If you are in the market for a new tablet computer such as the Apple iPad or Blackberry Playbook, you’ll need to consider multiple things before making your purchase. While the Apple iPad is often touted as the clear winner in tablet computers it is also one of the most expensive and there are multiple tablet PC companies. 


Since nearly all tablet computers do pretty much the same things (music, video, email, chat, games, productivity) this article will focus a little more on the key differences to help you choose the best tablet for your budget and personal preferences. 


Before you read on consider if you even need a tablet computer. They are sleek, fast, and on the cutting edge of technology but if you already have a laptop computer or already have the latest smartphone you might not find tablets like iPads to be that useful. But if you already know you need one, read on...


 Since nearly all tablets do the same core things, although some a little better than others, your final decision may come down to cost. First determine how much you are looking to spend and compare devices within these price ranges. 


$500 or more:


At this high price point you’ll clearly want to go with the latest generation of the Apple iPad line. There simply is no competitor at this high price point that will beat the combination of features, style, display, and overall quality. 


However the Motorola Xoom starts at the same price as the latest iPads at around $499.99 but it’s chunky design and open source OS are more of a hinderance than an asset. But if you are a fan of the Google Android OS and already own an Android phone, this might be a familiar and functional platform for you to use. 


So at $500 and up you have the Motorola Xoom and the latest Apple iPad. One major selling point for the iPad is the massive App Store that allows you to download everything from music and movies to games and software right to the iPad. If you already own another Apple device the syncing between Apple devices is nearly seamless and keeps all your data readily available on any of your Apple devices. 


One major caveat for the iPad is the lack of Adobe Flash support which means many videos, games, and websites are not accessible on the iPad.

 Apple iPad that can be engraved.Credit: By Encryptedruler (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

$300 to $500:


This is where it gets a little tricky. Apple offers the previous generation of the iPad for around $399 new making it cheaper than the newest Xoom but more costly than the next competitors in Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Blackberry’s Playbook. 


At this range you can buy a higher capacity Blackberry Playbook than the same priced iPad so if on board storage is important, the Playbook might be worth it at  higher storage capacities. 


Again if you need Flash support, the Playbook, Xoom, or Kindle will be a better choice and save you some money if you skip the iPad and Xoom at this price range. 


$100 to $300


Unless you buy old generation and used, you won’t find any new Apple tablet computers in this price range for a while. You will however find the entry level Blackberry Playbook at just $199 new and the latest Amazon Kindle Fire for the same price. Adding storage will increase the price a bit. 


The Kindle Fire runs on a souped up Android Fire while the Playbook runs on Research in Motion’s specifically designed OS 10 mobile software. One note about the Fire over the Playbook to consider is that being an Amazon item, you’ll have access to many, many media forms for instant download like books, movies, and music. However Playbook users benefit from the ability to pair their Blackberry phone with the Playbook and can even use the phone’s network signal to browse the internet on the tablet itself. 


Bottom line: If you are a Blackberry user anyway and don’t want to spend $399 or more for an iPad, the Playbook is the best bet in this price range. If you like Amazon’s integration with Amazon’s online store and enjoy reading and watching movies on your tablet, the Fire might be the better choice.


You really won’t find anything below the $150 mark worth buying. And overall your decision will come down to cost and which tablet in your price range offers the best value for your needs. 


For example people who already use products inside the Apple ecosystem will find unmatched syncing, organizational tools, and seamlessness between all their devices including the iPad.


For those already using Research in Motion Blackberry phones, the revised Blackberry Playbook practically needs a Blackberry smartphone to be full featured. So if you already have a Blackberry phone, the Playbook is a natural fit. 


Amazon shoppers might like the Kindle for it’s low price point and built in access to one of the largest digital marketplaces in the world. Amazon changed e-readers with the original Kindle and so old Kindle users will find a natural simplicity with the Kindle Fire. 


Motorola’s Xoom doesn’t really fit into any preexisting market of users. But if you already use and enjoy Android smartphones, the Xoom is a natural progression from phone to tablet. It also works well with other Google products like Gmail and YouTube. Note that the Xoom is the most expensive tablet available besides the newest iPads. 


In the end these four tablets are the best for the money out there. If you can afford the iPad and don’t rely heavily on Flash based sites and content it is the best tablet money can buy. The other three offer compelling (and often cheaper) reasons that may or may not fit in with your digital needs. The best tablet computer is the one that matches your own needs and they may be slightly different than the Apple user’s or the Blackberry businessman’s needs.