Tablets are quickly becoming the computers of choice for consumers. In fact, market-research firm Canalys predicts that slates will make up 50 percent of computers sold this year. And why shouldn't that be the case? Tablets put the Web, games and hundreds of thousands of apps at your fingertips that can make you more productive and keep you entertained. There's a wide array of options when it comes to operating systems, sizes and prices, but finding the right device isn't that difficult. Whether you're a mobile professional, parent, student or bargain hunter, you'll find the right device for you on our list of the best tablets for every kind of shopper.
Best Large Tablet: Apple iPad Air ($499 for 16GB Wi-Fi model)
At $499, the iPad Air offers Apple's stunning Retina display in a thinner and lighter package than ever before. At just 1 pound, this is one full-size tablet that won't strain your arm. Under the hood, a powerful 64-bit A7 processor demonstrates zippy performance as you enjoy the nearly 500,000 tablet-optimized apps. On top of all of that, Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Air lasts nearly 12 hours on a charge. No other big-screen tablet offers this combination of portability, speed and app selection.
Best Media Tablet: Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch ($229)
With its Snapdragon 800 processor and full-HD screen, the Kindle Fire HDX 7-inch offers some serious specs, but what makes this tablet truly compelling are its family-friendly features. FreeTime allows parents to set up a separate environment for kids with a preapproved list of apps. Parents can also set time limits on playing games, watching videos or reading. The HDX also boasts Amazon's innovative Mayday feature, which provides one-touch access to a live tech-support rep within 30 seconds. On top of all of that, you get Amazon Prime access to free movies and books.
Best Tablet for Work: Microsoft Surface Pro 2 ($899)
Business users will find everything they need in a tablet and a laptop with the $899 Microsoft Surface Pro 2. Because it runs Windows 8.1, you'll enjoy full access to the familiar Office suite and desktop apps. Microsoft also throws in 200GB of free storage on SkyDrive for two years, plus free voice calling to landlines via Skype. We loved the active stylus that makes note taking in meetings a breeze, as well as the new kickstand position for easier lap typing. And because there's a new Intel Haswell chip inside, the Pro 2 lasts an impressive 8 hours on a charge for all-day power.
Best 7-Inch Android Tablet: Google Nexus 7 ($229)
For those on a moderate budget, the $229 Google Nexus 7 is an excellent choice. And you won't find a better pure-Android experience, because this 7-inch slate delivers pure Android 4.4 KitKat, along with blazing-fast quad-core performance and one of the best screens around. The 1920 x 1200-pixel display is supersharp and colorful, at 323 ppi. The camera is surprisingly robust, too. Plus, parents will love the ability to set up child-friendly profiles. Add in more than 8 hours of battery life, and you have a great value.
Best Windows 8 Hybrid: ASUS Transformer Book T100 ($349)
The relatively low $349 price isn't the only reason to love the Windows 8.1-powered ASUS Transformer Book T100. The epic battery life of 12.5 hours might be even more compelling, second only to the strong performance offered by the Intel Bay Trail platform. And while Microsoft charges an additional $129 for its Surface 2 Type Cover, ASUS includes a highly tactile keyboard dock for free and throws in a copy of Microsoft Office Home & Student for good measure.
Best Big-Screen Tablet: Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
Talk about multitasking might. With the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, you can run up to four apps on the large 12-inch screen at once. Samsung's Note Pro 12.2 weighs a somewhat hefty 1.65 pounds, but that includes a laptoplike virtual keyboard, an octa-core Exynos 5 Octa processor, 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage space. Samsung also piles on the productivity goodies, including the Hancom Office suite, Remote PC software and Cisco WebEx Meetings. With the purchase of this supersize slate, you also get $700 worth of prepaid subscription offers to everything from Bloomberg Businessweek to Dropbox.
Best Budget Tablet: ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 ($149)
Inexpensive doesn't have to mean cheap: The $149 ASUS MeMO Pad HD 7 combines a beautiful and colorful 1280 x 800-pixel IPS display with more than 9.5 hours of battery life. Plus, this low-cost Android tablet offers a quad-core processor, high-quality front and rear cameras, 16GB of internal storage and a microSD card slot for expansion. ASUS adds its own touches to the base Android 4.2.1, including a shortcut ring to get to the apps menu, settings and Google search. We also like the ASUS floating-widget feature for any app and the full-featured camera app.
Best 8-Inch Tablet: Apple iPad mini with Retina Display ($399 for 16GB Wi-Fi model)
Apple added its Retina display technology to its iPad mini to make an unbeatable 7.9-inch tablet. Owners of this little beauty will be able to take advantage of the intuitive iOS 7 interface, Apple's enormous selection of 475,000 tablet apps and 11 hours of battery life. That's on top of the snappy A7 CPU with 64-bit architecture paired with an M7 motion co-processor. That's an awful lot of tablet goodness for $399.
Best Small Windows Tablet: Lenovo Miix 2 ($299)
If you're looking for zippy performance in a compact Windows 8.1 slate, the Lenovo Miix 2 is a great pick. This device offers quad-core Atom Bay Trail power in a sleek 8-inch design. You also get a very bright HD display and about 8.5 hours of battery life. The included copy of Office Home & Student means you can get plenty of work done between rounds of "Halo: Spartan Assault."
Best Kids' Tablet: Fuhu DreamTab (Spring 2014, Less Than $300)
Dreamworks and Fuhu are collaborating on the new DreamTab, which is guaranteed to help your kids learn and have lots of fun. We particularly appreciate the kid-safe social networking that allows Junior to send email, text and share photos with other DreamTab users. In addition, the Wings Learning System instructs kids on how to improve reading, writing and math skills. Your child can even learn how to draw popular Dreamworks characters with the help of expert animators. The specs are strong, too, and include a full-HD 8-inch display, Intel Atom Bay Trail CPU and Android KitKat 4.4.
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