Tablet computers emerged into the mainstream in 2010 with the launch of the original iPad, and the market has since become flooded with dozens of these portable devices. The 9.7-inch iPad dominated the scene for years, but faces a new threat from premium Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets. In addition, strong demand for lower-cost, highly portable 7-inch Android slates recently prompted Apple to release its own iPad mini.
Tablet computers take two main forms -- convertible tablets and slates -- although the terms are now used interchangeably, thanks in part to the increasing crossover between the two. Convertible tablets look like regular laptops or netbooks, but the screen swivels 180 degrees to transform the unit into a touchscreen tablet; alternatively, some models come with detachable and sometimes optional keyboards or keyboard docks. Virtually all early Windows 8 tablets -- but not Windows RT versions like the Microsoft Surface -- come in convertible form. Slates, on the other hand, eschew the physical keyboard in favor of a virtual touchscreen keyboard. Slates are lighter and usually less expensive than convertible tablets, but typing long documents can be a chore.
Although they've been around for years, tablet computers were long considered niche products designed for business professionals. Enterprise-friendly functionality is making a comeback with the arrival of Windows 8 convertibles; Windows RT tablets even ship with the full version of Office 2013 RT installed. However, many best-selling tablets have consumer-friendly designs and are made for watching movies, surfing the web, playing games and performing basic word processing tasks.
So which tablet is best for you? To help answer that question, we look at the best available advice from expert reviewers, then cross-check that with feedback from actual users. We then rate tablets in important categories including performance, ease of use, features and value to find the ones most likely to please and which models more often disappoint.
Of course, tablets are just one option for those looking for a device for work or play. If you prefer a regular laptop or desktop computer, ConsumerSearch has separate reports on laptops, cheap laptops, netbooks, and Apple laptops and desktops, as well as on basic Windows desktop computers and more advanced business and gaming computers.