Spec showdown: iPad 2 vs. its rivals

How does Apple’s new tablet compare with the Motorola Xoom, Galaxy Tab 10.1, HP TouchPad and BlackBerry PlayBook?

Judged on specs alone, the Apple iPad 2 doesn't do much more than keep pace with its tablet rivals. It's a bit thinner that its major rivals -- the Motorola Xoom, Galaxy Tab 10.1, HP TouchPad and BlackBerry PlayBook -- and lighter than most. But its processor appears to be on a par with other tablets and its cameras' resolutions seem to be less.

Of course, people don't buy tablets based on specs alone. The iPad 2 will still offer a base price ($499) that no major competitor has managed to match, it's got a new version of iOS, a mobile operating system that many people prefer, and it has vastly more apps than any other tablet. Plus, Steve Jobs promised the iPad 2 would ship March 11 (in black and white). Of the competing tablets we looked at, only the Xoom is already shipping. There are no hard availability dates for the other competitors.

Apple has shaved off a third of the thickness of the original iPad in the iPad 2, which is the thinnest in this comparison. (Click the chart to see our full comparison.) The iPad 2 is also lighter, on par with Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet as the lightest of the roughly 10-inch tablets. Motorola's Xoom and the HP TouchPad are slightly heavier at 1.6 pounds.

Apple made no changes to the display in the iPad 2: it still has the same 1024 by 768 pixels resolution and 9.7-inch size (same as the TouchPad). The Android tablets from Motorola and Samsung have 10.1-inch screens with 1280 by 800 pixels resolution.

The iPad 2 will still have the largest available built-in storage (64GB), but that's probably trumped by the Xoom, which has internal storage of 32GB but will offer expandable storage with an SD card in a future software update.

The iPad 2 is also improved under the hood. It packs an Apple A5 dual-core 1GHz processor, on par with all the tablets in the comparison, except the TouchPad, which will have a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, the fastest pure clock speed of this comparison. Of course, clock speed and number of cores alone don't determine how fast a tablet is, or how well it manages power. We'll have to determine that through side-by-side testing.

Apple isn't saying how much RAM is in the iPad 2 (the original had 256MB, some are speculating the new version has at least 512MB), but we know the Xoom, TouchPad and BlackBerry PlayBook have 1GB of RAM inside.

The iPad needed front- and rear-facing cameras to keep pace with the competition. There's a front-facing camera for video calling and a camera on the back. Apple didn't specify the megapixel count of the back-facing camera, besides saying it records 720p HD video. Even with the new additions Apple appears to lose in the megapixel count, especially compared to the Tab 10.1's 2 and 8-megapixel cameras.

The speaker on the iPad 2 has been improved, with a larger, wider grill. But its rivals all have stereo speakers.

The iPad 2 will come in two separate 3G models, for Verizon and AT&T, alongside the WiFi-only model. Both the Xoom and the Tab will come only in a 3G version initially, with Wi-Fi only versions to follow. Conversely, the TouchPad will come only with Wi-Fi support at the beginning, with 3G versions to follow.

The Xoom will soon be the only 4G tablet, however. Motorola has said the Xoom can receive a free 4G radio update soon (though it will be a hassle).

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Daniel Ionescu

PC World (US online)
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