By the end of the year, research firm eMarketer estimates that tablet sales will nearly triple, from about 16 million in 2010 to 43 million in 2011. Apple is expected to win over most of the market, but a growing number of rivals will be hot on its heels.
"This is the year of the tablet," said Lance Ulanoff, editor-in-chief of PCMag.com.
While the devices may have been "incubating" last year, this is really the year that they will hit the market in full force, he said.
The recently-announced iPad 2 may be a very tempting option, but a number of interesting competitors are on the horizon.
"So much is coming out in the next four to five months, it might actually be worth stepping back and waiting," he said. "See what the iPad 2 is like, start to look around. ... You can touch them and make a considered choice."
Most of Apple's biggest rivals won't go on sale for a few months, but while you wait to test them out you can read about five below.
Just released this week, Motorola's Xoom is widely considered to be the iPad's closest rival. It's the first tablet to use Google's Honeycomb Android operating system and early reviews say the tablet is impressive.
With a 10.1-inch screen, it's slightly bigger than Apple's tablet and, at 1.6 pounds, it's slightly heavier than the 1.3-pound iPad 2. It includes a front-facing Web cam for video chatting as well as a 5-megapixel camera for picture-taking.
The Xoom can be used for gaming, Web surfing, reading, movie-watching, video editing and social networking. Similar to the iPad, the battery can handle about nine hours of browsing over a 3G network and 10 hours over Wi-Fi.
Though it shares many of the iPad's features, the Xoom has its advantages. It supports Adobe Flash, it includes a USB connectivity port and (if you're willing to mail your device to Motorola and part with it for six days) Motorola and Verizon are offering a free upgrade to Verizon's high-speed 4G LTE network.
Cost: $599.99 for a 3G-enabled device from Verizon Wireless with two-year contract; $799.99 for a 3G-enabled device without a plan; Wi-Fi-only version to be offered later at a price to be determined.
Availability: On sale now.
When the Galaxy Tab hit the market last November, it launched to rave reviews.
The 7-inch touch screen tablet runs off Google's Android system, is 13.4 oz. and has a battery that supports seven hours of continuous video playback time. It includes front- and rear-facing cameras and supports 3G, Wi-Fi and BlueTooth connectivity. The Galaxy Tab can record video, play music and video and be used for a wide range of activities (Web surfing, gaming, social networking, e-mailing, etc.).
The smaller screen may be a drawback for some, but at a mobile conference in February, Samsung demonstrated a 10.1-inch version of the Galaxy Tab that weighs in around 1.3 pounds.
The company did not say when it would be available in the U.S. or what it would cost.
Cost: $299 for 7-inch Galaxy Tab with no contract; $299 for 7-inch Galaxy Tab with a two-year contract with Verizon or Sprint; $199 for 7-inch Galaxy Tab with a two-year contract and mail-in rebate from T-Mobile.
Availability: On sale now. (7-inch device only)