Tablet computing has exploded the last couple of years. Apple's iPod revolutionised tablet computing and truly brought it to the mass consumer market. Prior to this, it was the reserve of certain professionals running tablet editions of various Windows operating systems. In this article we are going to have a look at the very best android tablets for 2012, from ones which are already launched to ones that should be launched by the end of the year. For the purposes of this article I am defining a tablet as something with screen size over 7 inches, which will exclude devices such as Samsung's 5-inch Galaxy Note.

Google Nexus tablet

The Google Nexus tablet has yet to be announced but maybe one of the most eagerly anticipated tablets of the year. It's likely to be Google branded product made by Asus with Nvidia Tegra 3 chips. Likely to have a 7 inch screen size with a resolution of 1280 x 768, the device will be smaller than Apple's current iPad and more similar to existing tablets such as the Galaxy Tab. It's highly likely that this device would finally bring an Android-based alternative to applications such as Apple’s Siri voice assistant, and the latest version of Google Android–likely to be called Jelly Bean. It is also likely to cost a lot less than Apple's offerings, it is expected to retail between $200 and $250, with a more basic offering of built-in 8/16 GB storage with microSD card slot. This tablet could finally create highly successful mass-market Android tablets and should be a great deal when/if it goes on sale.

Samsung Galaxy tab

The Samsung Galaxy Tab, now in its 2nd generation, consists of 10.1 inch, 8.9 inch and 7.7-inch tablets running a variety of different specifications. Looking at the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, it features a 1 GHz dual core Tegra 2 processor with up to 64 GB flash memory with 1 GB RAM. The screen is a 1280 x 800 pixel display with a 10.1-inch diagonal size. It's one of the more popular Android tablets currently on sale and its other sized brethren mean that there will be a Galaxy Tab for which ever form factor you want.

HTC Jetstream

The HTC Jetstream is the Android based tablet offering from the great phone company. Its very similar to the Galaxy Tab, and HTC also offers tablets of different sizes. It runs the latest version of Android, packs 4G LTE and comes with a pen to try and make the user interface more fluid. It has a 1.5Ghz dual core processor but only has up to 32GB of onboard storage, although it does support microSD cards up to 32GB.

ASUS Tablet – the Transformer Prime

ASUS also do a range of tablets, as well as probably manufacturing Google’s upcoming Nexus tablet. The best of these are the Transformer Prime, a netbook/ tablet hybrid. The specifications of this machine are high including a great screen and graphics – but its unique selling point is its keyboard that you can connect the tablet to. The keyboard dock makes the tablet into a netbook, as well as increasing the battery life with its built in battery. It's a great tablet but its much better if you need something to play with as well as work with – ideal for students wanting something light to use in lectures.

Which Android tablets should you buy?

I have named what I think are the three main tablets (or at least – brands of tablets) that I feel you should look at this year.  The Samsung Galaxy Tab, ASUS Transformer Prime and the HTC Jetstream are already launched, but the Google Nexus tablet isn’t even official yet. If I had to buy a tablet now it would come from Samsung, as I think its are some of the best. HTC and ASUS also have some great offerings – but they seem more niche focused than Samsung’s. Getting a good deal on an Android tablet shouldn't be a problem, the competition in the marketplace means stores are always in competition, as are the manufacturers. Look around on web stores such as Amazon to look for the best tablet deals and offers, and you should also be able to get pre-orders for the latest products as well.

Which is your favorite Android tablet? How do you get the best deals or offers? Would you only consider buying an Apple iPad? Feel free to leave a comment below.