Apple: iPad Air ($499)
Alternative: Google Nexus 10/Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 ($399/$354)

There's no badmouthing the iPad air. It weighs all of a pound, is faster than any iPad produced to date, is perhaps the ideal video conferencing tablet and is just aesthetically pleasant.

It's also $499 for a 16-gigabyte version. Adherents argue that it's worth the premium, but the entire reason that Google's Nexus 10 and Amazon's HDX 8.9 have been competitive is because consumers strongly disagree -- and their points are valid.

Even Apple gives ASUS Nexus products the respect they deserve, with Tim Cook dragging the Nexus 7 on stage a few years ago to compare it to the iPad Mini. Steve Jobs wouldn't have brought an Android product on stage to spit on it.

That said, the Nexus 10 and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 each have responsive screens, fast performance and a broad array of available media through Amazon and Google Play. What gives them a slight leg up, however, is their displays. It's not Apple's Retina screen, but the Nexus and HDX screens are far more vibrant when playing video. Deride them as media toys all you'd like, but for non-business applications, that's basically a tablet's most valuable function.

Even for businesses, the Nexus and HDX aren't so appallingly inferior to the iPad Air to warrant an extra $100 to $150 per unit. This is a tighter race than the faceoffs we looked at earlier, but when money matters more than minutiae, the Google and Amazon tablets will win every time.

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