With the announcement of the new iPad mini tablet, Apple has jumped into the small tablet market. Comparisons to other tablets such as the Nexus 7 and the BlackBerry Playbook are going to be inevitable. So let’s succumb to the inevitable right away, shall we? With the PlayBook being out for about a year and a half, its surprisingly still quite relevant as a 7″ inch-tablet. The iPad mini, the new contender in this tablet class, is brand new and pack quite a similar set of features. Let’s compare and contrast the two to see which one comes out on top.
Straight to the Specs
Let’s take a detailed look at the specifications of both tablets.
While the iPad mini does not exactly conform to the 7″ tablet standard, for all intents and purposes we shall consider it one. It comes packed with pretty much everything you’d expect from a 7″ tablet, much like the PlayBook. Despite the similarities, there are considerable differences.
The iPad mini boasts a slightly larger screen than the PlayBook. It also comes in two colours, and has an autofocus camera (which the PlayBook actually doesn’t have), a great battery life, and a super-fast “Lightning” connector. In addition, it is significantly thinner and lighter, making the PlayBook look and feel like a brick in comparison. The new processor is likely faster than the one found on the PlayBook, but probably not by much. The bezel on the PlayBook is also larger, so the iPad mini and PlayBook have approximately the same proportions despite the iPad mini’s larger screen. This makes a big difference visually. The iPad mini simply looks better without a super-thick bezel like the PlayBook. Even though the PlayBook does have bezel gestures, the bezels don’t need to be that thick.
Yet, when it comes down to hardware, the PlayBook simply packs more features: HDMI-out, better front-facing camera with 1080p video, rapid charging contacts, a universal micro-usb connector, dual microphones, dual speakers, slightly sharper screen and likely more RAM.
This means that you can: hook up your PlayBook to an HDTV without some expensive proprietary connector, take better pictures and video with the front-facing camera, have the option to charge your PlayBook super fast, use other standard chargers, have better sound recording and playback quality, have a sharper display, and run more applications at the same time on the PlayBook.
As well all know, however, hardware isn’t everything. Software plays a huge role. I think it’s safe to say that the software on the iPad mini is more developed and the third-party application support is an order of magnitude better as well. The PlayBook does run an adaptation on QNX, making it more secure and excellent for multi-tasking. Yet the strengths end there. The Docs to Go software on the PlayBook, while free, is clumsy for documents, presentations and worksheets. To say that the pictures app on the PlayBook is limited would be an understatement. There is no decent solution that’s even close to iPhoto on the iPad mini. The PDF reader on the PlayBook is also quite limited. The video chat application only works with other PlayBooks, whereas on the iPad mini you can use “Skype” or “FaceTime” to many other devices.
When it comes to games, the iPad mini definitely holds the most titles, but the PlayBook is no slouch either. There are tons of high quality games on both platforms. If having access to the latest and greatest games is something you find important, the iPad mini is your best bet. As I mentioned before, the iPad mini has way more apps available. While the vast majority of apps are unnecessary the option to have more is clearly preferred.
Price and Value
When it comes down to price, the PlayBook is just simply way cheaper, thanks to steep discounts. These days, you can easily buy two 32 GB PlayBooks for the price of one 16GB iPad mini and still have money leftover for a decent sit down dinner with a significant other. With such a price difference, the PlayBook obviously has much more “bang for the buck” than the iPad mini on paper. Even in the real world, the PlayBook is still a much better deal than the iPad mini. For those that just want a full-featured 7″ tablet for the best possible price, the PlayBook is the right choice. Keep in mind that the PlayBook does trump the iPad in quality internals.
The iPad is priced to account for its lightness and thinness. The iPad mini does actually fit in a typical purse now, and you’ll appreciate how light it is. The iPad mini is now even more portable than the PlayBook even with a larger screen. This does command a premium, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say a 180$ one. On the software end, if you need to have those apps that are only available on the iPad mini, or would like to sync stuff with iCloud, or want the prestige of an Apple product, or simply have lots of money to spend on a 7″ tablet, I’d also recommend the the iPad mini.
Personally, I’d say that if money is no issue, the iPad mini is the better tablet. The size and weight, along with the better software, are reasons alone why it is the better tablet. On the other hand, the PlayBook has better hardware in most cases and is a fantastic deal. It has the software required to do the job, and in my opinion is the best choice for those who’s rather spend the money they save elsewhere. The PlayBook will be getting BlackBerry 10 in the future, which should provide a great boost in software quality.