BlackBerry PlayBook vs Apple iPad vs Samsung Galaxy Tab

BlackBerry has become the latest brand to join the tablet party with its new BlackBerry PlayBook. Set to go head to head with the iPad, as well as the Samsung Galaxy Tab, which was unveiled at the recent IFA tech show in Berlin. BlackBerry's new device boasts the freshly acquired QNX OS and is bound to put the tablet-option cat amongst the already undecided tablet PC consumer pigeons. 

So, will Steve Jobs' original tablet see off the newcomers with ease? Will the Sam Tab take the victory for Android? Or will the PlayBook, nee BlackPad, turn out to be a stealthy competition killer? Let's find out as we pitch the three gadgets against each other in a fight to the spec death.

Dimensions

1st - PlayBook
193 x 130 x 10mm, 400g
2nd - SamTab
190.09 x 120.45 x 11.98mm, 380g
3rd - iPad
242.8 x 189.7 x 13.4mm, 680g/730g Wi-Fi/3G

Weighing in at just 380g, the Tab is lighter than the larger, and surprisingly dense iPad, but it's the BlackBerry PlayBook that's the thinnest of them all while maintaining a slightly larger playing surface than than the Samsung at the expense of 20g more to carry around. Both the Tab and the PlayBook's smaller dimensions also give them an advantage when it comes to handling - they're well suited to using with one hand. The iPad really needs both mitts, unless you want to balance it precariously on your lap.

At the end of the day, there's a question of personal preference here - do you want the lightest, the thinnest or the smallest? Ultimately, all things considered, we decided it's the PlayBook we'd best like to own for its dimensions, with the iPad perhaps too bloaty for more than home use.

Display

1st - iPad
9.7", 1024 x 768, LED-backlit IPS LCD
2nd - SamTab
7", 1024 x 600, Super TFT-LCD
3rd - PlayBook
7", 1024 x 600, WSVGA, LCD

Despite pre-launch rumours that the Samsung's tablet would be getting an AMOLED display, both the iPad and the Tab are equipped with an LCD screen, as indeed is the PlayBook, meaning that none of them are really that well suited to viewing on a bright, sunny day (not always a problem in the UK, sadly). However, the iPad has a slight advantage with its larger 9.7-inch screen, while both the Tab and the Book have to make do with a 7-inch panel, making them look a little bit like cartoonishly oversized smartphones.

Thankfully, all the displays on all three are actually very good. They're all capacitive for multitouch with gesture control and they can all output HD content. These machines are made to make video look good and none will let you down. Oh, and the reason we put the SamTab in second is that all of Samsung's panel and small screen experience has to count for something.

 

Engine Room

1st - PlayBook
1GHz dual core CPU, 1GB RAM
2nd - SamTab
Cortex A8 1.0GHz CPU with PowerVR SGX540, 512MB RAM
3rd - iPad
Cortex A8 1.0GHz CPU with PowerVR SGX535, 256MB RAM

The iPad is powered by the A4 chip, comprising a Cortex A8 at 1GHz and a PowerVR SGX535 but the A4 is manufactured by Samsung who were unlikely to get beaten by Apple here. There's both a slight improvement on the graphics as well as a doubling of the memory. However, both are eclipsed by the mystery components on the BlackBerry PlayBook. Not only does RIM's tablet have two cores for simultaneous processing but also a whacking great slab of RAM to power the whole thing as well. No word on how the graphics are implemented right now but we're still happy to offer up first place for the impressive specs that have been revealed so far.

 

Storage

1st - iPad
16GB, 32GB, or 64GB flash
2nd - SamTab
16GB, 32GB + microSD
3rd - PlayBook
16GB, 32GB

The iPad tops the storage table with its built-in 64GB memory capacity, although it also offers 16 and 32GB versions. Not to be completely outdone, the Tab may only offer 16 and 32GB variants, but it also includes the option of topping that up with a microSD card at your expense and ability to lose, of course. While RIM hasn't officially confirmed how big the storage is for the device, we noticed when snapping our first look of the new tablet the words 16GB and 32GB on the back of the models.


Battery

1st - iPad
10 hrs video, 140 hrs audio playback, 1 mnth stdby
2nd - SamTab
7 hours video
Disq - PlayBook
Not specified

Battery life is an essential factor when it comes to mobile devices, and one that can make or break a product. The iPad offers a claimed 10 hours of video and we were able to get about 2 days' worth of use out of it before it looked like it was going to conk out. In comparison, the Tab only offers a claimed 7 hours of video playback. Sadly, once again, RIM has forgotten to tell the world how they keep the PlayBook going and how long for. We're all rather intrigued given the hot rod of an engine it's got inside. At the size and weight profile, one would imagine that the iPad still safely takes the prize, but we'll update this section as soon as we know.


Software

Tie - iPad
iOS v3.2 (iOS 4 expected soon)
Tie - SamTab
Android 2.2 (Froyo) + TouchWiz
Tie - PlayBook
QNX BlackBerry Tablet OS



Oh, no. We're not going to get drawn into a debate as to which OS is the best. Ultimately, that's down to personal preference and we'll leave the fanboys to slug it out below. Running on the same OS as the iPhone, the iPad offers a similar experience to that of Apple's smartphone. Along with the touchscreen navigation, you'll recognise the familiar layout of icons on the homepage, and you'll soon be able to multi-task, once the iOS 4.2 software upgrade is released in November. In contrast, Samsung's Tab runs on Android, which has offered full and proper multi-tasking for ages as well as high levels of customisation and full access to the web with both Flash 10.1 and HTML5 supported. However, the downside is that all that can be a huge drain on battery life and lead to a lot of crashing, re-starting and inevitable swearing.

The new kid on the block is the the BlackBerry Tablet OS as designed by QNX, which was bought up by RIM for this very purpose back in April 2010. The software is based on a microkernel which is easier for third party developers to work with and the dual core CPU means there's also space for running two tasks at once in a split window system. It'll offer multitasking at a level far better than both of the other two. The downside at the moment is that there aren't going to be as many apps and it may not be as slick as either Android or iOS.
 

Connectivity

1st - SamTab
Wi/3G/Bluetooth 3.0/DLNA

2nd - PlayBook
Wi/Bluetooth 2.1/DLNA

3rd - iPad
Wi/3G/Bluetooth 2.1



The iPad comes in six configurations - three with Wi-Fi connectivity and three that can be used both with Wi-Fi and 3G, with the latter costing a premium, and that's before you've factored in the extra for your data usage. Along with Wi-Fi and 3G, Samsung's Tab also offers Bluetooth 3 and also gets one up on the Apple by functioning as a mobile phone. What the SamTab also has, and what lifts the PlayBook above the iPad, is DLNA connectivity which is going to be lots of fun for people turning up at a new place and being able to beam their content straight over a local network and onto a TV.

One could argue that the PlayBook's lack of 3G would put it below the iPad, but you can access the 3G network by wireless tethering with your BlackBerry smartphone of choice. On top of that, there's also HDMI and USB connectivity on the PlayBook to enjoy which you don't get on the Apple tablet.

 

Imaging

1st - PlayBook
3MP front, 5MP rear, 1080p video recording
2nd - SamTab
1.3MP front, 3.2MP rear + flash
3rd iPad
Try your phone

It seemed unlikely but RIM has upped the ante on Samsung's tablet imaging credentials by upping the resolution of both cameras at a level where megapixels do count. Video conferencing is simply going to be better on the PlayBook with an LED camera flash probably proving less useful on a tablet PC. With Full HD video recording also thrown in, it does rather make the iPad look old - at least until the iPad 2 arrives, of course.

 

Price

1st - iPad
Wi-Fi: £429/£499/£599, Wi-Fi + 3G: £529/£599/£699

2nd - SamTab
£599

Unknown - PlayBook
TBC


There's no getting past the fact that the iPad is a very expensive piece of kit that's way out of reach for those that don't happen to have a bank account of Steve Jobs-esque proportions at their fingertips. Even the cheapest model will leave you £429 out of pocket, while the ludicrously expensive Wi-Fi + 3G 64GB model will have you giving away £699 of your children's future inheritance. Samsung's Galaxy Tab isn't exactly cheap either - it's listed at a staggering £599 on Amazon, while prices may vary according to mobile phone operators. A little unexpected from the Korean giant but there you go.

So, that only remains for us to find out how much the PlayBook is going to be. Until then though, you have to hand it to Apple for being the easiest to afford. Ever thought you'd hear that?

Conclusions

It's suddenly a very interesting tablet landscape with the arrival of the BlackBerry PlayBook. Although there's still some gaps in what RIM has let loose on the public, it's pretty clear that here's a device that's just as good as the iPad and the SamTab, if not better.

The powerful insides are going to ensure plenty of task crunching as well as even proper games playing too and those top end imaging credentials round off a really threatening multimedia monster. If the battery life and the OS can keep up, then there'd be few advising you against it over what Apple has on the market currently. The SamTab is on a very similar footing but you might find that you're paying for some top end functionality that perhaps isn't needed, as well as yet another data contract.

The bottom line on the spec sheet side of things is that the PlayBook gets the thumbs up. The real test, of course, is when we put it through it's paces back at Pocket-lint HQ. But until then, what do you make of it? Let us know in the comments below.

PHOTOS: BlackBerry PlayBook Eyes on

BlackBerry PlayBook: RIM launches tablet



>