For years, tablets have been touted as the Next Big Thing in consumer electronics. Finally, there are several models suitable for serious business use. We tested four tablets, running four different operating systems, to see how they stack up.

Acer Iconia W700

Our top pick, this Windows 8 tablet, which can run desktop versions of Microsoft Office programs, functions much like a laptop. The tablet has a sharp 11.6-inch, 1920- by 1080-pixel display and a speedy Intel Core i5 dual-core processor. It also has front- and rear-facing cameras, as do the other tablets here. During our test, it booted in 10 seconds, and the battery lasted nine hours. On the downside, the 2.1-pound tablet is a bit hefty and has a smaller app selection than do Apple or Android models. Cost: $999 for a 128GB solid-state storage drive

iPad Fourth Generation

The sleek 1.4-pound iPad, which runs on Apple's iOS platform, offers the best selection of business-friendly apps in our test group, including a full-featured version of Square's mobile cash register. The tablet's 2048- by 1536-pixel Retina display, which measures 9.7 inches, was crisp and colorful, topping the other models here. Powered by Apple's A6X processor, it booted up in 20 seconds during our test, and the battery lasted a respectable eight hours on a full charge. Cost: $499 for 16GB of storage

Google Nexus 10

A nice traveling companion, this 1.3-pound Android 4.2 tablet comes loaded with Google Now, an app that automatically serves up meeting reminders, flight details, and other timely information. Its 10-inch, 2560- by 1600-pixel display looked crystal clear during our test. The Nexus, which is made by Samsung, also includes a near-field-communication chip for transmitting data with a tap. Powered by an Exynos 5 dual-core processor, it booted in 19 seconds. One gripe: The battery lasts only seven hours. Cost: $399 for 16GB of storage

Surface with Windows RT

Much like the Acer, this 10.6-inch Windows RT tablet features Microsoft's new tile-based start screen and has a limited selection of business apps. The 1.5-pound Surface offers mobile versions of Office programs, but they are not designed for use by businesses. Powered by a quad-core processor, the Surface booted in 26 seconds, the slowest time among our group. During our test, its 1366- by 768-pixel display looked a bit washed out. The battery lasts eight hours. Cost: $499 for 32GB of storage