Brian Cooley, CNET Editor At Large

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Not since the iPad arrived has there been such an explosion of new tablet tech to choose from.

READ MORE: Man Who Spent 46 Years In Prison Wrongly Convicted of San Francisco Rape, Murder Finally Exonerated

The tablet market is splintering and that’s a good thing. It means tablets are gaining mainstream success and are not just an expensive luxury good, which it could be argued is the position staked out by the full-sized iPad and its direct competitors.

Here are three new branches of the tablets tree and why you would consider them:

Smaller tablets: These include the Google Nexus 7 and the iPad Mini. They are much less of a commitment in terms of cost or carriage. Being able to put something in a pocket or any space you have makes a big difference how livable it is. They also cost less, though the iPad Mini’s starting price of $329 is still steep. Others in this category cost around $200 and do basically everything a full sized iPad does, just a little smaller.

READ MORE: Massive Caldor Fire 100% Contained After Threatening Lake Tahoe Region

Microsoft tablets: Microsoft has just launched its Surface tablet and its not just a copycat of the iPad. Surface runs various versions of Windows 8, which allows it to be much more of a laptop replacement tablet. Surface comes with Word, Excel and other Office programs installed in a desktop interface, or you can use it like a regular touchscreen media tablet. And Surface supports a mouse. In a few months there will be a version that also lets you install all your PC software, not just apps. It’s an interesting argument for finally getting rid of your laptop. Starts at $599 for 32GB and a keyboard cover.

Phablets: These are phones so big they can be considered mini-tablets. For people who want to carry the least number of devices and have a screen that feels generally large, the Galaxy Note II is a good candidate. It also has an interesting pen stylus as well as a touchscreen. $299 with activation through a wireless carrier.


(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

MORE NEWS: Two Unhoused Men Shot, One Dies in East Oakland