Testing tablets: What are the pros and cons of today's tablets?

There is certainly no shortage of tablet prognosticators. It seems every research firm and investment bank in the market has released some kind of prediction or forecast for tablet sales in the coming years. Not surprisingly, most put Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) at the top of the heap, at least in the coming years. And also not surprisingly, most expect the tablet market to grow by leaps and bounds. Here's a sampling:

  • J.P. Morgan analyst Mark Moskowitz wrote in December that tablet shipments will reach 46 million in 2011, totalling $24.9 billion. He predicted those figures would grow to 78.2 million in shipments and revenue of $34.1 billion in 2012.
  • IDC in December said that media tablet sales will reach 42 million in 2011.
  • On the back of Apple's iOS and Google's Android, Gartner this month said tablet vendors will sell close to 300 million tablets in 2015.

So the market opportunity is huge, and it seems a range of vendors are keen to cash in on the opportunity carved out by Apple's iPad, released last year. While Currently Analysis analyst Avi Greengart noted that tablets are essentially an unneccessary device--"It does not replace your phone and it does not fully replace a computer," he said--that isn't stopping the likes of LG, Motorola (NYSE:MMI), Hewlett-Packard, Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and others from jumping into the tablet battlefield.

But what exactly are tablet shoppers looking for in their devices? It is apps? 4G connections? A smooth bezel? (That last one is a joke.) Luckily, research firm Compete recently released the results of a survey showing what tablet shoppers are looking for: good battery life, overall portability and ease of use--features highlighted by most tablet vendors.

But how do today's tablet offerings stack up? We've selected four of the market's leading tablets and set them side-by-side for a look at how they compare. What are their major pros and cons? And how do analysts expect they will be received? Read on:

Apple iPad 2 Apple iPad 2
hp touchpad Hewlett-Packard TouchPad
Motorola xoom Motorola Xoom
blackberry playbook Research In Motion BlackBerry PlayBook



And let us know what you think.

Testing tablets: What are the pros and cons of today's tablets?