Five Tablet Computers for Apple iPad Haters

BOSTON ( TheStreet) -- Amid all the frenzy over Apple's ( AAPL) iPad, it's easy to forget that tablet computers are not a Steve Jobs innovation.

During the past year, computer makers such as Dell ( DELL), Asus and Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ) have debuted new tablet computers, which combine the functions of a laptop with the convenience of a touch screen. At about an inch thick and 3 to 5 pounds, they're lighter than traditional laptops and easier to slip into a briefcase or backpack.

Will tablets become the next must-have gadget? It's too soon to tell. But if all the iSlate hype has you intrigued by a tablet's possibilities, here are other models to consider:

1. Dell Latitude XT2

Size: 11.7 inches by 8.7 inches

Price: $2,423

Pros: It's like two devices in one. When Dell's Latitude is in laptop mode, you can type documents and e-mails on its full-size keyboard. If you swivel the 12.1-inch screen, you can fold it flat and scribble notes on the surface. "Multitouch" technology makes it easy to scroll through text or rotate pictures by tapping or pinching the screen. High-tech bonus: There's a fingerprint reader for added security.

Cons: With all these bells and whistles, heavy users will need to upgrade the battery and probably the memory. It's also more expensive than other tablets.

2. Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet

Size: 11.6 inches by 10.1 inches

Price: $1,879

Pros: Although it offers many of the same features as the Dell Latitude XT2, it's significantly cheaper. Like the Latitude, it has a swiveling 12.1-inch screen that allows it to convert from a laptop to a tablet. Lenovo's "palm-rejection technology" makes sure the weight of your hand doesn't register when you're writing on the screen. While the standard model has some touch screen capabilities, you can upgrade to a multitouch panel, which registers two-fingered gestures to pan, zoom, rotate and right click. The "elite" model of the ThinkPad X200, which costs $300 more, features a special screen that can be used in direct sunlight. Like the Dell Latitude, you can boost its security with a fingerprint reader.

Cons: Controlling the curser may take some adjustment for users who are new to Lenovo, whose computers use a "TrackPoint" stick rather than the popular touchpad. As with other tablets, heavy users will probably want to upgrade the battery and system memory, making the Lenovo less of a bargain.

3. HP TouchSmart tm2

Size: 11.9 inches by 8.7 inches

Price: $949.99

Pros: Hewlett-Packard's TouchSmart has the same flip-down display and writeable 12.1-inch screen as other tablet computers, but it shines when it comes to entertainment. A custom touch interface allows quick access to content through Hulu and Netflix. With a few taps of your fingers, you can watch a movie or create your own slideshow. H-P's "BumpTop" interface scatters extra large icons on the screen to create a 3-D desktop, so you can move photos from folders to Facebook. You can even write virtual "sticky notes" and post them on the screen.

Cons: Built more for pleasure than business, the TouchSmart makes it easy to spend the day on Twitter rather than working. An engraved illustration on the aluminum chassis also gives it a less professional look than other models.

4. Amazon Kindle DX

Size: 10.4 inches by 7.2 inches

Price: $489

Pros: Although the larger Amazon ( AMZN) Kindle's size is comparable to those of other tablets, it's significantly lighter, weighing slightly more than a pound. The Kindle is clearly the winner when it comes to presenting text on its 9.7-inch screen. The device is easy to use and ready to go right out of the box. And you don't need a wireless account because Amazon covers the connection charge for Kindle users.

Cons: An electronic reader offers a fraction of the features of a laptop computer. Although the Kindle allows users to access Web sites with minimal graphics, such as Google and Wikipedia, its browsing capability is limited. And forget watching TV or movies. For now, the Kindle is strictly black-and-white and text-only.

5. Asus Eee PC T91

Size: 8.9 inches by 6.4 inches

Price: $455 to $549

Pros: Asus has been a pioneer of netbooks, small computers that are less powerful but more portable than laptops. This netbook tablet has all the expected features, including a fold-flat display and a 8.9-inch touch screen, at a very affordable price.

Cons: As with any netbook, the Asus Eee has a smaller-than-average keyboard. The small screen also makes touch errors more likely. An integrated three-cell battery means you can't extend its run time by upgrading. But the most significant disadvantage is that Asus hasn't been able to launch its Windows 7 version, which may arrive later this year.

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-- Reported by Elizabeth Blackwell in Chicago.
Elizabeth Blackwell is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She is the author of Frommer's Chicago guidebook, and writes for the Wall Street Journal, Chicago, and other national magazines.