Engadget's summer gear guide 2012: tablets

In the interest of keeping cool this summer, we've put together a list of the hottest products out right now. From smartphones to e-readers and everything in between, there's no time like the present to re-up that post-spring-cleaning stash. So grab a popsicle or a cold one and dive in -- the water's just right.

Engadget's summer gear guide 2012 tablets

We'll call it -- in 10 years' time, tablets are gonna make desktops and laptops niche products. In the three years since the iPad fell from the sky, these humble devices have become ideal ways to surf the internet, play games, and, most importantly, create. Here's three of the best for you to enjoy over the summer, with the notable exception of the Galaxy Note 10.1. We're excited to see the stylus-centric slate in action, but it's still not ready for primetime, so we have to hope it's here before the new school term. Read on past the break to take a look at our current warm weather selections.

Editors' Choice

Apple iPad (2012)

Engadget's summer gear guide 2012 tablets

Consistently raising the bar for the rest of the world to follow, Cupertino's slate is the unsurprising choice for No. 1. Beating rivals both in user experience and specifications, the 2012 model is the first that hasn't felt like a luxury purchase. We've seen people using the 5-megapixel camera in place of a point-and-shoot, the Retina display has to be seen to be believed and it's ideal for photos, video and working on the go. Legendary build quality, elegant design and user-friendly software mean it remains our default choice -- deservedly so.

Price: $500-$700 at Apple

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Engadget's summer gear guide 2012 tablets

ASUS Transformer Pad TF300

ASUS' adherence to the three Ps (Power, Performance and Price) enabled the company to produce a budget version of its Transformer Prime that really doesn't make too many compromises. Powerful Tegra 3 internals and 8-hour battery life impress, while the keyboard dock adds four hours of extra power, a USB 2.0 port and an SD card slot -- although a word of warning, it's not comfortable enough to help you finish that term paper. Best of all, while the feted (if sometimes troubled) Transformer Prime costs a hefty $650 (dock incl.), the Transformer Pad is a much more reasonable $400.

Price: $400 at Amazon

Engadget's summer gear guide 2012 tablets

Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7

If you're waiting for the 10-inch Note to arrive, then might we suggest the equally impressive (if not stylus-friendly) Galaxy Tab 7.7? It's not cheap, but inside that slender shell is a battery rated for 12 hours, a 1280 x 800 Super AMOLED Plus display and performance that puts bigger tablets to shame. Eschewing flimsy plastics for a brushed metal body, it feels sturdy and expensive when in use. Best of all, you can buy it with an LTE/CDMA modem inside, which will turn it into the biggest novelty cellphone you'll ever see... or use.

Price: $450 (on contract) at Verizon