Choosing The Right Tablet For You

Tablets may be the world's hottest gadget right now, with everyone from PC makers to cellphone manufacturers, monitor suppliers and booksellers racing to release a version of these portable, touch-screen computers. Many of these tablets will debut in 2011. Here's a look at the models that have already been announced. 

Apple iPad

Size: 9.7-inch screen, 1.5 pounds
Operating system: Apple's iOS
Launch date: April 2010
Price: $499 to $829, depending on memory and connectivity
Apple's iPad is far from the first tablet computer to have launched, but like many Apple products, it has redefined its category and quickly become the market leader. People are already eagerly awaiting the next iPad, which many believe will incorporate some wished-for elements, such as a camera and higher-resolution display. 

Samsung Galaxy Tab
Size: 7-inch screen, approximately 0.8 pounds
Operating system: Google's Android (2.2)
Launch date: November 2010
Price: $400 to $600, depending on carrier and data plan
Perhaps the most appealing alternative to an iPad this holiday season will be Samsung's Galaxy Tab. Like the company's Galaxy S smartphone line, the Galaxy Tab utilizes Samsung's advanced display and processor technology and will be sold through multiple operators. Samsung plans to introduce more tablets in different sizes next year.

Dell Streak
Size: 5-inch screen, 7.8 ounces
Operating system: Google's Android (1.6 but upgradeable to 2.2)
Launch date: August 2010
Price: $300 with a two-year service plan, $550 without
Despite some skepticism over the Dell Streak's qualifications as a tablet (because it is so small), the PC maker is marketing the 5-inch device as such, under the description "pocket tablet." The company intends to launch larger tablets next year. 

Archos Series
Size: 2.8-inch to 10.1-inch screen and up to 1 pound, depending on model
Operating system: Google's Android (1.5 or 2.2, depending on model)
Launch date: Summer-Fall 2010; November 2010 for 10-inch version
Price: $100 to $350, depending on size and memory
Archos may be the world's most prolific tablet maker. The French company was one of the first to come out with a tablet powered by Google's Android mobile platform, in 2009. This year, it added seven more models, including two designed to be stationed and used at home.

Barnes & Noble Nook Color
Size: 7-inch screen, approximately 1 pound
Operating system: Google's Android (2.1)
Launch date: mid-November 2010
Price: $249
Though technically an e-reader, Barnes & Noble's newest Nook boasts enough other features, including a full-color, 7-inch touch-screen, a Web browser and Android software that it could also qualify as a tablet. There's one catch, however: users will only have access to a selection of Android applications, rather than the full app store. 

Toshiba Folio 100
 Size: 10.1-inch screen, 1.7 pounds
Operating system: Google's Android (2.2)
Launch date: November 2010
Price: $563
Toshiba is another member of the Android camp. The PC maker built its own mobile applications and digital music store for the Folio which, at 10 inches, is larger than most Android tablets. The device is currently only available outside the U.S.; it launched outside the U.S. in early November.

BlackBerry PlayBook
 Size: 7-inch screen, approximately 0.9 pounds
Operating system: BlackBerry Tablet OS
Launch date: Early 2011
Price: Not available
One of the most highly anticipated tablets for 2011 is Research in Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook. RIM is keeping several key details under wraps, including price and exact launch date, but has started recruiting developers to make PlayBook apps. 

HP Slate 500
Size: 8.9-inch screen, 1.5 pounds
Operating system: Microsoft's Windows 7
Launch date: October 2010
Price: $799
Leave it to HP, the world's largest PC maker, to offer a business-focused tablet that runs Microsoft's Windows operating system. Reviews so far have been lukewarm. Consumers looking for HP tablets based on Palm's webOS platform will have to wait until next year.


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