Earlier this year, choosing the best tablet computer was as simple as knowing one model name: iPad. At that time, competitors were mostly cheap and disappointing.
A different--and better--picture emerges from our latest Ratings (available to subscribers). The iPad still has high scores, and far more apps exist for the iPad than for its competitors. But some challengers match or even beat the market leader in a few areas, including price, size, and weight. Specifically, the new 10-inch -Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 almost matches the iPad and iPad 2 in screen quality. It's also slightly lighter than the iPad 2, and like all Android-based tablets, it supports the flash videos used by many websites.
Along with the Samsung Galaxy Tab, the best new competitors of the iPad are the Motorola Xoom, Asus EeePad Transformer, and T-Mobile G-Slate. They far outscored mediocre older models from Dell and Archos, but still couldn't match the excellence of the iPad 2. The Xoom (without a contract in its 3G configuration) and G-Slate both cost more, too.
Before you start shopping, consider your priorities. If price and portability are tops, you can get the 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab with Wi-Fi for $350. If access to the largest selection of apps is high on your list, that's just one of many reasons to choose the iPad. Other factors to consider include the availability of a 3G version, the existence of built-in ports, and the operating system.
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