The 10 Coolest Tablets Of 2013

Not Your Average Slates

Speed, design and price pushed the envelope for tablets in 2013, helping the segment grow 54 percent compared to last year, according to IDC, and driving a nail deeper into the PC's coffin.

Intel's power-sipping Bay Trail processor helped change tablet user expectations, signaling to consumers that a tablet can be as brawny as its laptop cousin. Tablets shrunk in size and weight with Apple's iPad mini, which didn't skimp on features and included a high-end Retina Display.

On the innovative front, 2013 tablet prices dropped to under $50 for Datawind’s Ubislate 7Ci, an Android tablet aimed at bridging the digital divide in the U.S. and abroad. Amazon also innovated with its latest Kindle fire model, which included a Mayday button that gave owners one-touch access to live video one-on-one help desk support.

What follows is 2013's head-turning tablets that may not set the mobile market on edge, but helped 2013 shape up to be an intriguing year for slates.

Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1

Type: Ruggedized

What: Tablets are ending up in more rough-and-tumble places and Panasonic, which has been a leader in ruggedized gear, hasn't missed a beat with its latest offering. You'll have to dig deep for the Toughpad FZ-G1, but for the money Toughpad adheres to MIL-STD-810G and IP65, which features an Intel Core i5-3437U 1.9GHz dual-core vPro (Ivy Bridge) processor and a 10.1-inch, 1,920-x-1,200 pixel display lit by an 800-nit LED, making it easily seen in bright sunlight.

Standout Feature: Locks out dust, dirt, moisture and debris, and can survive drops and dings

Price: Starting at $2,900

iPad Air

Type: Premium

What: Apple, the standard bearer for tablets, updated its full-sized iPad Air model this year with a dual-core A7 chip, making it one of the fastest and most powerful tablets available this past year. The iPad Air also sports an impressive 9.7-inch Retina display, 1 GB of RAM and ships in either a 16-GB or 128-GB option.

Standout Feature: The Air weighs in at a hair close to 1 pound and features the richest app ecosystem available via Apple's App Store.

Price: Starting at $500

Dell Venue 8

Type: Budget

What: On the affordability front, notable standout Dell Venue 8 is a solid-performing, no-frills tablet running pure Android 4.3. The 7-inch tablet runs the respectable 2.0GHz dual-core Intel Atom processor, and ships with 2 GB DDR2 for fast web browsing, and includes a Micro-SD expansion port along with a micro-SIM slot for anywhere Internet access.

Standout Feature: HD display and sub-$200 price tag

Price: $180

Amazon Kindle Fire HDX (8.9-inch)

Type: Media Consumption

What: Amazon continued to push the media envelope with the Kindle Fire HDX media-centric tablet -- great for consuming Amazon Prime content and apps purchased through its Amazon content hub. But what made Amazon's new crop of Kindle HDX tablets game-changers is the edition of a Mayday button that gives owners one-touch access to live video one-on-one help desk support.

Standout Features: HD (2,560-x-1,600) display, Mayday button for free 24x7 support and 8MP rear-facing camera

Price: Starting at $380

Microsoft Surface Pro 2

Type: Work

What: Priced more than most laptops, the Surface Pro 2 matches most all the same features as a notebook. The tablet packs impressive specs, such as a 10.6-inch full-HD display, (Haswell) 1.6GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB or 8 GB of RAM, and hard drive options of 64 GB to 512 GB. Throw in a $120 Microsoft Touch Cover 2/ keyboard and you'll never need to lug your laptop around with you ever again.

Standout Features: Full Windows 8.1 OS and preinstalled copy of Office 2013

Price: Starting at $900

Ubislate 7Ci

Type: Bridge For Digital Divide

What: Datawind has won the race to the bottom of its sub-$50 Ubislate 7Ci tablet, an Android slate aimed at the estimated 15 percent of the U.S. market that can't afford to go online. Make no mistake, the features on this tablet are nothing to write home about. In fact, specs match that of a two-year-old smartphone. But for a tablet that's good enough to bridge the digital device here in the U.S. and abroad, who's complaining?

Standout Features: Low price

Price: $38

Panasonic Toughpad 4K UT-MB5

Type: Expensive/Luxury

What: You'll need to dig deep for Panasonic's over-the-top 20-inch Toughpad with a 4K display and a $6,000 price tag. The very big and sharp screen has a 3,840-x-2,560 pixel display, comparable to a very high-end LCDTV. Also included is the Windows 8.1 Pro OS, 256 GB of SSD storage, 8 GB RAM, a 1,280-x-720 pixel camera and Intel Core i5-3437U vPro processor with a Nvidia GeForce 745M GPU. The tablet weighs in at 5.3 pounds and has a two-hour battery life.

Standout Features: 20-inch 4K display

Price: $6,000

Apple iPad Mini With Retina Display

Type: Small

What: Since it launched, the iPad mini always has been considered the budget alternative to the full-featured 9.7-inch iPad. But Apple's latest rev to the iPad mini includes respectable specs, such as a 2,048-x-1,526-pixel Retina Display, Apple's 64-bit A7 system-on-chip, which packs two 1.3GHz ARMv8 application cores, along with a dedicated motion processor and dual-core PowerVR G6430 four-cluster GPU.

Standout Features: Shrunken-down version of the full-sized iPad Air for $100 less

Price: $400

ASUS Transformer Book T100

Type: Notebook Replacement

What: Priced aggressively, this tablet can easily do double duty as a notebook. Better yet, with Intel's power-sipping quad-core Bay Trail processor under the hood, you can squeeze 11 hours of battery life out of this tablet. The tablet has a 10.1-inch display, runs Windows 8.1 and includes a bundled copy of Office Home & Student 2013, making it an affordable option to boring sub-$400 notebooks.

Standout Features: Bay Trail processor that maximizes battery life without sacrificing performance and an included keyboard dock

Price: Starting at $350

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition)

Type: Stylus-Based Premium Android Tablet

What: For those that gravitate toward pen-based tablet use, the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) is a unique slate that offers advanced drawing and handwriting capabilities for saving scribbled notes or drawings. With the Note 10.1, Samsung has a number of pen-friendly features, including the S Note app allowing you to easily sync your missives and scribblings with business-friendly apps, such as Evernote, for later retrieval. Galaxy Note 10.1 sports a 2,560-by-1,600-pixel screen, and a 1.3GHz Quad-Core Exynos 5420 chip, an 8-megapixel rear camera (with LED flash) and a 2-megapixel front camera.

Standout Features: Stylus-friendly features including Air Command -- a menu of shortcuts that pop up whenever you remove the stylus from its pouch or hover it over the screen

Price: Starting at $550