I have personally had a chance to check out most of the popular tablets on the market right now, so I'll share some tips with you here, and some info that will hopefully make your decision easier. Surely, no one wants to make this kind of investment without being aware of the choices they have to decide from.
First, let's talk about what things you should look at, regardless of what tablet you go with. There are several factors to consider, but the big three are: 1) size, 2) storage capacity, and 3) cellular data or wifi only.
Basically screen size comes down to two types, the 7 inch tablets, or the 9-10 inch tablets. While the 7 inch tablets, such as the Kindle Fire, do fit very nicely in your hand, and are easy to carry around, they are significantly smaller, which means less screen real-estate. This also affects the weight of the tablet, so you should also consider that as well.
For storage size, you'll need to know whether or not your tablet has a fixed amount (such as the iPad) or if it can be upgraded via micro/ SD cards (such as the Nook). If the tablet is a fixed amount of storage, it is important to consider how you will be using it, and how much storage you will need.
Next up is to determine if you want to get your tablet with the ability to join a cellular data network (such as AT&T or Verison), or if you will only need to use it on wifi (which they can all do).
Once you have decided on the "big three" features, then you can start to look at the name brands available.
Apple's iPadWithout a doubt, the Apple iPad is the leader of the tablet market today. The Apple App store is very robust, has been around for a long time, and has lots of free and inexpensive apps to make your iPad do all kinds of wonderful things. Recently the iPad 4 (retina) was released, so this is a good time to purchase an iPad (even if you don't want the new one, the older versions are now coming down in cost). Also, Apple released the iPad Mini, which gives the smaller tablet version, with all the loveable features of its big brother. The iPad is available with or without cellular data, and comes in 16, 32, and 64GB of storage.
Amazon's Kindle FireThe Kindle Fire and the Kindle Fire HD are really nice tablets, at a very affordable price. They have a beautiful screen, and some awesome features. Integration with Amazon's online cloud services is really cool too. The Fire HD is available with wifi only, in 16 and 32GB of storage. (The larger version of the tablet is available with cellular data).
Google's Nexus 7Recently, Google released the Nexus 7 -- this is a beautiful, well thought-out tablet packed with features, at a great price. Backed by Google Play and all of the wonderful Google apps, this thing is rock solid. It starts off with wifi only, 16GB, but is available all the way up to 32GB with cellular data for only $100 more.
Barnes & Noble's NookThe Nook HD is another newer tablet, and has been getting lots of great feedback. The screen on this one is very crisp. There are lots of awesome apps, and the ability to upgrade the storage is very nice. This one won't break your wallet, either.
There are also a plethora of other tablets on the market, many different manufacturers, makes, models, and operating systems. One for sure that I won't really talk about is the new Windows Surface. If you are a heavy PC user, this one might be worth considering, but most people, in my opinion, will be happy with any of the above 4.
So, with all these name brand, models, and options, which one is right for you? Honestly, there is no one size fits all when it comes to picking a tablet. The best thing to do is to consider how you want to use it, and then base your decision off which tablet has the most features that will complement your requirements. For example, if you are a movie buff, you will probably want to get a tablet with at least 32GB of storage, or the ability to swap out memory cards. If you are a mobile worker, or always on the go, you should really consider getting a tablet with cellular data -- that way, you won't be relying on finding that next McDonald's or Starbucks to get a wifi signal.
A big part of your decision will of course be cost. A base model iPad ($499) would also buy you two Kindle Fire HD tablets -- this is often a big decision swayer when it comes time to pony up those greenbacks for your new tech.
Make sure to give some serious thought before making a purchase decision -- don't just jump on the first thing you see!! Most of these tablets will last for several years, so this is an investment that will be with you for quite awhile -- you want to make sure you are getting what you want, so you are not disappointed later.
Also, be sure to check out accessories such as screen protectors and cases -- it would be ashame if your new tablet got a scratch!
What are your thoughts on these tablets? If you own one, we would love to hear your feedback in the comments below. If you do have any questions, please comment and I'll do my best to answer :-)