Tablets are being advertised everywhere at the moment, from newspapers, magazines and billboards to the occasional TV slot. Since the first-generation iPad in 2010, there has never been more choice in terms of specifications, operating systems and form factors.
The iPad 2 is widely recognised as the benchmark for tablets, but even the most ardent Apple fan cannot deny its limitations, and the 9.7in format is not going to suit everyone.
A number of manufacturers are aiming to cater to those who want a smaller tablet. There are numerous 7in models on the market, the best of which are the BlackBerry PlayBook, HTC Flyer and the original Samsung Galaxy Tab.
V3 has rounded up the three devices and put them head to head to see which is the best for business.
Form factor - beauty is in the eye of the beholder
The Flyer and the Galaxy Tab have a very similar form factor and are designed primarily to be held in portrait mode. In contrast, the PlayBook is designed to be operated in landscape mode.
The screen on the PlayBook and the Tab can be rotated in any direction, but the Flyer works only on one horizontal and one vertical plane, which can be annoying.
The consensus in the V3 office was that the Tab has the best design, followed by the Flyer. The PlayBook was seen as bland, but I feel that it is well designed and the most compact of the three.
At 425g, the PlayBook is the heaviest, although the Flyer follows closely behind at 420g with its metal frame. The plastic coated Tab is the lightest at 380g, which is hardly a surprise as Samsung is making it a habit to make super light devices.
Performance – PlayBook and the Tab surge ahead
All three tablets pack the same 600x1,024 resolution screen, and it's touch and go as to which has the sharpest display. The PlayBook and the Tab come with TFT screens with 16 million colours and just edge out the Flyer's LCD display, which looks pixellated at times.
The PlayBook was the last device to market and has the edge when it comes to specifications. A 1GHz dual-core Texas Instruments processor and 1GB of RAM make it easily the quickest.
The PlayBook has the smoothest transition between apps and home screens, with no hint of lag. Navigating the interface is done by initiating gesture-based control from the bezel, and the real multi-tasking feature is PC-like and very impressive.
Despite coming with a 1.5GHz single-core processor and 1GB of RAM, the performance of the Flyer is disappointing compared to its rivals. The Sense interface is resource-hungry, and over time we found that the overall performance of the tablet became a little bit sluggish after using it for a few weeks.
Interestingly, there are no performance problems with the Galaxy Tab even though it was released well over six months before the Flyer. The difference in performance between the Tab and Flyer is all the more surprising, considering that the Samsung comes with a 1GHz Cortex A8 processor and just 512MB of RAM.