We've finally reached an abundance of riches when it comes to tablets. They're fantastic devices, but you may still be puzzled about which one is right for you. Here's some comparisons to help you make up your mind. I'm not going to compare the definite losers, the BlackBerry and WebOS tablets, both of which where market duds. The Windows 8 tablets have not arrived yet, and chances are that they'll be way too late to the party when they do. Currently they're expected in late 2012.
The iPad is the king of tablets, and it's the one everyone else will have to beat. Apple got a year's head start on all the other contenders. The iPad offers tons of high quality apps and loads of support in education and creative industries. It uses a closed ecosystem, which means you're limited to buying your apps and most of your media from Apple, but everything "just works" without extra fiddling and checking on device compatibility.
Because there's only one company making them, there's not wild variation in size and shape of the iPad, so there are also more accessories available for iPads than any of the other tablets.
The iPad has better parental controls than any of the other devices I've tried. You can easily disable features and apps and even control options within specific apps. The Kindle Fire isn't out yet, so we'll have to see how they stack up.
All is not rosy with the iPad, however. Apple has developed a reputation as a patent bully recently by suing Samsung and other device makers for what they consider to be knockoff devices. Apple also has tight control over the Apple App Market, and they've been suspiciously slow in approving requests from competitors at times. They also don't boast the fastest hardware or best cameras. Some may speculate that as the leader, they don't need to innovate as much, but it may just be a matter of keeping costs down.
There's a wide variety of Android tablets on the market now, and there are several sizes and shapes to choose from. The Android Market has a large variety of apps, even if it's not as large as Apple, and they've been actively recruiting developers to make more. They also have no problem with users installing apps outside the Android Market.
The interface on Android Honeycomb is similar to Apples, yet offering better customization features through widgets. It's missing the easy parental controls of Apple, however.
Android tablets have more innovation in hardware configurations, such as tablets that transform into netbooks, tablets that take 3D pictures, and tablets with 4G signals. They've also got more flexibility with price, and you can now get an Android tablet for around $100 cheaper than you can an iPad. You may want to look at a demo model first, becaues some models are a bit heavy for holding in one hand as your read an e-book.
Android's support of parental controls relies mostly on third party apps, so it's not a great family tablet choice. There's also some variation within Android. Device makers are free to modify Android as they wish, so Galaxy Tab series tablets have a different interface than Xooms.
The Kindle Fire
The Kindle Fire isn't out yet. Yes, it's an Android tablet, but it's so heavily modified that you wouldn't be able to tell. They don't use any Google apps, and you must download everything from the closed Amazon ecosystem. This is basically the tablet designed for someone who wants to spend lots of money buying things from Amazon.com. You can read Kindle books, watch Amazon movies, listen to Amazon MP3s on Amazon Cloud Player, and play apps you download from the Amazon App Market.
The Kindle Fire is also a seven inch tablet compared to the mostly ten inch iPad and Android tablets. There's no camera on it, and the battery only lasts for eight hours, compared to the mostly ten hour life for other tablets.
However, it's the cheapest tablet on the market at $200 (Rumor has it that Amazon is actually selling these things at a loss). It's also easy and promises to just work. If you're looking for an e-book reader that also plays movies and games, it's the perfect way to get started with tablets.
The iPad is the best tablet for children (but the Kindle Fire may come with enough parental controls to change that assessment). It's also the best tablet for apps and accessories.
Android is the best tablet for freedom, hardware processing power, and a balance of features and price.
The Kindle Fire is the best tablet for price and for Amazon media consumption.