The Five Coolest Tablet PCs Of 2011

The Year Of The Tablet PC

The iPad may have arrived in 2010, but the tablet market didn't reach its fever pitch until this year when top manufacturers flooded the market with dozens of devices. Whether they ran Android, iOS or Windows -- or were called slates, tabs, or "pads" -- tablets of various sizes, styles and functionality were everywhere in 2011. While many didn't live long enough to see 2012 (HP's TouchPad and Dell's Streak, to name two), there were some standout devices. Here's a look at five of the best tablet pcs to arrive this year.

5. Toshiba Thrive

The Toshiba Thrive was one of the more distinguished Android tablets to debut. Toshiba's 10.1-inch tablet has a lot of familiar features, such as Nvidia's Tegra 2 mobile processor, Android 3.2.1 (Honeycomb), two Webcams (2 MP in the front, 5 MP in the back), and up to 32 GB of storage.

But the Thrive has two things that help it stand out from other competing tablets. First, the device has a "slip-resistant" rubberized back that makes the tablet easy to grip. Second and more importantly, the Thrive has a rich array of media ports: USB 2.0, mini-USB, SD card and HDMI ports. This kind of media support is scarce in the tablet world. The Toshiba Thrive starts at $379.99.

4. Viewsonic ViewPad 10

Can't decide between Windows or Android for your tablet? Don't worry -- Viewsonic has you covered. The display company developed a nifty device with its ViewPad 10 tablet, which carries both Windows 7 and Android 2.2 and allows users to easily switch between the two operating systems.

And with Viewsonic being a display expert, the ViewPad's screen is crisp and clear. The ViewPad 10 also comes with an integrated Webcam, an SD card slot and two USB ports. Powered by Intel's "Pine Trail" Atom processor, Viewsonic's tablet carries up to 32 GB of storage. The ViewPad 10 starts at $699.99 for the dual OS version and $560.99 for the Windows 7-only version.

3. Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

The Lenovo ThinkPad tablet is a worthy entry to the company's vaunted business-class notebook brand. The 10.1-inch tablet features the Android 3.1 Honeycomb OS, Nvidia's Tegra 2 dual core processor, and up to 64 GB of storage. There are also plenty of ports: USB 2.0, micro-USB, SD card, and mini-HDMI.

The ThinkPad Tablet has a few unique features, too. The device comes with a digital pen and some strong pre-loaded apps for security and office productivity that are a far cry from the "bloatware" we're accustomed to seeing on new desktop and laptop PCs. And perhaps best of all, Lenovo customized the Android GUI to make it easier to navigate. The ThinkPad tablet starts at $499.

2. Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

If there's been one non-Apple tablet that's emerged as a strong competitor to the iPad, then it's probably Samsung's Galaxy Tab. The full-sized version of Samsung's Android tablet comes with a 10.1-inch full HD display, Nvidia's Tegra 2 processor and up to 64 GB of storage and 1 GB of RAM. There's also a 8-MP Webcam on the back of the device and a 2-MP Webcam on the font.

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has won accolades for it sleek and easy-t0-handle case design, lightweight form factor and strong battery life. Samsung's Social Hub feature also allows users to easily integrate their email, IM and SNS communications. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 starts at $499.99.

1. Apple iPad 2

When it comes to tablets, Apple is still king of the hill. The company introduced its second-generation iPad this year, and it's an upgrade from the original iPad in just about every way. The iPad 2 comes with a new chip, the dual core A5 chip based on ARM's Cortex-A9 architecture, which Apple says is twice as powerful as the previous chip and can be adjusted to save battery life.

The iPad 2 also doubled the RAM (512 MB) of the original iPad, adds two Webcams, and features a thinner and lighter case. And it still has the sturdy, user-friendly Apple iOS and a tremendous ecosystem of mobile apps. The iPad 2 starts at $499.