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Comparing & Contrasting: iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, Blackberry Playbook, Acer Iconia A500

by Retired Blogger on ‎03-23-2011 10:44 PM - last edited on ‎04-30-2012 10:57 AM by Retired Moderator



'Tis the year of the tablet, it seems. And that affords me the opportunity to look at a few of the more interesting ones that have launched, are launching, or in their pre-order phase in the first quarter of this year.
Unfortunately that means I'll be leaving out the cool Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Dell Streak, and a few others. Perhaps we'll take a look at those closer to their summer launch.
The Three Tablets 
Apple, Blackberry and Motorola all have great looking tablets in the mix, yet all have distinct differences that can make one tablet better match your needs than the others. So I've put together a handy comparison chart -- below -- contrasting some of the key features.
As you'll see, these three tablets have somewhat similar specs and features (web browsing, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G available, etc), yet each has some feature that raise it above the others.
So, let's explore some of the features of each tablet, starting with X!



Motorola Xoom 
Out of the gate, the Xoom's browser is one of it's best features, and appears to be one of the fastest on tablets today.
Also, the Xoom runs Flash, a key component of many websites and online gaming services.
One of Xoom's coolest features is the  Android Honeycomb Operating System (by Google). Honeycomb is a very spiffy and technically advanced OS, but that could be one of the challenges of this tablet.
The Xoom is what I'd call a more advanced tablet -- it's pretty powerful and has a lot of potential, but casual or first-time tablet users may not be willing to take the time to learn.





Blackberry Playbook 
The smallest and lightest of the three, the Playbook still competes on features and functionality quite nicely with competition.
Portability is the takeaway on the Playbook. In fact, marketed as uber portable, and uber capable, the Playbook could well be THE tablet for those who find the Apple iPad a bit to big and unwieldy.
Measuring just over 7" long and 5" wide, and weighing just under a pound, the Playbook will find a home much easier in almost any bag, or case.
My blogging compatriot, Krypto, has an excellent write up on her experience with the Playbook at Mobile World Congress.





Apple iPad 2 
The big Kahuna and current industry-leading tablet, the iPad 2 is the standard the others are being measured by.
The original iPad set the standard, with an easy-to-use interface, a large multi-touch display, 3G and WiFi connectivity, and an excellent web experience with mobile Safari.
Yet, there are some things lacking when comparing the iPad 2 to the others in the chart -- the biggest being the lack of Flash support on the device, as well as USB support and Video output both require additional connector accessories.
But, and it's a big but, the biggest feature the iPad 2 has in its favour is its huge base of applications. Any of these tablets is just a hunk of shiny hardware without applications -- they're the things that make the device useful to you and me.
The diversity and sheer amount of high-quality apps, from Gaming to Photography to Education to Emergency Response to Social Media to...well you get the picture,  is really the best feature of the iPad 2.
Sure, it runs twice as fast as the original iPad and has cameras, but today, so do the competitors. But what they don't have, are the applications.
The Chart 
All right. You've read what I think are the important features about each device (you may disagree or feel I missed one, please share in the comments!)
This chart really compares the things about each tablet that *can* be easily compared in a chart.  Looking at the features, side by side, you realize that there are a few differences, and quite a few similarities.

Yet it's the things that can't be easily compared in a chart that I find help me make a selection -- like exploring the interface or menu system to see how well it works. Is the interface intuitive to me? Or does it seem alien to the way I expect it to function.
For me, getting hands-on with the hardware and comparing the specs, side by side, is really the best way to decide.



  iPad 2 Xoom Playbook Acer Iconia A500 Acer Iconia W500
Operating System  iOS 4.3  Android 3.0 Honeycomb   Blackberry Tablet OS  Android 3.0 Honeycomb  Windows 7 Home Premium  
Weight lbs 1.30 1.60 0.90 1.7 2.1
Screen Size (Diagonal)  9.7"   10.1"   7"  10.1"  10.1" 
Unit Size (in.)  9.5 x 7.31 x 0.34   9.8 x 6.6 x 0.5   5.1 x 7.6 x 0.4  10.2 x 7 x 0.5 10.2 x 7 x 0.5
CPU  1GHz A5 (dual core)   1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core   1GHz TI OMAP 4 dual core   1GHz NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual core 1GHz AMD C-50 dual core
RAM (MB) 512 1,024 1,024 1,024 2,048
User Storage (GB)  16/32/64   32 (SD expandable)   16/32/64  16 32
Multitasking  Yes   Yes   Yes  Yes Yes
Display Res.  1024 x 768   1280 x 800   600 x 1024  1280 x 800 1280 x 800
Front Camera  VGA   2MP   3MP  2MP  2MP 
Rear Camera  HD (720p)   5MP (720p)   5MP  5MP (720p) 5MP (720p)
Battery Life (Hours) 10 10  10 (reported)  8 4 - 6
Ports (USB/SD/etc)  30 pin docking port   MicroUSB   MicroUSB  MicroUSB MicroUSB
Connectivity  WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth   WiFi, 3G (CDMA), Bluetooth   WiFi, 3G, Bluetooth  WiFi, Bluetooth  WiFi, Bluetooth 
GPS  Yes (3G only)   Yes   Yes  No No
Accelerometer  Yes   Yes   Yes  Yes Yes
Compass (Magnetometer)  Yes   Yes   Yes  Yes Yes
Gyroscope  Yes   Yes   Yes  Yes Yes
Video Out  HDMI (Connector Accessory Required)   HDMI 1.4   MicroHDMI   HDMI 1.4   HDMI 1.4 
Sound Out  Mono (speaker), Stereo (headphones)   Stereo speakers   Stereo speakers  Stereo speakers Stereo speakers
Microphone  Yes   Yes   Stereo Microphone  Yes  Yes 
Applications Avail  65,000 (300,000 if you include iPhone)   26 (Can run some  other Android apps)   4000 (expected)   26 (Can run some  other Android apps)   26 (Can run some  other Android apps) 

by Exalted Expert / Community Ambassador on ‎03-23-2011 11:40 PM

BTW... there's some reports the Playbook can run Android applications as well....

by Retired Blogger on ‎03-24-2011 02:08 PM

@XL: Ah, interesting, and very very cool if true! Thanks for sharing that!

by ivansf on ‎03-24-2011 02:38 PM

Interesting but the Xoom has way more than 26 apps. 99% of apps for Android run on the Xoom, they are just "maximized" and not "stretched pixelated" like the iPad does. It may not be the prettier thing but saying "can run some other apps" is very misleading. 


Most people are running succesfully most games for it, and they look perfect they say.

by Exalted Expert on ‎03-24-2011 04:54 PM

@XL, just hang on until later tonight and you'll see why your post there was so relevant.  :smileywink:

by Exalted Expert ‎03-24-2011 09:37 PM - edited ‎03-24-2011 11:01 PM

XL!!!! I told you to wait! :smileytongue:  Post will be up shortly (I have a thing called a job and wasn't able to do anything until now).  But there's more to it then is in the titles.  I'll try to read a bit more into it for everyone.


EDIT:  And here's the post:  :smileyhappy:

by Retired Blogger on ‎03-24-2011 09:58 PM

Oooh, now I can't wait! Go Krypto!!

by mapsonburt on ‎04-01-2011 05:34 AM

The writeup says the best feature of the Xoom is the fast browser and support for Flash but these are also key selling points for the BlackBerry PlayBook.  The BlackBerry PlayBook promises a true desktop type web experience and it beats even Internet Explorer, NetScape and Chrome on HTML 5 compatibility tests.  Apps are important to the iPad in no important measure because of the crappy support for Flash that runs on most top end web sites today.  Without Apps the iPad truly would be a hunk of shiny metal but that isn't true for the PlayBook or the Xoom.  They deliver access to the FULL web so most applications can be found there.  That being said, GarageBand is pretty cool and there is no denying that Apple has a jump on Apps - although with the BlackBerry PlayBook supporting Android applications this summer, that'll become significantly less relevant as the Android/Apple app ecosystem is about the same. 


I think the writeup missed the best feature of the PlayBook however.....  it acts as abig monitor/keyboard to your existing BlackBerry.  Its easy to underestimate the impact of this.  This means that ALL of the security features of the BlackBerry are included within the PlayBook.  If you're using your BlackBerry for business and your IT department locks out WIFI, etc then like 90% of iPad user's you'll find that you can't use your iPad at work to access your email/calendar/etc.  The PlayBook will allow you full access WITHOUT the IT department having to do anything because it goes THROUGH the BlackBerry to get access and the moment they are separated outside BlueTooth range, the information on the PlayBook disappears and security is still intact.   This means that the PlayBook will be THE device used in business.  I've tried and/failed for two years to try to get an iPad through the doors and given access to anything but because of the crappy security on it, IT refuses.


My guess is that if you want an tablet for strictly personal use, to use about the house or perhaps on flights, you'll spend the extra $20 and pick up an iPad2.  If you want a tablet that you'll be taking to work, and carrying around on your person to act as a personal productivity device, or to read e-books (the iPad2/Xoom are far too heavy to hang on to for more than 15 minutes) you'll buy a PlayBook.  I doubt the PlayBook will ever sell 30M copies in a year like the iPad but like the Windows / Apple debate, there are room in the world for two devices and competition works best for us users.  Game on!

by mapsonburt on ‎04-01-2011 05:58 AM

Oh, and one last killer reason to support the PlayBook over the iPad (can't comment on the Xoom yet), is the PlayBook's AWESOME multitasking.  This isn't like Apple's put the app to sleep and switch mode, this is true running multiple apps at the same time.  They've shown Need for Speed, Quake, full HD video and 2-3 ordinary apps all running at the same time without impacts to the frame rate.  Yes, you don't need to run two games at the same time but think of the things you can do on this device because it CAN.  Also, because you can write code using C/C++ and POSIX compatible UNIX (like Linux, SunOS, IBM's AIX, QNX, etc) on the device, just about any application running on UNIX can be ported to this thing with just a recompile.  There are literally millions.  That's how they got Quake compiled and running within days of the announcement.  Integrate that with the device capabilities (inboard GPS, compass, Wifi presence, accelerometers and location awareness) and the possiblities for truly game changing useful applications has gone up exponentially.  With the 3G/4G/WiMax PlayBook out this summer, that'll add even more capability as you'll have those same abilities anywhere you can get cell coverage.  You know all those fancy real-estate sites with virtual home tours done in flash that you can't access on your iPad's?  Well with this thing, you can be driving by the house and it could automatically find it on MLS, bring up the full virtual home listing and give you access to video chat with the agent online. 


These devices are going to change the way we work and play.  Exciting times.

by Bill_Ballantine on ‎04-01-2011 06:17 AM

I'm with @ivansf here, 26 apps as of now designed specifically for Honeycomb but a load more of the phone apps can be run on this thing... I remember when I got my iPad (1st gen), there wasn't that much of choices for native iPad apps :smileyfrustrated: Had to wait a while.

by Bill_Ballantine on ‎04-01-2011 06:22 AM

Great review! I got the iPad 1st generation and was looking for something a bit different. Upgrading to the 2nd gen. doesn't really makes sense for me so I was looking for the Xoom... But seeing the portability of the PlayBook and the availability of the Android apps, I have some field testing to do now!

by Retired Blogger on ‎04-01-2011 08:20 AM

Agreed, the value of these new entries into the tablet field is tied to the number and usefulness of the apps available. Get some good developers working on good apps and it's going to be exciting times in tablet-town :smileyhappy:

by cronocrosser on ‎04-01-2011 08:32 AM

The fact a lot of people do seem to overlook about the Playbook is that it doesn't even have native e-mail support at least. Personally for myself, not having a Blackberry, that would be a major downfall when comparing the three tablets to purchase.

by mapsonburt on ‎04-01-2011 08:46 AM

Most people that want a native email client have a blackberry or can get at their email through the web.  The PlayBook will have a native client this summer and I'm sure there are no shortages of email clients you'll be able to download from appworld or from the web.  Anything that runs on the web will work.  I wish it came with the client out of the box, but with the Over-the-air downloads it's no biggie. 

by Exalted Expert on ‎04-01-2011 08:53 AM
Hi cronocrosser, that is correct, at least at launch, however there is one coming, likely before the release of the 3G/4G models. In addition, this is an area where there may be 3rd party apps as well. Why is this? Very likely because RIM wants to ensure they have something that stands up to the security standards for enterprise. Sure, consumers might not care, but corporations do. But that said, according to info that has come out, yes, there will be a native email client. It will just be delayed a bit.
by dirk32 on ‎04-06-2011 11:51 AM

It may be able to run all the apps at once, however thats what makes the battery life on blackberrys horrible. Alot of people do not know that they are all running at once and do not know how to actually close the applcation. I sell and repair cell phones, and i get an incredible amount of blackberry users who complain about battery life for that fact.


In a comparison between the Xoom and the iPad 2, the Xoom has more Ram, and lets not forget what OS was first to be able to run Unreal Technology for a game. 

Now the Playbook. Blackberry users, how many of you can say that you have never had to do a battery pull. Well thats going to be fun with a tablet that you paid alot more money for.

This is just from expirience with every device and operating system. Don't get me wrong, I love blackberry because their devices are easy to fix. Battery pull, host routing table, or update usually does the trick. But with blackberry messenger coming to app store april 26 and android market later this year, I don't see blackberry being incredibly popular for much longer. That was one of the key selling points of a blackberry. I think i see a steady decline for blackberry very soon.

I'm an iPhone user myself, but I think I'm going to go with the Xoom. No one can tell for sure until whoever is buying it gets their hands on it themselves. Specs hardly sell devices to customers. There are alot less techies then people with normal technical knowledge. The sales are going to be based on ease of use, keyboard size and layout, and who plays better commercials on TV. I see it everyday.

by Exalted Expert on ‎04-06-2011 02:09 PM

Hi dirk32,


A few comments.  First, BBM is not coming to the App Store on April 26th.  That is false information that went around a little while back, but the supposed "event" that was announced at never actually happened (that information was refuted by RIM).  Second, the BlackBerry PlayBook is running a completely different OS than regular BlackBerry devices.  If you've never taken a look at the QNX OS, you really should.  If something goes down on one kernel, only that kernel will reboot - it doesn't need to take down the rest of the device (which is what usually happens on regular BlackBerry devices).  Of course, until the BlackBerry PlayBook comes out, who knows, but the QNX OS is currently used to run a lot of other devices such as heart monitors, nuclear reactors, stage equipment, car systems and more.  And as one final point on this issue, the BlackBerry PlayBook has been rated as having 10+ hours of battery life which is comparable to both the iPad and the Motorola Xoom.


Unfortunately for Motorola, the Xoom apparently isn't selling nearly as well as had been expected.  And I say unfortunate as the general feeling surrounding this device is that it is supposed to be quite a nice device.  The iPad is fine, but when it comes down to it, there is nothing that really makes it stand out from the Xoom or the PlayBook.  The big reason for it's current success has a huge amount to do with Apple's marketing strategy (similar to what you state in your last paragraph).  It might have more apps, but there is no reason the other devices can't do the same (e.g. what the iPad needs an app for, the PlayBook or the Xoom can do using a Flash capable browser).


Anyhow, interesting comments, and I hope the above clears up a few misconceptions.  :smileyhappy:

by RMaini on ‎04-08-2011 07:03 PM

Another really great feature about the PlayBook is that you can be playing your music while surfing the internet and doing all sorts of multi tasking at once. Also a feature i found really great about the PlayBook is the finger swips that trigger actions on the PlayBook, such features like swiping your finger up (from the bottom) will show you all running programs in the background, also allowing you to close some at the same time and also some applications on the bottom. Then you have the finger swipe to the side (right side to the left) will also show you only running applications in a bigger view. Tapping the top will show you the time/signal etc. The PlayBook looks like it probably will be taking the market, only thing the PlayBook or the Xoom can't YET compete with Apple is all the applications Apple offers; but im sure that will change.

by gigabyte on ‎04-09-2011 11:45 AM
I have a Xoom, am using it right now as a matter of fact. It's a great tablet, very fast and honeycomb is incredibly easy to use. I run a blackberry for a phone and previously used an iPod touch while awaiting the release of the ipad2. I was disappointed with the ipad2 and waited to see what else would hit the market. I played with all of the tablets while on a trip to the US last week and found that I loved the Xoom. After a bit more than a week of use i'm incredibly happy with my choice and will be switching my phone to an android device in the near future. True the apps are lacking, but I have far more than 26 apps on my Xoom and every company i've contacted from my iPod days has said android apps are in the works, so it will come. The comment above that you can't hold a Xoom for more than 15 minutes is the biggest joke out there, my 90 year old grandma could use it for longer than that :-) I posted a review on it on the store website, so hopefully they post it in the near future as I gave a pretty comprehensive breakdown on the tablet. My one and only complaint with it is that it does not charge via USB, but really that's minor in the grand scheme of things. If you really want to compare tablets you have to throw the HTC and LG ones into the mix as well. They aren't out yet, but they're coming down the pipe and both look very interesting. My best advice to people is to go into a store and use the tablets, it's really the only way to know what you'll honestly love.
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