If we'd published this guide a year ago, it would've simply said this: ‘buy an iPad'. Apple's iconic tablet was practically unchallenged for its first year of life, with only the Dell Streak and Samsung Galaxy Tab proving worthy Android alternatives. However, while a flood of cheap and nasty devices continues to be churned out, the past twelve months have seen some excellent devices emerge, clashing with Apple's own new masterpiece - the iPad 2.
Apple iPad 2 - nice
Each competitor has its own strengths and weaknesses, so which one is best for you? Well, that depends on your own personal needs. What are you actually going to use your shiny new slate for? The odd bit of browsing from the comfort of your bed or sofa? Or maybe bashing out business emails and showing off your company website? Once you've decided, let us take you by the hand (in a strictly platonic way) and show you your perfect portable pal.
The lazy surfer
If all you want is to browse your favourite websites when you're lounging around your home, you'll only need a basic device. Performance isn't an issue, but you'll want a tablet with a sharp and responsive screen. Android Honeycomb is a good OS option as the browser supports multiple tabs and video streaming from websites such as BBC iPlayer, so we'd recommend an older device like the Motorola Xoom. Shop around for good deals - prices should be dropping now that the next tablet generation is emerging.
The media fiend
You love movies and want to watch the latest blockbusters, wherever you roam. If you want HD quality you'll need a reasonably powerful tablet, and a sharp and vibrant display to make the most of the stunning visuals. The iPad 2, Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, Sony Tablet S and Motorola Xoom 2 Media Edition all boast excellent screens for films. Aim for as much storage space as possible to carry around a sizeable collection, while a memory card slot gives you room for expansion. The Tablet S and Xoom 2 ME can stream video from your home PC and the excellent Netflix app allows subscribers to watch movies online.
The bored commuter
You're stuck on trains, tubes and buses for two hours a day, and need some distraction from the seemingly endless torment of delays, signal failures and sweaty, spluttering idiots invading your personal space. You'll want a strong all-round device to entertain you no matter what your mood. The iPad 2 is a sound investment as you can play games, watch movies, read Kindle books and lose yourself in endless apps. Strong battery life means you won't lose power halfway home either. Grab the 3G model if you want to get online at any time, which will also cost you the price of a monthly data contract.
If you already own a smartphone and have spent vast fortunes on apps, you're best off buying a compatible tablet. We're sure that iPhone users need no convincing to buy an iPad 2, but Android users have a much broader choice. Opt for a slate that's running Ice Cream Sandwich (or that's been marked for upgrade), as it'll be compatible with the very latest apps for a while to come. Examples include the Asus Transformer and Acer's Iconia Tab A200.
The mobile suit
If your work takes you on the road a lot, you'll need a device for staying in touch with colleagues and working on those marvellous spreadsheets. You'll have to splash out almost a grand for the latest ultrabooks, but tablets cost half as much and are highly portable. The BlackBerry Playbook syncs with your phone if you have one of RIM's handsets, and comes with an excellent range of business apps. We love Asus' Transformer Prime and Slider tablets too, with physical keyboards for bashing out lengthy emails. A mini-HDMI slot can be used to attach a projector or TV for presentations.