Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0
The most expensive tablet on the list also includes the most physical features. Given its IR blaster, dual cameras, and microSD expansion, $249 doesn't look so bad. In performance it's probably the weakest of the five, however.
Kindle Fire (2012)
The 2012 update to 2011's Kindle Fire sports an identical design, but gets a few internal upgrades: twice the RAM, a faster processor, and an update to the latest version of the Kindle Fire OS. It may not seem like much compared with others on the list, until its $159 price smacks you across the face, waking you from your apathetic stupor.
Barnes & Noble Nook HD+
It won't be available until later this month, but I got some hands-on time with the new 7-inch Nook HD a few weeks back and was impressed by its redesigned interface, extremely light weight, microSD storage expansion, 1,140x900-pixel-resolution screen, and the inclusion of the fastest processor yet in a 7-inch tablet, the 1.3GHz OMAP 4470. At $199, the Nook HD will clearly make its case. Too small? The 9-inch Nook HD+ debuts at the same time for only $269.
Kindle Fire HD
If you're an Amazon Prime member with a penchant for watching books, movies, TV shows, and music, the Fire HD should definitely be in your crosshairs. At only $199, the Fire HD sports an amazing-looking screen, a 720p front camera, Bluetooth, and the best speakers you've ever heard on any tablet. If you like what you hear, but still feel 7 inches is too small, the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 (in Wi-Fi and 4G LTE versions) launches November 20.
Google Nexus 7
The current king of 7-inch tablets wins its crown by offering Tegra 3-induced performance, NFC communication, and the latest version of the Android OS, Jelly Bean. Not to mention its extremely comfortable design and $199 price. The iPad Mini will need to offer a very good features-to-price ratio if it hopes to become the best 7-inch tablet yet.