Before the iPad arrived in early 2010, no one really knew they needed a tablet. But now we wonder, how did we ever live without them?

Lighter than a laptop, with more real estate than a smartphone, tablets have quickly become the go-to device for browsing the web, playing games or simply reading a book -- whether on the couch or in a cab. Just like the flurry of smartphones that followed the iPhone, there now is a bevy of tablets for consumers to choose from -- and more are coming, including the new Nook Tablet from Barnes & Noble, which will start shipping tomorrow (November 18).

If there's someone on your list who's pining for a shiny new tablet, check out our list of some of the best current devices, how they stack up against the iPad, and which of the wireless carriers they play nicest with.


The second-generation iPad is everything that was great about the original -- but better. First, the 9.7-inch tablet is a 33 percent thinner and 15 percent lighter than the original iPad, but it still offers a super-long 10-hour battery life. An upgrade to a 1 GHz dual-core processor allows for faster browsing on the web and smoother multitasking on apps.

The biggest change, though, is the introduction of a front- and rear-facing cameras for Face Time chatting and capturing stills and high-def video. Smart Covers magnetically clip to the edge to serve as a screen protector and angled-viewing stand. The iPad 2 is available in black or white. Prices start at $499 for the 16 GB, wi-fi only version, to $829 for the 64 GB with wi-fi and 3G.

Screen size: 9.7 inches

Resolution: 1024 x 768

Weight: 21 ounces


There's no Sony Playstation 4 this year, but there is the Sony Tablet S -- the first Playstation certified table. The Tablet S comes preloaded with PS favorites "Crash Bandicoot" and "Pinball Heroes," with other classic Playstation titles available for download. The Table S, one of the newest devices on the scene, also has the most unique form factor, a folded-magazine design the manufacturer says fits more comfortably in your hands. The tab, available in 16 GB ($499) and 32 GB ($599) models, runs the latest and greatest Android 3.2 Honeycomb operating system, powered by a dual-core 1 GHZ processor, and features a 5 MP rear camera and a front-facing web cam. As an e-reader, the Tablet S offers access to more than 2 million titles in the Sony Reader store. Already got too many devices sitting on the coffee table? A built-in universal remote lets the Tablet S control the TV, Blue-Ray player, stereo or cable box -- whether it's a Sony product or not.

Screen Size: 9.4 inches

Resolution: 1280 x 800

Weight: 21 ounces


Everyone knows a Blackberry addict; this is the tablet for them. The Playbook is available in 16 GB ($499), 32 GB ($599) and 64 GB ($699) models and syncs real-time with BlackBerry smartphones, so their e-mail, calendar, address book, tasks and documents always are up-to-the-minute. The best-in-class 3 MP front-facing camera offers solid video-conferencing quality, and the 5 MP rear camera captures 1080p high-def video. The ultra-portable tab, which can run on Sprint's network, is just 5.1 by 7.6 inches on the outside but packs major guts on the inside: a dual-core 1 GHz processor plus 1 GB of RAM.

Screen Size: 7 inches

Resolution: 1024 x 600

Weight: 15 ounces


If you're looking for options, look no further than the Samsung Galaxy Tab. This Android tablet comes in three sizes -- 10.1 inches, 8.9 and 7 -- and is the only tab to be available on all major wireless networks, if they're in need of a constant Internet connection. Here's a look at the Galaxy universe.


The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is slightly taller and narrower than the iPad 2 but is equally thin. Available in two sizes -- 16 GB and 32 GB -- and two colors -- gray and white -- the Tab 10.1 is offered as either a wi-fi only model (16 GB, $499; 32 GB, $599) or a 4G LTE model for Verizon's network (16 GB $529, 32 GB $629).

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 runs Android 3.1 Honeycomb and features a 1 GHz dual-core processor for blazing-fast browsing, gaming and on-the-go multitasking. A high-def display delivers crystal-clear picture, whether you're streaming You Tube videos or slingshotting birds at pigs. A 3 MP rear-facing camera snaps photos, and a 2 MP front-facing camera can be used for video conferencing. As for entertainment, the Galaxy 10.1 is a beast. The Samsung Media Hub provides access to more than 5,000 movies and TV shows, which can be viewed on an HDTV via an HDMI dongle. Amazon's Music Cloud Player and Kindle apps come preloaded, as does the popular social game Words With Friends, ensuring Tab users never need to say, "I have nothing to do."

Screen size: 10.1 inches

Resolution: 1280 x 800

Weight: 18 ounces


Available in 16 GB ($469) and 32 GB ($569) models, the Tab 8.9 offers same array of whiz-bang features as the 10.1, just in a slightly smaller package. At around 9 x 6 inches and just a third of an inch thick, the wi-fi only Tab 8.9 packs a gig of RAM and a 1 GHz dual-core processor for ultra-high performance. Like the larger Galaxy Tab, the 8.9 runs Android 3.1 Honeycomb and features 3 MP-rear, 2 MP front cameras.

Screen size: 8.9 inches

Resolution: 1280 x 800

Weight: 15.76 ounces


For a truly single-handheld device, the Galaxy Tab 7 eschews the landscape orientation for a portrait design that weighs in at less than 14 ounces and can just an easily be tucked into a coat pocket as it can a bag. And while it doesn't pack quite the guts as it's bigger brethren -- Android 2.2, 1.3 MP front-facing camera -- the 16 GB Tab 7 makes up for it in carrier options. In addition to the wi-fi only model ($349), the tab is available on all the major wireless networks: AT&T ($549), Sprint ($429), T-Mobile ($399), U.S. Cellular ($599) and Verizon ($499). And with a two-year contract, the price usually lands around $199.

Screen size: 7 inches

Resolution: 600 x 1024

Weight: 13.58 ounces


T-Mobile's first 4G tablet, the Dell Streak 7 ($299), like the Galaxy Tab 7, offers just the right stuff for being an ultra-productive, ultra-pocketable on-the-go tab: a 1.3 MP front-facing camera for video chat, 5 MP rear-facing camera for snapping photos and recording high-def video, 16 gigs of built-in memory, a 1 GHz processor and Android 2.2, all on a 7-inch display.

Screen size: 7 inches

Resolution: 800 x 480

Weight: 17.6 ounces


The Motorola Xoom ($499) is a mobile monster. The tablet, which features a high-def widescreen display, features a 1 GHz dual-core processor and runs the Android 3.1 operating system designed specifically for tablets, making a breeze of browsing, gaming, streaming or video editing. The 5 MP rear-facing camera captures solid stills and records 720p high-def video. It runs on Verizon's 3G or super-speedy 4G LTE network, and a wi-fi version can be tethered to U.S. Cellular smartphones.

Screen size: 10.1 inches

Resolution: 1280 x 800

Weight: 24.9 ounces (Wi-Fi), 25.75 ounces (3G)


The G-Slate ($699) is T-Mobile's latest 4G tablet, running Android 3.0. The 5 MP rear-facing camera is on par with many smartphone cameras and can record 1080p high-def video and 3D clips, which can be stored on the device's 32 GB of memory. There's a 2 MP front-facing camera for video chat, and the 1 GHz dual-core processor multitasks games and apps with ease.

Screen size: 8.9 inches

Resolution: 1280 x 800

Weight: 21.9 ounces