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The tablet computing scene is hotting up as almost every major developer gears up to release a tablet. With the BlackBerry PlayBook only scheduled for release in 2011, everyone is waiting with bated breath to see if RIM will deliver on its promises.
In the meantime, I decided to crunch the available numbers to see how the PlayBook will stack up against the best of the best of the tablet world today.
With tablets only recently gaining momentum, the sweet spot for tablet screen sizes is still subjective and there’s no clear winner in this category. Although high on mobility, I do feel that the Streak, at 5 inches, is small enough to run the risk of being awkwardly classified. For example, the HTC EVO 4G smartphone measures 4.3 inches and the Streak isn’t much bigger. On the other side of the scale, the iPad measures 9.7 inches, the size of a netbook screen, and scores lower on the mobility scale when compared to the 7 inch devices.
I chose the Galaxy Tab and PlayBook as joint winners for this round. Both are half the weight of the iPad and compact enough to hold with one hand, while still allowing for ample screen real estate. As an added bonus the 16:9 screen ratio on both devices is a better fit for widescreen content than on the iPad.
Score: PlayBook 1, Galaxy Tab 1, iPad 0, Dell Streak 0
Resolution and Pixel Density
Both the PlayBook and Galaxy Tab have 1024×600 resolutions, while the iPad and Streak are at 1024×768 and 800×480 resolutions respectively.
Each of these devices has a beautiful display, and the resolution used for each is a good fit for the screen size. Apart from the iPad, all three other devices have displays with 16:9 aspect ratios, which make them ideal for watching widescreen content.
Most Android applications in the Marketplace have a default resolution of 800×400. This means that some applications might not look as good as they can on the Galaxy Tab. Scaling issues also apply to the PlayBook and iPad, as existing applications designed for smaller smartphone screens are either scaled up to fit the larger tablet screens or run at the lower, original resolution inside a black frame.
Both the PlayBook and Galaxy have an approximate pixel density of about 170 ppi, while the iPad’s pixel density comes in at 132 ppi and the Streak at 187 ppi.
With the most densely packaged pixels, your multimedia and apps will probably look the best on the Streak. Furthermore, the iPad only has about 3000 iPad resolution optimised apps, which means that the widescreen-friendly Streak wins this round with the best fit for the most apps inside the Android Marketplace.
Score: PlayBook 1, Galaxy Tab 1, iPad 0, Dell Streak 1
It’s no secret that Android was never intended for tablets. This was confirmed recently by a senior executive at Google who mentioned that Android 2.2 was not designed for tablet PCs and that users may come across problems working with the Android market store. The added fragmentation of various Android implementations also hamper Android as the best option for tablets. Google is rumoured however, to release a standard, tablet-specific OS in the form of Android 3.0 later this year. Currently, the Streak runs Android 2.1, and the Galaxy Tab 2.2.
The iPad’s iOS on the other hand, was specifically designed for Apple’s tablet and the PlayBook too will run a tablet specific OS thanks to QNX.
Although the yet to be released PlayBook’s QNX OS sounds promising, I decided to pick the iPad as the winner. Despite the fact that it is currently hampered by a non multi-tasking OS, this will soon change with the release of iOS 4.2, while 200 000+ iTunes applications make it the largest platform for apps and games.
Score: PlayBook 1, Galaxy Tab 1, iPad 1, Dell Streak 1
Adobe Flash support
Both the PlayBook and Galaxy Tab will support Flash 10.1. This is not true however, for both the iPad and Streak.
Chalk up one each for the PlayBook and Galaxy Tab in this round.
Score: PlayBook 2, Galaxy Tab 2, iPad 1, Dell Streak 1
Both the iPad’s A4 and Galaxy Tab’s A8 processors are based on the same 1GHz ARM A8 Cortex CPU. Although the A8 has been shown to outperform the Snapdragon processors, the PlayBook’s dual-core 1GHz Cortex A9 blows all three out of the water.
The winner for this round, the PlayBook.
Score: PlayBook 3, Galaxy Tab 2, iPad 1, Dell Streak 1
Although the Galaxy Tab’s PowerVR SGX 540 GPU is only slightly better than the iPad’s PowerVR SGX 535, both are better than the Streak’s Adreno 200. Nothing is yet known of the PlayBook’s GPU, and although expected to be competitive, for this round the marginally better GPU of the Galaxy Tab, gets my pick.
Score: PlayBook 3, Galaxy Tab 3, iPad 1, Dell Streak 1
The iPad packs a measly 256MB, while both the Galaxy Tab and Streak manage 512MB. The PlayBook is streets ahead here, and wins this round with a nice sizable 1GB chunk of memory.
Score: PlayBook 4, Galaxy Tab 3, iPad 1, Dell Streak 1
Storage capacity for the PlayBook has not been confirmed, but 16GB and 32GB internal storage models are expected. The iPad has the most storage options in the form of 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions, but offers nothing in terms of expansion. The Galaxy has both 16GB and 32GB options, while the Streak manages a minuscule 2GB of internal storage. The Streak redeems itself however, with a microSD expansion slot which also features on the Galaxy Tab.
With two internal storage offerings and expansion options, I picked the Galaxy Tab as winner for this round.
Score: PlayBook 4, Galaxy Tab 4, iPad 1, Dell Streak 1
With the exception of the Galaxy Tab, which supports Bluetooth 3.0, the default is Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR which is offered on the other three tablets.
The PlayBook and iPad both support WiFi standards 802.11 a, b, g and n, while Galaxy Tab supports b, g and n. The Streak only supports two of older standards namely b and g.
A PDMI port can be found on the Streak and Galaxy Tab, while an HDMI and micro-USB port will be available on the PlayBook.
Although 3G and 4G are promised for future versions, the first incarnation of the PlayBook will only support WiFi, with cellular connectivity possible through tethering with a BlackBerry smartphone. A 3G version of the iPad is also available, while the Galaxy Tab and Streak come with 3G as standard.
The Streak deserves a noteworthy mention, in that it’s the only one of the four tablets to function as a phone. The Galaxy Tab has the hardware to enable cellular phone calls, but the phone functionality will not be enabled on all carriers.
With only the Galaxy Tab supporting Bluetooth 3.0, 3G, 802.11n and HDMI through a PDMI connector dock, it offers superb connectivity options, and is the winner for this round.
Score: PlayBook 4, Galaxy Tab 5, iPad 1, Dell Streak 1
Of the four models, the PlayBook and WiFi version of the iPad do not support GPS.
This round is a three-way tie between the iPad (3G version), Galaxy Tab and Streak.
Score: PlayBook 4, Galaxy Tab 6, iPad 2, Dell Streak 2
The iPad is the only tablet in our lineup that does not have any cameras.
The winner for this round is the PlayBook with a 3MP front and 5MP rear facing camera. The Streak will support a VGA front, and 5MP rear-facing camera, while the Galaxy Tab will have a 1.3MP front and 3MP rear facing camera.
The PlayBook stands out with its ability to capture 1080p video, while the Galaxy Tab can only manage 720p video recording.
Score: PlayBook 5, Galaxy Tab 6, iPad 2, Dell Streak 2
In the US, the Dell streak will cost you US$299.99 for a two-year contract or US$549.99 unlocked. The iPad retails for US$199 with a contract for two years or US$500 without, and Samsung has revealed that the Galaxy Tab will cost $399 on a two-year contract or US$649 without.
No pricing details for the PlayBook have yet been revealed, and for this round, and quite surprisingly for an Apple product, the iPad comes out tops as the most cost effective tablet of the lot (in the US that is).
Score: PlayBook 5, Galaxy Tab 6, iPad 3, Dell Streak 2
On paper, the winner seems to be the Galaxy Tab. I thought about the result for a while, and whether or not I would recommend the Tab to my friends based on these findings. Sadly the answer is, no.
Technically, the Galaxy Tab is a great tablet, but it’s not priced competitively and is being released at a time when rumours of a second iPad iteration are running rife, and the PlayBook’s release is schedule for the first part of 2011.
If it was my money and I had to buy a tablet today, I would buy an iPad. It’s the best value for money, with the best platform, and if you’re already invested in the Apple ecosystem, it really is a no-brainer.
Personally, I’m going to wait and see if RIM delivers on its promises for the PlayBook, and I have a hunch that the iPad 2 might arrive on the scene just in time to make it that much harder to choose.