Business or pleasure? If you plan to use your tablet for more productivity-based tasks, consider a Windows RT or Windows 8 tablet/laptop hybrid. These offer convertible or detachable keyboard docks, access to Windows desktop programs in the case of Windows 8, and a fully functional version of Microsoft's legendary Office program in the case of Windows 8. Android tablets and the iPad shine better as pure media consumption devices, although the iPad's vast array of accessories offers a lot of usage versatility.
Will my tablet run the apps I need or want? If you plan to use a tablet as an entertainment device, make sure it has the apps you expect. The Apple iPad is the current leader in this category, with far more tablet-optimized apps than any other ecosystem. Android slates can usually download apps from the Google Play Store, although the Kindle Fire and Nook devices are limited to smaller app stores curated by their respective manufacturers. The Google Play Store houses more than 700,000 apps, but the overwhelming majority is made for smartphones, not big-screen tablets; the problem isn't as noticeable on 7-inch slates. The apps in Microsoft's Windows Store are tailored for large tablets and PC screens, but the selection is skimpy in its early days, with many big-name apps still missing.
How much control do you want over the operating system? Apple's iPad doesn't have many customization options, but it does offer a highly polished interface. Google Android lets users create a highly customized experience full of widgets, alterable keyboards and multiple home screens, but it can be confusing for casual users. Windows tablets feature a happy medium, offering a polished and colorful experience that allows users to move, resize and group Live Tiles as they see fit.
Can I save money by buying a subsidized tablet from a cell phone carrier? The short answer is not really. Major carriers have moved away from selling subsidized tablets, instead offering no-commitment plans that let you pay on a month-to-month basis for access as needed, or allowing users to add their slates to shared subscription data plans for a fee.