The Apple iPad 2 is no doubt the best-selling tablet - but does that mean it's the best tablet?

To find out, I spent a few weeks testing some of the iPad's leading competitors. I learned that in a surprising number of areas, including navigation, email handling, and web browsing, the other tablets actually beat out the iPad.

For this comparison, I set aside raw hardware specs. Processor speed, RAM and ports certainly matter, but a tablet can have great specs and still be awkward and unpleasant to use. What makes or breaks a tablet is its operating system, which determines whether answering email, watching video, and surfing the web will be a pleasure or a frustration.

Several tablet operating systems are poised to battle it out. While most tablet OSs come on only one brand of tablet each, Google's Android 3.0 is the choice of a growing number of manufacturers, some of which add their own custom interface as HTC does with Sense UI and Samsung does with TouchWiz.

For this article I tried the iOS 4.3-based Apple iPad 2, the BlackBerry Tablet OS-based RIM BlackBerry PlayBook, and the Android 3.0-based Acer Iconia Tab A500, Motorola Xoom and T-Mobile G-Slate (currently only available in the US). I didn't have a final version of the WebOS-based HP TouchPad (due out this summer) for unlimited testing, but I was able to spend some time with a preproduction unit.

NEXT PAGE: The home screen

  1. What do others have that Apple's iPad lacks
  2. The home screen
  3. Mail
  4. Web
  5. Multimedia
  6. More multimedia
  7. Apps
  8. Hardware options