iPad 2, PlayBook headed for Canadian tablet showdown

It’s a one-two punch for Canadian tablet device shoppers as Apple releases its iPad 2 on Friday while stores have began taking pre-orders for Research in Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook scheduled to launch on April 19.

RIM has finally put a date and a price to the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. It will cost $499 for the 16GB Wi-Fi version, $599 for the 32GB model and $699 for the 64GB Wi-Fi version.

Best Buy is taking orders from US and Canadian customers from today. The PlayBook will ship on 19 April. RIM will also sell LTE and HSPA+ versions of the BlackBerry PlayBook, but prices and dates for these have not yet been revealed.

Meanwhile iPadinCanada, the local Website of all things iPad, reported that Apple Retail Stores and Apple Authorized Resellers (Best Buy, Future Shop, etc) will be the main purchase points for the iPad 2 when the tablet is officially released in Canada at on March 25.

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The site said iPad prices for Canada (which are cheaper than those for the original iPad released last year) are:

16GB WiFi: $519
32GB WiFi: $619
64GB WiFi: $719
16GB WiFi + 3G: $649
32GB WiFi + 3G: $749
64GB WiFi + 3G: $849

Competitors to the Apple iPad 2 have been slow to launch. The Motorola Xoom tablet went onsale in late February but others have been thin on the ground, with most expected to launch in May or June. Yesterday, Asus announced its Android 3.0 Honeycomb tablet would go onsale in Taiwan this week.”While competitors are still struggling to catch up with our first iPad, we’ve changed the game again with iPad 2,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO.

“We’re experiencing amazing demand for iPad 2 in the US, and customers around the world have told us they can’t wait to get their hands on it. We appreciate everyone’s patience and we are working hard to build enough iPads for everyone.”

PlayBook vs. iPad 2

Apple’s iPad pricing scheme was a benchmark that many competing devices have had a hard time beating including the Motorola Xoom (3G +Wi-Fi) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab. That makes the PlayBook one of the first devices to match the iPad’s pricing, along with the 32 GB Wi-Fi only Xoom launching March 27 for $600.

But while the PlayBook matches the iPad 2’s price it doesn’t beat the iPad 2’s 9.7-inch display, opting for a smaller 7-inch screen instead.

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Nevertheless, early impressions of the PlayBook give the device thumbs up for its responsive touchscreen and well-built hardware.

But analysts aren’t confident that RIM’s device, or any other tablet out this year, including Hewlett Packard’s TouchPad, can challenge the iPad 2 in 2011. With the PlayBook now available for preorder, RIM’s tablet prospects should become clearer in the coming weeks.

PlayBook Specs: Where’s the 3G?

The BlackBerry PlayBook weighs nearly one pound and is less than a half-inch thick. RIM’s tablet features a 7-inch screen with 1024-by-600 resolution, 1 GHz ARM Cortex A9 dual-core processor, 1GB RAM, 1080p HDMI output, 3 megapixel front-facing camera and 5 megapixel rear-facing camera, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR.

The PlayBook available for preorder at Best Buy does not have a 3G option, but RIM is expected to unveil 3G + Wi-Fi and 4G + Wi-Fi versions in the future. In February, RIM said 4G PlayBooks would arrive during the second half of 2011 for LTE networks.

As with most tablets, the PlayBook will have a GPS accelerometer, a six-axis motion sensor and a digital compass. It runs the BlackBerry Tablet operating system and is capable of 1080p high-definition video capture thanks to its 5Mp main camera.

Where some tablets such as the HTC Flyer and the iPad 2 are looking to be very entertainment-centric, RIM intends to play to the strengths of the BlackBerry brand as a secure messaging platform. Communications and contacts will be handled by the PlayBook owner’s BlackBerry smartphone, with secure access hooking up the two devices.

This means that personal data will remain on the BlackBerry handset and not compromised by being synchronised to the PlayBook. Instead, the PlayBook will effectively be a large screen for more comfortable browsing and viewing items.

As well as a BlackBerry browser and apps written specifically for its larger, 130x194mm dimensions, the PlayBook will have solid multimedia credentials. These include MP3, AAC and Windows Media Audio, H.264, Mpeg4 and WMV video, and stereo speakers and a processor capable of symmetric multi-processing.

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