NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Tablets are going to be on a few gift lists this season, and it's Apple's ( AAPL) iPad that will be getting most of the ribbon-and-bow treatment.

There are, however a few challengers that may also end up under the tree, helping to keep Apple from collecting all the proceeds from the tablet giving season.

One would think that the market was teeming with tablets, given all the hype lately. But so far, the list of available tablets is short, though not unimpressive: Hewlett-Packard's ( HPQ) Slate, Amazon's ( AMZN) Kindle, Samsung's Galaxy Tab and the Apple iPad.
iPad

But it's the iPad, with 7.5 million sold so far, that's shaping up to be this year's netbook -- selling at more than twice the price. Let's face it, the iPad was not a flop. Not even close. About 80% of people planning to buy tablets intend to buy iPads, according to a ChangeWave survey of 3,108 people last month.

The WiFi-only version of the iPad starts at $500. The 3G version sells for $630 and can go as high as $830; that price does not include the additional data service plan.

AT&T ( T) offers a $15-a-month limited plan and larger $25-a-month offer. Verizon ( VZ) started selling the iPad last week as a bundle with a MiFi wireless hotspot device for $630 plus a data service that starts at $20 a month.

Here's how the other tablets stack up.

Hewlett-Packard Slate 500

Named for the price it should have carried, the Hewlett-Packard's $800 Slate 500 was introduced last month and is expected to be available in two weeks. The 8.9-inch touchscreen is aimed at business users.

Since this is the first of the touchscreen tablets to use Microsoft's ( MSFT) Windows 7, there are some questions about how well the new format will work. As for the hardware, the Slate is essentially a touchscreen netbook without the keyboard. According to the specs, it runs on Intel's ( INTC) 1.86-gigahertz Atom processor with 2 gigs of memory and a 64-gig flash-based solid state drive.

Other features include a 3-megapixel camera on the back and a forward-facing VGA camera for video calls. And in an odd nod to the PDA past, the Slate comes with a stylus and handwriting recognition software for note-taking.

Don't think of it as that sleek little media tablet your kids had in mind when they were putting together their lists for Santa. Instead, think of it as an electronic clipboard suited for field inventory managers, presentation screens for sales reps or an electronic chart folder for nurses and doctors.

Amazon Kindle 3G

The reigning king in the broadly-defined tablet market, and for good reason: people love it.

The positives:
  • The Kindle does one thing really well: read e-books
  • You can read the screen in daylight
  • You can surf the Net and Web-based e-mail at no additional cost
  • Price tag: $189
  • The negatives:
  • You can't watch videos
  • The basic browser is text only, no pictures
  • The screen is black and white
  • The big selling point of the Kindle, beyond the e-reader function, is that built into the price is a mobile Internet device that's always connected.

    Sure, it's a poor person's iPad. So if you need to flaunt your wealth, buy three of them -- that equals the price of the iPad.

    Samsung Galaxy Tab

    Ladies and gentleman, behold the iPad's top challenger.

    The Samsung Galaxy tablet is the beginning of an "avalanche" of cheaper, smaller tablets that sent Steve Jobs into an earnings call tirade last month.

    Jobs might have something to worry about, but probably not this year.

    Samsung's Galaxy Tab is a 7-inch Google ( GOOG) Android-powered touch-screen tablet first introduced to the media in September and scheduled to arrive at carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile next week.

    The telco route proved tricky for netbooks; the combination of cheap devices and expensive data service plans pretty much chilled the enthusiasm. But by going with T-Mobile, the Galaxy Tab's price is cut to $400 after subsidies, $100 below the iPad's starting price.

    It is an Android machine, and people have embraced the Google software in phones. The same kind of wait-and-see performance anxiety with Android may not be as high as it is say for Windows 7. And it does have front and rear-facing cameras, unlike the camera-less iPad.

    At $600, the Samsung tablet doesn't stand a chance against the iPad, but at $400, at least you've got some Christmas options.

    --Written by Scott Moritz in New York.

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