Best tablets: Apple iPad vs. Samsung Galaxy Tab vs. BlackBerry PlayBook

The tablet battle heats up as Apple's iPad squares off against newcomers the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the BlackBerry PlayBook. The question is, which one is the best tablet of them all?

After a wave of fast-buck pretenders, Apple's reign over the tablet kingdom is now receiving some proper challengers - big brands with a history of tackling Apple on the smartphone market. Tossing their hats into the ring in the coming months: the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the BlackBerry PlayBook. But do they have the wherewithal to take Apple down? We put the contenders in a spec-for-spec brawl against the reigning champ to find out.



Build and design:

Apple iPad build and design

Certainly a slick looking piece of tech, to the point where every tech company and their dog are "creatively borrowing" from the iPad when cooking up their own tablets. However, the original tablet does have a distinct heft about it and is almost twice the weight of the Samsung Galaxy Tab. At 680g for the WiFi and 730g for the 3G model it's hardly a back-breaking load, but extended use requires both hands. Packs a sizeable 9.7" screen for movie watching and web browsing.

Apple iPad build and design photos | Apple iPad full review


 

Samsung Galaxy Tab build and design

To say the iPad influenced the design of the Samsung Galaxy Tab would be a generous understatement. Slimmer accross and with a smaller, 7" screen, the Galaxy Tab is also only half the weight (ish) of an iPad, making it perfect for holding with one hand and operating with the other. Samsung have also pegged this as a more comfortable way of reading ebooks, although it still falls short of a proper e-reader.

Samsung Galaxy Tab build and design photos | Samsung Galaxy Tab preview

 

BlackBerry PlayBook build and design

Another suspiciously similar looking tablet to the iPad, BlackBerry is also going small with it's recent venture into the tablet market, with the PlayBook boasting a 7" touchscreen and weighing in at a feather more than the Galaxy Tab at 400g.

BlackBerry PlayBook build and design photos | BlackBerry PlayBook preview



Performance:

Apple iPad performance

The iPad makes use of Apple's own A4 processor - the same one that's found in the iPhone 4 and the new Apple TV - and its own iOS operating system for nippy web browsing and playback of video. The interface is famously smooth, with pages slipping by under the fingers with fluidity, and come November's iOS 4 update the iPad will boast multi-tasking, too. Whatever grudge Jobs holds against Adobe still hasn't passed under the bridge yet, though, so there's still no Flash support (nor would we hold our breath for any).

Apple iPad performance video | Apple iPad full review

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab performance

Of course, Android has had multi-tasking all along, and the Samsung Galaxy Tab is no different with its 2.2 Froyo edition of the Android OS. It's also got a 1GHz processor and an iPad-beating 1080p video playback, as well as Flash support. Another feature that the iPad lacks is the ability to make voice calls using a SIM card, making this a true big brother to the Samsung Galaxy S smartphone.

Samsung Galaxy Tab performance video | Samsung Galaxy Tab preview


 

BlackBerry PlayBook performance

The proprietary BlackBerry PlayBook QNX operating system apparently focuses on stability and prolonged battery life, as well as offering Flash and 3D graphics support. We've heard there may be some integration with the current BlackBerry App World, although how well apps designed for the BlackBerry range's typically small screen sizes will work on the PlayBook remains to be seen. The PlayBook packs in some serious hardware as well, with 1GB of RAM and a 1GHz dual core processor, making it the most powerful of the three contenders on paper. Success hinges, then, on how stylishly BlackBerry can bring it all together.

BlackBerry PlayBook performance video | BlackBerry PlayBook preview


Camera:

Apple iPad camera

This one's fairly simple: there isn't one.

Apple iPad photos | Apple iPad full review

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab camera

Front and rear-facing cameras (1.3MP and 3.2MP, respectively), the former for video calling and the latter shooting 720p video and carrying an LED flash.

Samsung Galaxy Tab photos | Samsung Galaxy Tab preview

 

BlackBerry PlayBook camera

The clear winner in this category, the PlayBook comes with front and rear-facing cameras like the Galaxy Tab, except with higher pixel counts (3MP for the front facing, video call-making camera, and a 5MP snapper on the back).

BlackBerry PlayBook photos | BlackBerry PlayBook preview


Connectivity:

Apple iPad connectivity

This is another stumbling block for the iPad, coming as it does with only a 3.5mm headphone jack and a standard Apple 30-pin charging port. Adding any peripherals on will require a dock, which will cost you a pretty penny on top of what is already a not-inexpensive piece of kit. It does have WiFi and Bluetooth 2.1 on the standard models, though, and for an extra £100 and a monthly fee you can get a micro 3G sim for on-the-go web browsing.

Apple iPad photos | Apple iPad full review

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab connectivity

The Galaxy Tab includes a slot for a normal SIM card, so you can use it for calls, texts and web browsing just like a massive smartphone. It also carries Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi and comes with a MicroSD slot, so you can transfer files more easily, or just beef up the Tab's storage space.

Samsung Galaxy Tab photos | Samsung Galaxy Tab preview

 

BlackBerry PlayBook connectivity

BlackBerry's PlayBook pips both the iPad and the Galaxy Tab for connectivity as well, including Bluetooth and Wifi as well as offering both Micro USB and Micro HDMI ports. No Micro SD, though, so you're stuck with the storage BlackBerry prescribe.

BlackBerry PlayBook photos | BlackBerry PlayBook preview


Price:

Apple iPad price

There are six models of iPad available to buy; sizes available are 16GB, 32GB or 64GB, and each size is available with or without 3G, with 3G models costing £100 extra (plus a monthly fee for internet usage). A 16GB WiFi-only model will set you back £429, while a 64GB 3G version costs a princely £699.

Apple iPad photos | Apple iPad full review

 

Samsung Galaxy Tab price

With a whopping RRP of £799, the Samsung Galaxy Tab is the most expensive tablet contender of the three. Amazon has the 16GB Tab available for a markedly lower £599, but that still prices it higher than Apple's 16GB model. There have been two price cuts already, however, and customers at the Spanish launch got bundled keyboards worth about £60, so there's hope yet, and with that SIM card slot it will be available on contracts just like a mobile.

Samsung Galaxy Tab photos | Samsung Galaxy Tab preview

 

BlackBerry PlayBook price

The only price details we have come from the BlackBerry rumour mill, and the lowest figure we've seen being banded about is a meagre $350 - or a little over £200. However, with the high specs and the price of its competitors so very much higher, this seems fanciful at best, although we'd certainly expect Berry to undercut Apple somewhat on price, if its smartphone history is anything to go by.

BlackBerry PlayBook photos
| BlackBerry PlayBook preview

 

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