In the four years since Apple launched the original iPad, tablet computers have undergone dramatic changes. These mobile devices, meant for users who want the computing power of a laptop but greater portability, now are offered by dozens of manufacturers at prices ranging from less than $100 to more than $1,000. You can buy versions that are much faster, sharper, bigger or smaller, and more powerful than before and more specialized for particular needs, such as reading books or watching movies.

Here is a buying guide to today’s best tablets for different users…


asus-padfone-xAsus PadFone X includes a smartphone with a five-inch display small enough to slip into your pocket…and a docking station for this Android phone that turns it into a tablet with a nine-inch touch screen. You can move seamlessly between phone and tablet without losing your place even if you are in the middle of your e-mails or calendar. Benefit: You get smartphone and tablet functionality for the price of the phone alone. AT&T currently is the only phone company that provides service for this device. Price: $199* with a two-year cell-service contract.


microsoft-surface-pro-3Microsoft Surface Pro 3. People who do a lot of office work outside the office but think that laptops are too bulky and inconvenient should consider a tablet with a detachable keyboard. The Surface Pro 3, with a 12-inch screen, is the most powerful of these hybrids. It has the same Intel Core processor found in many laptops and uses a Windows 8.1 operating system that supports a full version of Microsoft Office. Price: $799 plus $130 for the keyboard. ­


samsung galaxy tab s 8.4Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4. If you need a versatile tablet but also plan to use it often for reading books, this tablet’s high-resolution 8.4-inch display comes the closest to replicating the look of printed paper. It’s also one of the thinnest tablets at just about one-quarter inch, which makes it easy to hold and operate if you want to read in bed or on an airplane. Android operating system. Price: $399.

Alternative: If all you want to do with a mobile device is read books, buy one of the best e-readers on the market now, the Amazon Kindle ­Paperwhite, rather than a full-featured tablet. Price: $119.


LG G Pad 7 LG G Pad 7. If you want to pay less than $150 for your tablet and don’t need much computing power—perhaps just enough for casual web browsing or e-mailing—it’s tempting to pick up a cut-rate device. Most of these, however, are plagued by poor display quality, buggy software and short battery life (as little as five hours).

The LG G Pad 7 is an exception, with a 1,280-by-800-pixel seven-inch LCD that’s sharper than the displays on most budget models…and it has a battery that lasts more than eight hours. It also comes with many more useful features than its leading low-priced competitor, the Amazon Fire HD, including the ability to run two apps simultaneously and to drag-and-drop content from one window to the other. Drawbacks: A low-resolution camera and paltry storage space (it comes with less than 4 GB of usable storage). ­Android operating system. Price: $127.


iPad-Air-2Apple iPad Air 2. If you love to try lots of new apps, no other tablet manufacturer can offer what Apple does—hundreds of thousands of apps especially designed for this 10-inch tablet. Most other tablets use apps that are designed primarily for Android smartphones and that don’t work as well or look as good on tablets. However, if you already have the original iPad Air, it’s probably not worth upgrading to the new version despite new features including Touch ID technology that unlocks the device with a fingerprint. Price: $499.


Kindle Fire HDXAmazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9. If you want a tablet largely for ­multimedia and entertainment purposes, this 8.9-inch tablet offers the highest-­resolution screen at 339 pixels per inch. It also comes with a feature called X-Ray that lets you explore entertainment content more deeply. Example: If you hear a song during a movie, the X-Ray feature can instantly tell you the name of the song.

Subscribers to Amazon Prime ($99 per year) also have access to an enormous amount of free content, including tens of thousands of videos and more than a million songs, that can be used on this tablet. Fire operating system. Price: $379. (A seven-inch version is available for $179, but movies and video are much more appealing on the bigger screen.)


fuhu-nabiFuhu Nabi 2. Many tablet manufacturers today like to throw in some ­parental-control software and market their devices as kid-friendly, but Fuhu specializes in affordable technology for children and really has thought through what children (and parents) need. The Nabi 2 has a durable rubber bumper around its body with large, rounded corners, and it has been been tested to survive drops up to seven feet…as well as the most extensive parental settings of any kid’s tablet. It also has more preloaded children’s games, books and apps than any other tablet.

The Nabi 2 can be operated in adult mode, and its Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and full array of other functions are powerful enough to use as a backup tablet for yourself. Price: $179.

*Most tablets come with 16 GB of storage and Wi-Fi capability. More storage capacity adds $30 to $200 or more to the price. The ability to access data via a cellular network typically adds another $100 to $150 to the price, and you’ll need a data plan from a cellular provider.

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