I know there are many more tablets in the market then just the Motorola Xoom, Apple iPad 2, and the BlackBerry Playbook, but honestly, those other tablets are looking to find their niche as lower priced inferior segments that would be happy with 2% of the tablet industry. Realistically, only the offerings presented by Motorola and RIM stand to gain any ground against the 85% market dominance held by the iPad in 2010. I’m going to assume that the 16GB Wi-Fi models will be the ones each company sells the most, (32GB for the Xoom of course) I could be wrong, but for the basis of this review, I figure I’ll go with the one that’s most likely to end up in your hands. It does the same things but pretend your WiFi network extends everywhere.
The iPad 2, Motorola Xoom, and BlackBerry PlayBook really need no introductions, and I won’t bore you with their specifications. You could have gone to their respective manufacturer’s websites to know what the specs are if that’s all you cared about. I’ll put a chart at the end so you can compare them, but it won’t tell you what you really want to know. What I care about and what you should care about is how all those components are put together, how they work and how they will work for you.
Starting off in no particular order, the Xoom!
What really strikes you when you open the box and turn on the Xoom is the size. The first thing I did is went straight to YouTube and opened up a HD video so I could see it in action. I did enjoy the video quality but the sound was really amazing. I think that has to do with its two speakers and its stereo sound. I went through the gauntlet of all my frequently visited websites and after a quick Flash 10.2 update it felt as though I was browsing with a normal PC. I admit that I have had experience with Android 2.3 Gingerbread with the Nexus S so the Honeycomb 3.0 familiarity was quite high. I really like the interface and its ease of use for Android users and am quite certain that almost anyone, even those who have never held anything but an iOS device will be able to pick up and use this Android tablet quickly.
Playing a game like Angry Birds on the Xoom, I did notice some slight colorization or pixilation that I have never noticed on my iPad 2. It could be just isolated to this one App, but I will keep tabs on that as I continue to use it. Overall, what really surprised me about the Xoom is that it’s not as bad as I was led to believe by all the reviews and through reading all the discussions (if you can call it that) out there on the internet. I will admit it doesn’t feel as good as the iPad 2 or PlayBook in my hands, and that’s one of those things you will have to find out by yourself. I also don’t like that fact that the sleep on/off button is on the back, having to pick it up to turn it on to use it. Not a huge deal, but something I would like for them to fix in future versions. (If they have any) I know I’ve read that the Xoom’s touch screen isn’t very accurate and being an iPad 2 user I did notice that to some degree, but to be fair, I think that is more perceived then actual fact. Overall, I was happy with this purchase and look forward to using it on a daily basis.
Next up, the BlackBerry Playbook!
I know I just reviewed it, and you can read that here. I know a lot of people including myself were bashing many factors of the PlayBook before it came out, but I will say this in its defence, go out and buy one! Now in my second day, even my brother and my wife who have had a chance to use it agree that the smaller form factor is more comfortable in certain situations. Sometimes my wife and I cuddle in our bed and watch the latest episode of Outsourced with the Global T.V app. Could I see myself doing that with the PlayBook? I don’t think so. But where I really did like it was while watching the NBA and NHL playoffs on T.V and checking the out of town scores. Sometimes I hold my tablet in one hand from the bottom corner, after a few moments, the iPad 2 can seem to weigh a lot more then its 1.3 pounds. With the PlayBook, it feels more natural to have in your hand, trust me it’s a thing that you can’t know unless you have one. I did take my PlayBook out with me, and unfortunately I don’t drink $7 Chai lattes at my local Starbucks so I didn’t whip it out anywhere (lol). But I was able to carry it in my jacket pocket quite comfortably and barely noticed it was with me. The Xoom and the iPad 2 are very popular devices but they are big and require a case or a bag.
The PlayBook also features stereo sound but what you will notice almost instantly is the amazing display. Having 1024×600 resolution on a 7” display really packs in that pixel density! I know that RIM is taking a lot of heat for not having many native apps and going through their selection I wasn’t impressed at all and thought most of what they did have was garbage. I’ve heard they may integrate and have access to the Android marketplace, a very welcome addition and I can’t wait. It may just come down to software in the tablet wars and RIM is really behind. Ironically however, I am also very happy with this purchase!
And lastly and certainly not least, the iPad 2!
I’ve written much on this tablet and you can read about it here and here. I know that there are two very strong camps when talking about this device. It’s very simple in that there are those that absolutely love it and those who absolutely hate it. You can talk about thousands of apps, how easy iOS is to use, Apple’s Genius bar, or you can talk about lack of Flash support, a 0.3 and 0.7 megapixel front and rear camera. Apple moves beyond those things, the touch screen feels so intuitive, you feel like you are in the movies (where they have the cool holographic projections that are completely gesture based without having to touch anything). I really have to say that the iPad 2 is that device that is greater then the sum of its parts. But I do wish they had thought some things through, I am positive that in order to maintain their same price points as the iPad 1 (Even lower due to dollar) they put the lower resolution camera and simply talk about its video prowess. It doesn’t have the micro HDMI built into the system like the PlayBook or the Xoom, but does offer a separate adaptor for those who wish to have that feature and I would be remiss in not mentioning AirPlay support through Apple T.V but these things do add on to the price!
As you can see all three devices have their pros and cons. What it really comes down to is personal preference. You have to ask yourself what is important to you in a tablet. If you are like most people and want to surf the web, check emails, watch a few videos, and maybe play a few games all tablets will do that. Things such as price, the size of the screen, ease of use, should be things you determine before deciding which tablet to go with. If you don’t intend on using the camera on the device, having a 10MP camera or 100MP’s won’t matter. If you don’t plan on doing presentations things such as AirPlay or micro HDMI won’t matter. Apple came to the market first and coupled with a few other factors has a huge share of the tablet market, even with the introduction of so many tablets since that time, nothing really has made inroads on that market share. I’m not sure if anything will, but Motorola and Research In Motion have nothing to be ashamed of, they have provided a great tablet experience and their users will be more then happy regardless of how many units they sell.
For comparison purposes here are some rear camera shots for each device. All pictures were taken one after the other in the same environment. I was surprised by the results. See for yourself!
And here's that chart I promised!