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In Pictures: 7 solid 7-inch tablets that rival the iPad mini (and cost less)

The best 7-inch tablets available today, including tablets from ASUS, Samsung, Lenovo and HTC. And all 7 of these 7-inchers cost less than Apple's brand new iPad mini tablet.

  • Apple iPad mini Apple this week unveiled its latest product lineup, and among the shiny new tech toys is a smaller, 7.9-inch iPad tablet, called the iPad mini. But Apple is late to the 7-inch tablet party, and while the iPad mini is sure to set sales records just like its older, bigger brother, it's hardly the only solid 7-inch slate available today. iPad mini is also one of most expensive 7-inch slates, with a starting price of $329 for the 16GB, Wi-Fi only model. The following 7-inch tablets are all legitimate iPad mini alternatives—and they'll all take a lesser toll on your wallet.

  • Google Nexus 7 by ASUS Description: Google's 7-inch Nexus 7 tablet, made by ASUS, is the only tablet that runs the latest Android OS, v4.1 "Jelly Bean." That means the Nexus 7 is the only tablet with Google Now functionality, which "learns" your usage patterns and provides driving direction to frequently visited destinations, local weather reports, sports scores for your favorite teams and more—all before you search for them. Notable Specs: 1280 x 800 display; NFC; 10 hours of battery life during Web browsing; quad-core processor; no cellular networks support. Price: The 8GB, Wi-Fi only Nexus 7 cost $199.99, and the 16GB version costs $249.99 via Google. (Rumors suggest a 32GB cellular Nexus 7 is in the works.)

  • Amazon Kindle Fire HD Description: Amazon's 7-inch Kindle Fire HD tablet runs Google's Android 4.0 software, and it's particularly well suited for Amazon.com customers, thanks to its deep integration with Amazon's various cloud and media services. Notable Specs: 1280 x 800 HD display; Dolby audio; 11 hours of battery life during Web surfing; dual-band, dual-antennae Wi-Fi; dual-core processor; no cellular version; no access to the Google Play Store for Android. Price: The 16GB, Wi-Fi only Kindle Fire HD cost $214, and the 32GB version costs $264 via Amazon. (You can also save $15 on each model by purchasing "special offers" versions, with ads.)

  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) Description: Samsung's 7-inch Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0), the smallest slate in the Galaxy Tab family, gives users access to Samsung's various Hubs, which are online storage destinations for a variety of multimedia, games and books for Galaxy Tab owners. The Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) runs Android v4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich." It's available in two colors: silver or white. Notable Specs: 1024 x 600 WSVGA display; 1.0GHz dual-core processor; HSPA+ cellular radio; microSD card slot for expandable storage; proprietary, 30-pin dock connector. Price: The Galaxy Tab 2 (7.0) is available in 8GB, 16GB and 32GB version, and it starts at $199.99 on BestBuy.com.

  • Lenovo IdeaTab A2107 Description: Lenovo's 7-inch IdeaTab A Series tablet is powerful and sleek. It runs Android v4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich," with a unique customizable Lenovo UI called "Mondrian." It's durable thanks to internal steel "roll cage." It can download apps from Lenovo's app store in addition to Google Play. The 7-inch IdeaTab also comes in four colors: white, blue, pink or black. Notable Specs: 1280 x 800 display; 1.2GHz processor; 8 hours of battery life while connected to a cellular network; dual stereo speakers. Price: Lenovo hasn't released any specific pricing or release details for the IdeaTab A2107, but it says the tablet is "coming soon."

  • Barnes & Noble NOOK HD Description: Barnes and Noble says its Nook HD tablet is the lightest 7-inch tablet ever made. It integrates nicely with the company's online book store, which offers more than 3 million titles, and the Nook Video store lets users purchase movies and other video content. Notable Specs: 1440 x 900 HD display; 10.5 hours of battery life during reading; microSD card support to expand storage; free Wi-Fi in all Barnes & Noble stores; proprietary 30-pin port for charging and syncing. Price: The 8GB Nook HD costs $199.99, and the 16GB version sells for $229.99. (The Nook HD is currently available for preorder, and it ships on November 1, 2012.)

  • RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook Description: RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook doesn't get much love nowadays, but it's still a very solid 7-inch tablet with a great browser and some valuable features, including a clean and functional messaging interface and unique multitasking capabilities. A mini HDMI port lets users connect their PlayBook tablets to other HDMI devices, including TVs and computer monitors. Notable Specs: 1024 x 600 display; 1GHz dual-core processor; mini HDMI-out port; unique BlackBerry security features, for individuals and enterprises; LTE. Price: The 16GB, Wi-Fi BlackBerry PlayBook costs $199.99, the 32GB version costs $249.99, and the 64GB Wi-Fi PlayBook sells for $299.99. The LTE PlayBook is not currently available in the United States, but RIM says it's "coming soon."

  • HTC Flyer Description: HTC's Flyer is a bit long in the tooth at this point. But it's noteworthy because it works with a unique digital pen (sold separately) and "Scribe" technology that enable a new breed of electronic note taking and drawing. The Android 2.3-powered Flyer has HTC's "Watch" service, which gives users access to a variety of movies and video content. Notable Specs: 1024 x 600 display; 1.5GHz processor; microSD card slot for expandable memory; SRS WOW surround sound speakers. (Unfortunately, HTC does not plan to update the Flyer to a newer version of Android. But it is also reportedly working on new Flyer-like tablet, called the Vertex.) Price: The 32GB HSPA+ and W-Fi Flyer is available for $289.99 via Amazon.com.

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