As tablets continue to infiltrate shop floors, restaurants and manufacturing facilities, the mini versions, which cost less than the 10-inch-screen models and can be held in one hand, are quickly finding a niche among the mobile tech set. In fact, analysts expect mini-tablets to outsell their big brothers this year. Our selection here demonstrates why: These tablets are packed with what's needed to get the job done yet are small enough to take anywhere.
Nexus 7 by Asus ($199)
With a textured, leatherlike back cover and total weight of 0.75 pounds, the Nexus 7 (with the refined Android 4.2 OS) looks more like an executive's day planner than a tablet. There's no rear camera, but it does have a front-facing 1.2-megapixel webcam atop its 7-inch screen--which, at 1280 x 800 pixels, is as sharp as mini-tablets come. Inside, users can romp through 16 GB of storage and 1 GB of memory, thanks to a quad-core processor. One quirk: Like a smartphone, the screen is tall and narrow, which can make viewing wide documents a pain.
Apple iPad Mini ($659)
More discreet than a full-size iPad and more useful than an iPhone, the svelte Mini is impossibly thin (7.2 millimeters), light (0.68 pounds) and small enough to slip into a coat pocket. The 7.9-inch screen with 1024 x 768 resolution doesn't lead the class. But compatibility with more than 300,000 iPad apps--including the $9.99 iWork programs that roughly simulate Microsoft Office--makes the Mini as much about software and cloud access as it is about hardware. Hence its workman-like 64 GB of storage and speedy 4G LTE wireless data option.
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 ($399)
Samsung loaded this baby with exclusive, useful features. Its multiwindow mode splits the screen, so it can run two apps simultaneously. The S Pen smart stylus enables more utility than any other tablet on the market by leveraging a bevy of apps designed for note-taking, drawing and annotating documents. The 8-inch screen feels large compared to other minis, yet--despite being stuffed with 16 GB of storage, 2 GB of memory, a micro-SD card slot and front and rear cameras--the device weighs in at just 0.75 pounds.
Archos 80 Titanium ($199)
With soft curves and a smooth aluminum backside, the Archos pairs decent specs with a bargain price. The 1.6 GHz processor won't win any speed contests, but it runs its Android OS smoothly, perhaps because the 8 GB of storage (expandable to 64 GB) is not bogged down by bloatware. Weighing just under a pound, the device feels bulky compared to its peers but comes loaded with an 8-inch HD display, front- and rear-facing cameras and mini-HDMI output. It's a solid, economical, no-frills option for equipping the entire staff.