The past two weeks tablets from Apple and Microsoft have flooded the market already saturated by Google and Amazon

By Stephan Lee
Updated November 02, 2012 at 04:00 AM EDT

We’re used to fall meaning new TV shows and Oscar-bait movies, but this year tablet enthusiasts are getting their own special bounty. The past two weeks saw new devices from Apple and Microsoft join fellow newbies like Google‘s Nexus 7 (starting at $199), which debuted this past summer, and Amazon‘s Kindle Fire HD (starting at $199), which bowed in September. Apple’s fourth-generation iPad (starting at $499) features key upgrades, including a faster processor. And the new 7.9-inch iPad Mini (starting at $329) boasts stripped-down but still powerful specs in a 0.68-pound package. For its part, Microsoft is finally entering the tablet ring with Surface (starting at $499), which sports a detachable keyboard, multiple ports, and a new Windows operating system. “It’s a pretty important product built around the idea that a PC and a tablet can be an integrated experience and not necessarily two discrete experiences,” says Michael Gartenberg, research director of the technology research firm Gartner. The last addition to the season’s tablet glut will be Amazon’s larger 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD (starting at $299), which hits Nov. 20.

Of course, Apple continues to be the alpha dog in the tablet pack — the iPad captured 57 percent of the market in the third quarter. But all these new releases offer alternatives to consumers whose needs may vary. Devoted to the seamless Apple ecosystem? The iPad Mini might be your guy. Looking for a tablet to replace your laptop? Give the Surface a whirl. Or do you just want to watch movies and read books at a low cost? Try the Kindle Fire HD or Nexus 7. “The good news is that as a consumer, you can really pick and choose the thing that’s most right for you,” says Gartenberg. Also good news: Shopping for the tech fiend in your life just got a lot easier.