Best Tablet 2011: 8th Pocket-lint Awards contenders

With the arrival of the iPad came a sinking feeling amongst the tech competition. Is Apple going to do it again? Are they going to invent a new device we have to play catch up with for two years? Not this time they thought as every manufacturer scrambled to splurge out as many tablets as it could.

Along came Honeycomb and dual-core devices, with things like Tegra 2 and a rapid release schedule eventually putting Android ahead of Apple in the power stakes. The iPad 2 then brought the big A back up to speed and everyone could rest easy in Cupertino. Now as we approach the end of 2011, murmurs can be heard of things like Kal-El and quad-core with Ice Cream Sandwich, the new version of Android, top of the agenda for most people. Picking the best isn't easy but we've cooked up a few suggestions for you to get nominating for Best Tablet 2011 in the 8th Pocket-lint Awards.

Premium

What a year 2011 was for tablets, thanks mainly to such fierce competition between Apple and everyone else. It led to some real blinders and a few surprises along the way.

We can't really mention the words premium without uttering the phrase iPad 2. The fanboy's favourite, who can really argue with all that brushed aluminium, a beautiful IPS display and now all the fun of iOS 5 to enjoy? It was the tablet to beat in 2011 and, better still, it came in white ... oooh lovely white electronics.

 

Fighting a battle with the iPad 2, both in the court room and on the high street, was Samsung with its Galaxy Tab 10.1. Slick, super thin and with a back as tactile and textured as whatever the tasteful version of stone cladding is, it was an Android favourite. It also had a rather superb spec sheet - something of a tradition for Samsung - with stuff like 1GB of RAM and a 1GHz Tegra 2 processor. 

We mustn't forget, of course, the Honeycomb tablet that started it all, the Motorola Xoom. Sure it came with a build of Android that felt very much like a beta, but the hardware was spot on. Moto also managed to pack enough specs in there for it still not to feel too sluggish now, even against the new Xoom 2 which has just been announced. 

Sony finally jumped on the tablet bandwagon towards the end of 2011 with a pair of unusually shaped beauties. The magazine-styled Tablet S confused Pocket-lint with some rather bizarre memory management choices but ultimately got away with it thanks to its design which separated it from the usual crowd of black plastic slabs. The other interesting Sony offering came in the form of the Tablet P which behaved slightly like a Nintendo DS in its split screen approach to life. We hadn't before seen Android managed via dual displays nor such a sharp 1024 x 960 resolution on just a 5.5-inch display. 

Budget

2011 proved that you didn't need to be a banker who banked all day to be able to own a tablet. Value for money Android offerings meant that cheap didn't have to equate to crap and a few affordable surprises threw even the most cynical of tech lovers. 

The first of these was without doubt the Asus EeePad Transformer. Some clever design meant that the Transformer gave off the illusion of being slimmer than the Xoom, its then competition. The real meat of the Transformer package however was its ability to dock with a keyboard peripheral, transforming it into a netbook style Android powered PC. It could even close down like a netbook, protecting the screen from damage in your bag. 

Acer wandered into the Android club with its Iconia Tab A500. Sure it wasn't the best dressed, bearing a fair few design issues, but it was cheap and chugged along smoothly and who can argue with that. 

Although not exactly as exciting as the rest of the year's offerings, we do need to mention the Dell Inspiron Duo. Sure it ran Windows 7 and had a rather flimsy looking screen, but you could spin the display like a helicopter and this is something we definitely enjoyed. 

Small Size

A tablet doesn't need to be over 10 inches in order to matter. Sure, some might have size issues, but remember it's width that counts. Thankfully then the smaller tablets also tended to be super thin. 

First up on the tiny scales was the BlackBerry PlayBook. Beautifully put together, compact enough to be carried around anywhere and boasting serious media flexibility, it was almost a corker from BlackBerry. Sadly the tablet was let down by a lack of proper email support (from a BlackBerry!) and no 3G connectivity. 

Samsung wasn't happy with releasing just the one tablet in 2011, it added the both the Galaxy Tab 7.7 and 8.9 to its line up. Both superb and with screens to match, our brief playtime with the tablets left us wanting to know more. 

Last, and in many ways least, was the HTC Flyer. We all expected the Android giant to enter into the tablet game in 2011 but not with something lacking Honeycomb and sporting a stylus. The cynics amongst us however had to swallow our pride when we got our hands on one and it all started making sense. Think oversized iPod Touch but for the Android fan, we became converts to its charms rather quickly but what do you think

Have we missed anything? What would you liked to nominate for Best Tablet 2011? Let us know in the comments below.