Consumer Confusion Part 2: Tablet computers

Consumer Confusion Part 1: Which tablet should you buy?

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho - Tablets are always popular, but throw in the holidays and they are a hot-ticket item. But there are so many of them, how do you pick?

"I see a lot more people getting these," said Shea Sparks, electronics specialist at Best Buy.

But why the attraction of a tablet?

"It's more convenient to carry around, more portable," said Sparks.

How does he help a customer find the best tablet to fit their needs?

"Honestly, it depends on what they want to do. Some people are getting tablets more for reading or you've got the people that want it as close as you can get to a laptop or desktop."

Let's compare the five most popular sellers right now: The Apple iPad mini, Google Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HD, the Nook HD from Barnes and Noble, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.

The iPad mini and the Galaxy Tab are more computer-like. The Kindle HD and the Nook HD are obviously e-readers. The Google Nexus 7 tries to fall in the middle as both.

To keep this equal, these are all 7-inch color tablets. They are all 16GB, though the Galaxy Tab 2 is expandable.

Using the company specs sheets from each tablet, here are the categories we will compare: display, battery and charger, weight, camera, and of course, cost.

It should be no surprise that we find the best display in the Nook HD. It's an e-reader with 1440 x 900 resolution. Point to Nook.

The best battery life is found in the Kindle Fire HD with 11 hours. Point to Kindle Fire HD. As for the charger, you should know all of these will charge on any micro USB cable except the iPad mini, you have to use the Apple specific cable.

Next up is weight. The lightest is the iPad mini at .68 of a pound. Point to iPad mini.

Which has the best camera? The iPad mini and the Galaxy Tab 2 both have a front and rear camera, but the mini has higher mega-pixels with a 1.2 on the front and a 5.0 on the rear. Point, iPad mini. You should know the Nook HD has no camera.

Lastly, probably the most considered category, cost. The Google Nexus 7 and the Kindle Fire HD are both $199. Apple is the most expensive.

All of these tablets have access to apps, but Google has the most, reaching 700,000 available apps last Thursday. Apple has more than a million apps submitted, 250,000 are iPad-specific.

"I think Apple definitely has a bigger fan base," said Sparks.

After tallying our points and considering the available apps, here are the rankings. Best tablet: Apple iPad mini, followed by Kindle Fire HD, Google Nexus 7, Nook HD, and finally the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2.

"I am the happy owner of an iPad," said Sparks. "I absolutely love it. Oh yeah!"

Which one is the most popular sales wise?

"It would probably be the iPad, yeah," said Sparks.

The 16GB Wi-Fi-only iPad mini retails for $329.

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