2010 was the year of the iPad. 2011 is the year the competition gets serious. Between a slew of new Android 3.0 slates, the BlackBerry PlayBook, and the HP TouchPad, shoppers will have plenty of compelling Apple alternatives to choose from.
While tablet PCs have been around for yonks, only now are they becoming the desirable, usable and functional devices that we've always wanted them to be – and it's about time too.
The iPad is currently the most obvious example of how tablets are going mainstream, but that's not to say that all tablets released from now on are guaranteed to be super awesome.
The HTC Flyer is out to prove the pen is not dead. The HTC Flyer is a 7-inch Android slate based on a 1.5GHz Qualcomm single-core processor running Android 2.4 Gingerbread, with a new, refreshed version of HTC Sense. Oh, and just to really stir things up, it has a stylus.
URL: HTC Flyer
Samsung Galaxy Tab
The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has similar specs to many other Android 3.0 slates, including a Tegra 2 processor and 16 to 32GB of memory. But we really like how light this 1.2-pound tablet feels, its textured back, and the stereo speakers. An 8-MP camera in back records 1080p video, while the 2-MP camera up front enables video calls via Google Talk Video Chat.
URL: Samsung Galaxy Tab
The first Android 3.0 tablet is coming to Verizon Wireless, and the software is unlike anything you’ve seen before from Google. We’re talking improved multitasking, a more interactive widgets, and tabbed web browsing. A Tegra 2 processor, 10.1-inch display (1280 x 800), and front-facing camera round out the specs.
URL: Motorola Xoom
Acer Iconia Tab A500
Coming to Verizon Wireless with blazing 4G LTE connectivity, Acer’s Iconia Tab A500 is a 10-inch Android 3.0 tablet that could give the Xoom a run for its money. It features HDMI and USB ports and both rear (5-MP) and front (2-MP) cameras. We especially like the Social Jogger app for flipping through Twitter and Facebook updates. Acer's Clear.Fi media sharing software is also installed.
ASUS Eee Pad Slider
An Android tablet made for fast typing, the Eee Pad Slider features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, Nvidia Tegra 2 power, and cameras on the front (1.2-MP) and back (5-MP). In addition to Android 3.0, this 10-inch tablet will run ASUS’ custom MyWave interface.
URL: ASUS Eee Pad
It's a professional grade 7-inch tablet, but it definitely has a fun side. The BlackBerry PlayBook sports a fast dual-core processor and a multitasking-friendly interface, as well as full Flash support and dual HD video cameras. You also get real-time e-mail, but it requires that you tether the tablet to a BlackBerry phone.
Boasting an impressive list of features—including a 1.2-GHz dual-core processor, a front-facing camera, and Beats Audio, HP’s TouchPad is a strong contender running webOS 3.0. The tablet tightly integrates social networking throughout multiple apps. You can even share URLs between webOS phones and the tablet with a tap.
URL: HP TouchPad
Lenovo LePad and U1 Hybrid
The LePad is a 10.1-inch tablet with dual personalities. By itself the device is an Android slate with a sleek four-pane interface that’s optimized for accessing media. Plug the LePad into the U1 base, and it’s transformed into a Windows 7-powered laptop with a full keyboard. A Hybrid Switch feature lets users change operating systems on the fly.
URL: Lenovo LePad
LG’s Android 3.0 tablet (known as the Optimus Pad overseas) brings something very unique to the table: 3D. You can record 3D video and then watch it on the 8.9-inch display (glasses are included). The Tegra 2-powered G-Slate also features 4G data speeds, HDMI output, and a front-facing camera for video chats.