Best tablets of 2011

As the year draws to a close, we reveal the top five tablets of 2011

Tablets in 2011 may have been outshone by their smartphone counterparts, but there is no doubting it was still a landmark year for this relatively new category.

Apple's iPad 2 is the most well known but a host of other manufacturers threw their hat into the ring this year. From Samsung's once-banned Galaxy Tab 10.1, to the innovative ASUS Eee Pad Transformer and the late but distinctive Sony Tablet S, there are plenty of tablets to choose from for consumers.

Here at PC World, we've reviewed almost every tablet that's launched in Australia in 2011, and even some that didn't hit our shores! From the iPad 2 to the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, we've covered them all. Without further ado, we present the top five tablets of 2011, the best of the best!

5th place: HP TouchPad

HP TouchPad

Why: You might be wondering what the hell the HP TouchPad is doing on our best tablet list — after all, this is the same tablet that was discontinued by HP less than a week after it officially launched in Australia. However, despite HP abandoning the TouchPad, it remained one of the best selling tablets of 2011. It sold out in Australia less than a few hours after Harvey Norman reduced the price to $98 in a bid to clear stock.

The TouchPad was thicker and heavier than many of its competitors and it did lack the range of dedicated apps that made the iPad so popular. Despite these issues, it's webOS software was intuitive, it had great audio performance, it was easy of use, and best of all it was the bargain of the year if you were lucky enough to snag one for $98.

Read our full review of the HP TouchPad here

Where to buy: Unfortunately, you can no longer buy the TouchPad, though it might be worth checking out eBay if you desperately want one.

How much: Harvey Norman cleared the 16GB TouchPad units for $98, and 32GB models for $148 but it no longer has stock. Buying on eBay will now come at a premium: expect to pay around $250 or more.

Next page: We reveal the 4th best tablet of the year!

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4th place: ASUS Eee Pad Transformer

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer

Why: Most Android tablets seem to look and feel like very similar devices, but you can't accuse ASUS of following the leader. It's Eee Pad Transformer attempts to add some much-needed variety to the market by utilising an optional, detachable keyboard dock that transforms it from a tablet into a notebook-style device.

The Transformer has a few niggling problems but the keyboard dock is genuinely good and is definitely recommended if you want to do any real typing. Best of all, the Eee Pad Transformer's keyboard dock has two full-sized USB ports, an SD card slot and a trackpad, as well as its own built-in battery that gives the tablet an additional six and half hours of use.

Read our full review of the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer here

Where to buy: Through retailers Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi.

How much: $582 at JB Hi-Fi for the 32GB model (with keyboard dock included) or $662 for the same model at Harvey Norman. The latter also sells the 16GB model with keyboard dock for $478.

Next page: We reveal the 3rd best tablet of the year!

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3rd place: Sony Tablet S

Sony Tablet S

Why: We've long berated Android tablets for being "me too" devices, so when a tablet like Sony's Tablet S lands on our desk we can't help but get excited. It has a distinctive, curved design that Sony says attempts to resemble a folded magazine. It's far from perfect: the 9.4in screen could be brighter, build quality could be better and its software isn't always slick. However, the Tablet S remains one of the better Android devices on the market and is a solid alternative to the iPad 2.

Read our full review of the Sony Tablet S here

Where to buy: From Sony Centre stores and selected major retailers including the likes of JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman.

How much: $579 for the 16GB model and $689 for the 32GB model, though you'll more than likely find it a little cheaper at selected stores.

Next page: We reveal the 2nd best tablet of the year!

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2nd place: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Why: It seems the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is the most talked about tablet in Australia. Apple unsuccessfully blocked it from going on sale Down Under following a lengthy court battle — it claimed Samsung copied the iPad 2 and breached various patents. The court case has now been resolvedVodafone has already started selling the device and retailers will have it on the shelves before Christmas.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 is thinner and lighter than the iPad 2 and is a superb piece of industrial design. The Android platform remains less polished compared with iOS, and the lack of native tablet applications is an issue, but these faults lie with Google and not with Samsung: the latter has done a fine job of producing a credible iPad alternative.

Where to buy: On a plan through Vodafone or outright from "leading Australian retailers" including Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, The Good Guys, Myer, Bing Lee and Officeworks.

How much: Varied pricing for a range of Vodafone plans. Outright for $579 (16GB Wi-Fi variant) or $729 (16GB 3G variant).

Next page: We reveal the number one tablet of 2011!

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1st place: Apple iPad 2

Apple iPad 2

Why: Was there ever any doubt? The iPad 2 may not have the best specs, may not support Flash and may not have the best camera, but there is no doubting it combines superbly constructed hardware with an excellent ecosystem to produce a slick user experience. There are many tablets that have better cameras, more ports, and more flexible software, but none of them come close to replicated the user experience that Apple provides with the iPad 2.

The iPad 2 is faster, thinner and lighter than its predecessor. If you liked the original iPad, you'll love the iPad 2, but for current iPad owners the second generation iPad isn't a necessary upgrade. However, it easily remains the best tablet on the market.

Read our full review of the Apple iPad 2 here

Where to buy: Outright through Apple stores and major retailers. On a plan through Telstra and Vodafone.

How much: The Apple iPad 2 is priced as follows:

iPad 2 16GB — Wi-Fi $579.00
iPad 2 32GB — Wi-Fi $689.00
iPad 2 64GB — Wi-Fi $799.00

iPad 2 16GB — Wi-Fi + 3G $729.00
iPad 2 32GB — Wi-Fi + 3G $839.00
iPad 2 64GB — Wi-Fi + 3G $949.00

Disagree with our list? What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!