Top tablets for back to work and back to school

As the days of summer wane, thoughts turn to getting your work done. Here are the tablets that practically do the job for you

the best tablets
Fall for these tablets this fall

For many people, a tablet can replace a PC. For many more, it's a great supplemental device that provides Web, email, messaging, news, books, music, movies, and apps from office productivity to gaming almost anywhere you happen to be.

We've selected the best tablets for both business pros and students of all ages in the following pages. Stay up to date on the best business tablets at InfoWorld's tablet comparator, where you can adjust the criteria to see which tablets fit your needs best.

Apple iPad
Credit: Apple
Apple iPad

There is simply no better tablet than the Apple iPad. Its iOS operating system is the most intuitive, and its selection of apps beats everyone else's. Plus, connectivity via iCloud and optional cellular help the iPad easily fit into to home and work collaborative environments.

Prices range from $500 to $830 for the third-gen iPad, depending on storage capacity and cellular options, but if you don't need a lot of disk space, consider the iPad instead ($400 to $530).

Read InfoWorld's review of the third-gen iPad.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
Credit: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

The new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is the best Android tablet, based on InfoWorld's reviews. Samsung has augmented the ease of use in Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" with motion-activated controls such as for games and easier setup to common services. But the big differentiator is its support for pen computing, based on the technology introduced in the 5-inch Note "phablet" smartphone, so you can draw visual notes and doodles, annotate images, and even enter text via handwriting recognition. Plus, the actual tablet is very nicely designed.

The 16GB model costs $500 and the 32GB model costs $550. Both are Wi-Fi-only, though cellular versions may be released later.

Read InfoWorld's review of the Galaxy Note 10.1.

Samsung Galaxy Tab 2
Credit: Samsung
Samsung Galaxy Tab 2

Its sleek design and support for Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" makes the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 a great casual tablet that can connect into business environments. The $399 Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 is limited to 16GB of storage and Wi-Fi connectivity, so it's not as handy for travelers or as a laptop replacement.

For entertainment-focused use, consider the more portable Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, which has a 7-inch screen rather than the usual 10-inch display. Its smaller screen is better suited for gaming, email, book reading, and light Web surfing than for day-to-day work. The 16GB version costs $350, and the 32GB version costs $450. Verizon Wireless offers a cellular version for $350.

Read InfoWorld's review of the Galaxy Tab 2 series.

Motorola Mobility Xyboard 10.1/Xoom 2
Credit: Motorola Mobility
Motorola Mobility Xyboard/Xoom 2

As a business tablet, the Xyboard 10.1 (known as the Xoom 2 in some countries) is a good choice thanks to its IT-oriented security and management capabiltiies and ability to print (a rarity in the Android world). Like the Samsung Galaxy Tab, storage is limited to 16GB and connectivity is limited to Wi-Fi. The $500 Xyboard/Xoom 2 ships with the older Android 3.2 "Honeycomb," but an "Ice Cream Sandwich" upgrade is promised.

Read InfoWorld's review of the Xyboard 10.1.

Google Nexus 7
Credit: Google
Google Nexus 7

The talk of the Android community earlier this summer, the Nexus 7 is the first tablet to run Android 4.1 "Jelly Bean," and it sports a custom user interface optimized for Google's media and enertainment services. Under that entertainment layer, you'll find the full Android environment for both business and personal tasks.

Made by Asus for Google, the tablet has a small, 7-inch screen, along with just 16GB of storage and only Wi-Fi connectivity. But it far surpasses Amazon.com's Kindle Fire -- its closest competitor -- in terms of horsepower and capability. The 8GB model costs $200, and the 16GB model costs $250.

Read InfoWorld's review of the Google Nexus 7.

Asus Transformer Prime TF201
Credit: Asus
Asus Transformer Prime TF201

Many people fear tablets' onscreen keyboards. Sure, you can buy a Bluetooth keyboard to avoid typing on the screen, but Asus' Transformer goes one step further and includes a detachable keyboard in what can only be described as a lightweight laptop.

The $500 tablet runs Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich," so it's compatible with many business environments. The tablet connects only via Wi-Fi, but it ships with a comfortable 32GB of storage; with memory cards, it can go up to 64GB.

Sony Tablet S
Credit: Sony
Sony Tablet S

Sony's Tablet S features a slightly smaller screen than most -- 9.4 inches versus 10.1 -- and its Android 3.2 "Honeycomb" version can't satisfy many businesses' security and management standards. But that's OK: The Tablet S is really aimed at home users and students. It comes with premium speakers and access to Sony's online music library -- definitely a student focus. The 16GB version costs $400, and the 32GB version costs $500.

Acer Iconia Tab A series
Credit: Acer
Acer Iconia Tab A series

Acer's Iconia Tab A series are well-liked tablets, with good performance and nice screens. The A510 and A700 models have few differences, though the A700 takes a slight edge in speed. All offer Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich" with only Wi-Fi connectivity. You get 32GB of storage for $430 to $450.