Phablets, over-sized smartphones, are filling a need for consumers who don't care to carry both a tablet and a smartphone. For others, the 5.5 and 6-inch screens of phablets are still too cold and tablets over 10 inches are a bit too hot.

The category of tablets under 10 inches is stuffed with entrants from hardware manufacturers of all sizes. But for this battle for palmtops, we've picked four of the top devices in the sub 10-inch category: the iPad Mini 3, Galaxy Tab S 8.4, Nexus 9 and Dell Venue 8 7000.

Here's a look at how they compare.

iPad Mini 3

With a screen size of 7.9 inches, the iPad Mini has the small screen of the tablets in this roundup. But weighing in at 0.73 pounds, it isn't the lightest -- that distinction goes to the 0.3 pound Dell Venue 8.

The Mini 3's Retina display produces a brilliant image at a resolution of 2048x1536, placing it second in this roundup behind the Tab S 8.4 and its 2560 x 1600 pixel count.

The Mini 3's 1.2 MP webcam and 5 MP rear camera falls behind the Tab S 8.4 in resolution. But image processing has as much to do with capturing vivid images as does the amount of pixels a sensor can absorb and Apple arguably delivers the best camera technology on the market.

Galaxy Tab S 8.4

It's the Android answer to the iPad Mini 3. As mentioned above, the Tab S 8.4 edges out the iPad Mini 3 in all resolution categories: display and camera.

The Tab S 8.4 also has three times the RAM as the iPad Mini 3. on one hand, iOS 8 is optimized to use that 1GB of RAM efficiently and effectively. On the other hand, the Tab S 8.4's RAM could be considered overkill if it weren't for some of those poorly optimized apps that pop up out of the woods on occasion.

Nexus 9

The 0.93 pound Nexus 9 is the heaviest tablet in this round up, but its 8.9-inch display earns it the distinction of having the largest screen in this comparison. The Nexus 9's pixel count mirrors that of the iPad Mini 3, both of which fall short of the Tab S 8.4

Where the Nexus 9 truly shines is in processing power. It has a 1GB of RAM less than the Tab S 8.4, but benchmarks show the Google tablet delivers nearly twice the processing power of its Samsung rival.

Dell Venue 8 7000

There's a significant drop off in price when moving from the three tablets listed above to the Venue 8 7000. But it's a budget-friendly option for an 8-inch tablet.

The Venue 8 7000 has an 8.4-inch OLED screen with 1600 by 25600 resolution. It features an 8MP rear camera working with two 720p cameras in front. Inside this tablet is 2GB of RAM in support of a 2.3GHz quad core Intel Atom chip.

Bottom Line

The iPad Mini 3 is a solid purchase for anyone who is already invested in Apple's ecosystem, though it simply isn't an all-around better tablet than the Nexus 9 or Tab S 8.4 Despite having less RAM and a slightly lower resolution, the Nexus 9 edges out the Tab S 8.4. The Venue 8 7000 is also a solid buy with a very competitive price and comparable specs to its more popular competitions.

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