Galaxy Note 8, Surface Pro, iPad 4, Nexus 10, Kindle Fire: Which Tablet You Should Buy And Why

By Jordan Mammo , Apr 12, 2013 03:15 PM EDT

Not too long ago, if you wanted a tablet, the iPad was the only option on the market. These days, though, the field has become quite diverse, with entrants like the Galaxy Note 8.0, Surface Pro and Nexus 10 all on the market.

The nice thing about all this diversity is that these tablets aren't just retreads of whatever Apple did on the iPad. Each one does its own thing quite well, and depending on your own needs, might be a better fit than the others.

With that in mind, CNET put together a list of the top six tablets on the market, including reasons why you might prefer each one to its competitors.

Your First Choice: iPad 4

Remember when I said that every tablet does its own thing well? While that's true, the iPad 4 is still generally the best one. The iPad 4 sports a great display and resolution, powerful internal technology, and an easy-to-use iOS interface, but what really puts it over the top is Apple's unparalleled (so far, anyway) app ecosystem. It's still kind of heavy, and it is a full-size slate, but as a general, all-in-one device, you can't go wrong.

The Best Small Tablet: Nexus 7

So the iPad 4 might be cool, but it's just too unwieldy and heavy. If that's how you feel, the Nexus 7 might just be right up your alley. The screen is nicer than the iPad mini's, it's packing the latest version of Android Jelly Bean, and the price is pretty great at $200. Google still needs to work on getting apps optimized for tablet screens, but the Nexus 7 is a quality slate.

Best Media Consumption Tablet: Kindle Fire HD

Not quite a mini-tablet, not quite a full-sized one, the Kindle Fire HD sits comfortably in between and, as CNET put it, is "the best Kindle Fire yet." The 8.9-inch HD screen is boosted by smooth streaming capabilities, perfect for reading books or watching whatever movie or TV show Amazon can get to you. It's not great for work, but if you're just interested in enjoying entertainment, then the Kindle Fire HD is the right choice at $250.

Best Premium Android Tablet: Nexus 10

This is basically Nexus 7: Bigger, Stronger, Faster. CNET says the screen is even better than the iPad's, while the downsides are essentially the same as its little brother's. If you're looking for a full-size Android slate, get the Nexus 10.

Most Innovative Tablet Interface: Galaxy Note 8

Whether or not you like the Galaxy Note 8 depends almost entirely on your opinion of Samsung's TouchWiz UI and app quality. If you're into the custom-built Samsung experience, and you really like the idea of using the S Pen stylus for creative pursuits and features like AirView, the Note 8 is the right fit. It's the most expensive mini tablet on the market, though, so be sure you're a big fan.

Best Productivity Tablet: Surface Pro

The Galaxy Note 8 is a capable machine that can handle multitasking, but if you really need to get work done, splurge on the Surface Pro. Essentially a laptop in tablet form, Surface Pro packs the full-featured Windows 8 OS that can run Microsoft Office programs like Word and Excel. Careful, though, it's expensive. Surface Pro starts at $900 with no Office suite included and no cool keyboard, either.

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