Consumer Reports test the best tablet computers


Almost one in five people are planning to give an iPad, according to a Consumer Reports holiday survey, but two new tablets from Amazon and Barnes and Noble are giving the iPad serious competition.

Bookseller Barnes and Noble is known for its e-book readers, but the latest offering, the Nook tablet, is its first foray into the world of tablet computers. Amazon - which also has a successful line of e-book readers - announced its first tablet with much fanfare.

The iPad is still the tablet to beat, dominating sales with more than two-thirds of the market. Consumer Reports also tested the Kindle Fire and the Nook tablet, along with more than 20 others.

"The Kindle Fire and the Nook tablet are much lower priced than the iPad, but they're also more limited," said Paul Reynolds with Consumer Reports. "The screens are about three inches smaller."

Consumer Reports' tests show both tablets do have very good screen quality, and they make it easy to get to a web browser, e-mail, and other content.

The differences? The $250 Nook tablet offers access to the Barnes and Noble store. It also has 16 gigabytes of capacity and a memory card slot.

The $200 Kindle Fire only has eight gigabytes of storage, but you can upload your content to the Amazon cloud for streaming to the device, so storage is less of an issue. And a real plus - the Kindle Fire gives you access to all your Amazon content.

"Up until now, lower-priced tablet computers have been pretty unimpressive in our tests," said Reynolds. "These are the first models to give the iPad some serious competition."

But the iPad is still the best option for those looking for the full tablet experience.

It's pricey, starting at $500, but the big screen is great for movies and games. It also has a camera, and the 32-gig iPad 2 with Wi-Fi and 3G is Consumer Reports' top-rated tablet.

When it comes to content, both tablets have a proprietary app store, and while it doesn't have as many apps as the iPad store, it does have thousands of apps including popular magazines, newspapers and games.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2011. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)

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