnets. There are two versions of the keyboard/cover: One with actual keys on the keyboard, the other with pressure-sensitive keys. Another feature that separates the Surface from other tablets is the integrated kickstand.

With the Surface, Microsoft aimed to create a tablet that could replace the laptop. It is aimed at productivity, but doesn't ignore entertainment. Critics found Microsoft had some success in that goal, but it's not perfect yet. In fact, many reviewers urged consumers to wait.

While Apple and Android have thousands of apps available for consumers in their respective app stores, the number of Windows apps is extremely limited.

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