The BlackBerry PlayBook - Can it compete against the iPad?

  • Category: Features

RIM on Monday unveiled their new PlayBook tablet computing device that is a direct competitor to the Apple iPad. The new tablet offers some fairly beefy specifications, including a 1GHz dual-core CPU, 1GB of RAM, HDMI output, and dual-cameras, but does this all add up to a device that can match, or even beat, the current king of the tablets?

The PlayBook is sort of a mid-sized tablet when compared to current tablets on the market. It measures 5.1 x 7.6 x 0.4-inches (hwd), which is smaller than the iPad, which measures 9.56 x 7.47 x 0.5-inches (hwd).  The reasoning for the different proportions is that the PlayBook is mostly intended for landscape-oriented use while the iPad is mainly for portrait-oriented use.  The PlayBook weighs fairly less too at 0.9 pounds compared to 1.5 pounds for the iPad.

The LED-backlit display for the iPad measures 9.7-inches and has a resolution of 1024 x 768 and multi-touch support. The PlayBook has a 7-inch display with a slightly lesser resolution of 1024 x 600 with multi-touch support as well.  We can already say the screen on the iPad is slightly better because of the slightly bigger resolution and the IPS display technology. However, the PlayBook definitely has the second best display on any tablet today.

The PlayBook has a 1GHz dual-core Cortex A9 CPU with 1GB of RAM, which is more than the iPad has, with a single-core 1GHz Apple A4 CPU and a paltry 256MB of RAM. These specs alone put the PlayBook a step ahead of the iPad and performance will definitely show it.

At launch, RIM says the PlayBook won’t support any 3G/4G connectivity, but they intend to release models with cellular data connectivity with time. It does, however, support 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 with EDR. As you know Apple does offer a model with cellular data on AT&T Wireless in the United States. Without cellular data, the PlayBook doesn’t sport any GPS connectivity either. BlackBerry smart phone owners will, however, be able to tether with their PlayBook, providing it with a cellular data connection. It can also share/sync contacts, e-mails, calendars, and more with paired BlackBerry phones.

RIM has developed its own BlackBerry Tablet operating system for the PlayBook completely from scratch. It supports many BlackBerry services and applications and supports many third-party development platforms like Adobe Flash 10.1, Open GL, WebKit, Adobe Air, and Java. The iPad’s iOS4 does not support Adobe Flash, which means a more limited Web browsing experience.

We also know the PlayBook has dual high definition cameras that support 1080p HD video recording. The front-facing camera has a 3-megapixel resolution while the back-side camera has a 5-megapixel resolution. The iPad doesn’t offer any video recording as it lacks a camera. The PlayBook can also play 1080p HD video, MPEG, H.264, WMV, and DivX videos and play MP3, WMA, and AAC audio files. It also supports HD video out by means of a microHDMI port.

We still don’t know the battery life, storage capacities, or the price for the RIM PlayBook tablet. It probably will cost around $500-600 for a 32 or 64GB model, which would keep it competitive to the Apple iPad, but also provide slightly more with the beefier internal specs (but also the lack of a few elements, such as cellular data and a better screen).

In our analysis of the information that has been either rumored or released official from RIM, we can say this PlayBook tablet seems to be a strong, if not very strong, contender to the Apple iPad. The 1GB of RAM and dual-core processor should make the performance better, but that also requires RIM to design a smooth and fast-running OS with multitasking and application support that either rivals or beats Apple iOS4.

Since the BlackBerry PlayBook isn't schedule to be released by "early 2011", that means it will have to compete with Apple's next version of the iPad, which will probably have the Retina display, cameras, FaceTime, and increased specifications.

Oh yeah, one more thing…the PlayBook needs a well-designed application store and complete compatibility with current BlackBerry applications.

  BlackBerry PlayBook Apple iPad
Screen Size/Resolution 1024 x 600 (7") 1024 x 768 (9.7")
Weight 0.9 pounds 1.5-1.6 pounds
Operating System BlackBerry Tablet OS Apple iOS
Processor 1GHz dual-core Cortex A9 Apple 1GHz A4
RAM Memory 1GB 256MB
Internal Storage ? (rumored to be 16/32GB) 16/32/64GB
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR (3G/4G in future models) 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, 3G optional
Camera 5MP back-side, 3MP front-side None
Price Unknown $499-$829
Availability Early 2011 Now

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