Android tablets differ from the iPad in several key ways. First, they're made by a multitude of manufacturers, which means they're available in many more permutations and price points than the Apple iPad. The biggest difference from a usability standpoint lies in the Android operating system itself, which features multiple home screens and a highly configurable interface.
On the other hand, while there are more than 275,000 tablet-optimized iPad apps available, only a handful of the 700,000-plus Android apps were made for a big screen; most are designed for use on smartphones. Android leaves smartphone apps shrunken in the middle of the screen or stretches them to fit the larger tablet screen resolutions, which isn't always an elegant transition. The biggest knock against the top Android tablets is that few apps take advantage of their eye-popping screen resolutions.
Reviewers say the best Android tablet is the Google Nexus 10 (*Est. $400 and up) made in conjunction with Samsung. The lightweight yet durable tablet runs on Samsung's cutting-edge Exynos 5 Dual processor, which pumps out what Wired calls "beastly levels of performance" and powers the tablet's key feature, a stunning 2,560-by-1,600-pixel IPS display that reviewers say looks every bit as good as the iPad's Retina Display. The Nexus 10 is also the only 10-inch tablet running the latest build of Android's Jelly Bean operating system, bringing new software features such as Miracast wireless streaming support, multi-user login support, gesture typing and 360-degree panoramic photo-taking capabilities.
The similarly superb Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 (*Est. $480 and up) boasts a 1,920-by-1,200-pixel SuperIPS+ screen that's nearly as impressive, along with a quad-core Tegra 3 that handles tablet tasks with ease. It has a longer battery life than the Nexus 10, and that's enhanced even further when the slate is connected to its well-regarded optional keyboard dock (*Est. $150). The Asus Transformer Pad TF300 (*Est. $380) is a bit chunkier and has a dimmer, lower-resolution screen, but reviewers nonetheless call it a solid option for a mid-range tablet.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (*Est. $500 and up) is a full-sized counterpart to Samsung's popular 5-inch Galaxy Note smartphone. It offers a lower-resolution screen than the other tablets mentioned here, but it still packs a screaming quad-core processor and a touch-sensitive S Pen stylus paired with a handful of drawing and note-taking apps.
Of course, when it comes to Android tablets, you'd be remiss to ignore the bevy of affordable 7-inch slates on the market for about $200, one of which is considered the first true contender to the iPad throne. See our section on best cheap tablets for more details.