No electronics category has changed more in the past year than tablets. Performance is better than ever, especially for the best lower-priced models, and the features and versatility of tablets are expanding fast. The bottom line: There are lots of great models to choose from.
Before you start tablet shopping, consider your priorities.
Is portability a priority? Tablets with 8-inch or smaller displays mostly weigh well less than a pound. Many are very thin. The best in this size range have a battery life of about 13 hours, or more.
Are you on a budget? You can get a great 7- to 8-inch tablet starting at about $200. Even Apple is offering a lower-cost iPad, the iPad Mini, for $300. Tablets with larger display sizes cost more, of course. But very good 10-inch tablets are out there for about $350.
Are you looking for maximum versatility? Then you want a tablet that does it all, and does it well. Consider a larger tablet with at least 10 hours of battery life, and well-equipped app and content stores. Be prepared to spend at least $400. The iPad Air offers a good mix of features and performance, but other tablets have things the iPads don't, like a memory-card slot or remote-control capability.
Are you a bookworm? If you want a tablet mainly for reading--with some e-mailing, Web surfing, and a bit of app-downloading on the side--you can save some money with a tablet from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. A larger screen is better for magazine reading, while a smaller one is more portable, costs less, and is big enough for reading books.
Do you want a tablet that's also a computer? Many Windows-based tablets are either convertibles that use hinges to twist and turn from laptop to tablet, or a detachable, which lets you detach the screen from the keyboard.
Do you have kids? Tablets for tykes have gotten more robust, and parents have more control over what their kids are doing with parental filters. Prices range from $150 to $200, so kids' tablets aren't cheap. Here's how to figure out which is best for your family.
Is there a gamer in the family? Most tablets are good enough for casual games like Angry Birds or 2048. But if you want to play a more-demanding game like Modern Combat 4, you'll need a tablet that can handle it. Here are six great tablets for playing games.