New iPad vs BlackBerry PlayBook vs Amazon Kindle Fire: Which should you get?

New iPad vs BlackBerry PlayBook vs Amazon Kindle Fire: Which should you get?

With the new iPad around the corner, there are lots of people wondering if now is the time to jump into the wonderful world of tablets. Of course, the new iPad will be the first one many first timers will look at. Many savvy shoppers, however, will also take a look at the alternatives before taking the plunge. That's especially true of low-cost alternatives like the BlackBerry PlayBook, Amazon Kindle Fire, and smattering of other bargain bin Android tablets (like the $100 ZTE Optik). The question is simple: how much are you willing to spend, and what value can you get for your money?

Screen size

BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 vs. iPad 2 feature comparison

The most obvious sacrifice you tend to make when it comes to budget tablets is screen size, which might not actually be all that much of a bad thing if you're looking for something portable. The PlayBook, even with its 7-inch display, can still handle HD video playback respectably. The Amazon Kindle Fire is the same size, and is tied into all of Amazon's book, video, and music services.

The advantage of the smaller screen size is that you can fit it into a jacket pocket, and hold it for longer periods of time without getting tired. It's closer to a one-handed tablet than the two hands typically required for an iPad.

The down side is that a smaller screen restricts the type of apps you can run. As a result, with 7-inch tablets you typically get scaled up smartphone apps rather than the bigger, tablet-specific apps you get on the iPad. Also, for some bigger really is better when it comes to watching video, gaming, or reading.

If portability is your primary concerns, check out the PlayBook and the Kindle Fire. If screen size matters to you, check out the iPad.

Media and Apps

Tablet (read: iPad and Kindle) ownership almost doubled over the holidays

There's no other way to say it: compared to the iPad and the App Store, the BlackBerry PlayBook App World ecosystem is sorely lacking. This is the next sacrifice you make when aiming for budget tablets. Even within the massive Android market, Android tablet apps have been very slow to appear. On both platforms you can run Android smartphone apps, but the experience isn't even close to the same. (Just like running iPhone apps on the iPad is doable but not especially enjoyable.)

For games and really big name apps, it probably won't matter. You'll find what you need to get by. But if you want really great software and more importantly, a choice of several really great apps in any given category, it's something to consider.

Media -- books, TV shows, movies, and music -- varies more from platform to platform. Amazon, of course, is a content power house and there's an argument to be made that the Kindle Fire is as much a portal to the massive Amazon store as it is a tablet. The only catch is, Amazon media is almost entirely exclusive to the U.S. You can find Amazon MP3 in a few other countries, but compared to Apple's international iTunes availability, depending on where you live, the Kindle can end up being little more than a paperweight. Media on the PlayBook is more of a mixed bag, with apps and sync filling in some of the gaps, but nothing to compare with the content offerings from Amazon or iTunes.

If you're happy with the basics and already have a lot of your own content, you can go with a cheaper tablet. If you want the best choice of the best apps and an easy way to buy more content, go with the iPad.

Performance and user experience

Amazon Kindle bikini ad

Although the PlayBook saw significant price cuts due to slow sales and adoption, BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 runs really well on the hardware. Amazon has also fixed a lot of the bugs and performance issues that plagued the original Kindle Fire release and the user experience is now much smoother and more enjoyable.

Budget Android tablets tend to be more problematic. Delayed OS updates, wonky manufacturer customizations, and sketchy hardware performance can all make for a poor time on Android.

With the iPad you get what you pay for. A really smooth, really polished user experience that almost always keeps you focused on what you're doing without the distractions of poor or glitchy performance. It's a cliche but it just works.

One thing PlayBook and Android can boast over iOS, however, is a more open ecosystem, at that combined with a lower pricetag may be worth sacrifice if you're willing (or eager) to tweak your device.

If you want a good mix of performance and price, the Playbook followed more distantly by the Kindle Fire is worth checking out. If you value price over performance, budget Android tablets are worth a look. If you put a premium on performance and user experience, you'll ultimately enjoy the iPad more.

The budget iPad

iPad 2 vs the new iPad: Which should you get?

There's another choice worth considering in the budget tablet debate: the iPad 2. While it hasn't reached the $199 level of the BlackBerry PlayBook or Amazon Kindle Fire, Apple did keep last year's iPad 2 around at a discounted $399 price. If you don't mind missing out on a Retina display, faster graphics, LTE options, or better cameras, give it a look.

Apple also offers refurbished iPads, currently both first generation and iPad 2, via their online store. So if you're on a budget but have your heart set on an iPad, Apple's refurbished iPad store is worth a look.

Any questions?

Overall, if you're on a budget, you can typically find a decent (if not great) tablet alternative to the new iPad for $300 less. You're sacrificing app selection, screen size, and resolution, but you're gaining a wider variety of options when it comes to hardware configuration and software accessibility. Personally, it's easy for me to side with the new iPad -- I can only imagine that the disparity in gaming performance with anything else is going to be huge.

If money is tight, however, it can be really difficult to decide how much you can or will spend on a tablet. Lower cost doesn't always translate into better value, but the reality it, tablets aren't as critical as phones or computers, and there's only so much gadget money to go around. If you've already tried out the BlackBerry PlayBook, Amazon Kindle Fire, or another budget tablet, share your thoughts. If you have more questions or want more opinions, we're here to help.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Simon Sage

Editor-at-very-large at Mobile Nations, gamer, giant.

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Reader comments

New iPad vs BlackBerry PlayBook vs Amazon Kindle Fire: Which should you get?


The other tablets aren't bad, I tried a kindle fire in the store it was nice, same my Aunt's T mobile Springboard. But the ecosystem and presentation of media on the iPad is the best. So many times I hear my cousins say, I wish this was available on android. I imagine you'd hear that a lot more on the blackberry playbook.

Kindle Fire -> if you watch Amazon Prime video (not available on iPad), if you want the least frictionless shopping with Amazon (curse you, Apple for forcing the button removal from apps), if you really need to fit in in a purse, or if you are budget conscious.
iPad -> if the above is not as important to you as having the most capable tablet.
Kindle Touch -> If reading is your overriding use case.

I have all 3 and the iPad2 is far the best one the kindle fire is good for kids. The play book
Would be ok for work if you had to downgrade to a blackberry .

Uh oh, Rene called it "iPad 3"! Let the drama ensue! :P
I really can't see myself buying the iPad just because of the size, I want a one handed reader that I can carry in my pocket, but is larger than my iPhone.
Fingers crossed for 7.85" iPad

Are you sure you know what that means? Best bang for the buck in this category is clearly the Playbook. $299.00 (with NO tax & No shipping from the BB site)for a 64GB (check to see how much any other 64GB tablet will run you), 1ghz dual core processor, silky smooth OS, kick butt cameras front and rear (BOTH which shoot 1080p HD video), a browsing experience that has been bragged about since it's launch, FLASH 11.2, true multi-tasking, HDMI out, and a presentation mode that is so nice it would make Steve Jobs smack his mama... nuff said. I love my iPad to pieces when playing or surfing the net in the morning at the breakfast table, but when I'm leaving the house and require a tablet that day, the Playbook is what is under my arm 95% of the time. It's convenient size combined with the new features that OS 2.0 provide (and should of had in the first place) make it perfect for work & play. I gave my son my Kindle Fire because for anyone that really wants to use the power of a tablet for work and play, it's simply not up to snuff. (especially when you can have a 16 GB Playbook for the same price) The iPad and Playbook both have the capability to handle work related needs much better. The gap between the iPad and Playbook are MUCH closer than most people would think. If using a scale of 1 - 100 to rate the two... iPad = 93 (lack of flash) Playbook = 88 (Fewer apps, not quite as polished as iPad.. but EXTREMELY close) Having all of them for some time now honestly if I had to only keep one, surprisingly enough, it would have to be the Playbook. I'm as shocked as anyone that after all the mis-steps that RIM has made up to this point, this would be my decision, but it's true. With the upgrade to OS 2.0 its what people were expecting from the beginning. THAT BEING SAID, my wife would kill everyone in this joint if you took her iPad away. She loves the size, the apps that she uses for work and play, and the status of having the thing. (don't tell her I said that though)

Man you are my idol, you just shut up many voices that are and will keep criticizing the PlayBook I have a Kindle Fire and a PlayBook (and I hope to win an Ipad during this year) but I prefer a thousand times more my Playbook, why? Because it costs the same as the Kindle but, well I will say that for reading I consider better the Kindle but if you really want to work on it or want a more "portable laptop" experience the PlayBook is way more powerful than the Kindle.
If I had an Ipad sure I will use it bery often to play games or Skype with my friends but considering that the PlayBook is like 300$ more cheaper (or in some cases even a 500$ dollar difference) the PlayBook is a remarkable choice.
In my opinion:
PlayBook: Hard Work, Documents, Web Surf, Recording, etc
Ipad: Games, Skype, and occasional surfing.
Kindle: Reading books, buying things.
Thanks for your objective comment!

I wish I could have seen the comments being deleted. Step your game up Rene, you still have work to do to clean up some who post on here.
Having said that... All 3 are viable choices. But what do you really get with any of the 3? Another device to add more clutter to the smartphone, pc, tv box, game system etc etc... If, however, these devices reduce clutter & are used to handle dedicated functions, I see the point. Most use I see from any of them is just a status symbol for the owners. These devices replicate functionality they already have from some other tech. These same folks who will spend the $200-$700 bucks on a tablet will complain about high gas prices & taxes.

First I thought Amazon was just trying to appeal to women, since all of their commercials' primary talent were female. Now we have a bikini 'mom' selling to an 'interested' guy.
How long before Amazon's commercials go full on GoDaddy?
Danica, your next gig is calling...

I love my Kindle Fire. I carry it in my purse to work every day. I occasionally watch "The Big Bang Theory" on it, check facebook or my email but I primarily read on it. If I was going to do something more elaborate, I would consider an iPad.

Im getting the new iPad... go big or go home! Kindle fire is crap and BlackBerry PlayBook is crap too.... You pay for what you get people....

I bought the new iPad for the games mostly, additionally being able to use it as a large enough screen to read some manuals while at my PC (programming guides and such) is a nice addition. But mostly the games.

The new Ipad is a great new machine, but for me the Playbook 64G at $299 is a much better alternative. As for a budget tablet, I think not. It is just as good as any Ipad. You are correct about your ecosystem, but Blackberry has enough apps to suffice. I have alot of my own content that I can side load onto my Playbook. If I had $800, I would buy myself an ultra portable laptop

I really really really wanted a smaller 1920x1440 iPad. Enough pixels for full 1920x1080p HD video (letterboxed in native un-scaled resolution) and a full (non-mobile) web browsing experience and retina display e-book and photo clarity, but smaller than a standard iPad; just pocketable like a Kindle Fire.
I'm sure one will be released just as soon as I break down and buy an iPad (3).

I am a Playbook owner, and the value is outstanding. Two things to consider for anyone thinking of going "budget" like I did.

  1. Form factor. Do you want a compact web surfing, gaming and productivity device to take with you? Playbook is superior to iPad.
  2. Apps. Will you be disappointed that you are unable to run the latest app that came out? Definitely go iPad.

For me, number one is the playbook's greatest asset, and number two its greatest liability.
I am impressed with sheer brilliance of the Playbooks screen as compared with iPad 2. I am impressed also with its multitasking ability, its web multimedia content (flash and html5) rendering ability, as well as the selection and quality of 3D games.
I am also happy with the new influx of apps due to Android compatibility, as well as the ability to sideload some apps that are not the the App World, such as Kindle ans Words with Friends.
Overall, a wise choice for the budget tablet shopper, with the right needs.

Im sure the new ipad is a nice device, but for the price I would get a ultraportable laptop that does more. value is base on price and features, I think it is waaaay overpriced. its just a status symbol. my boss has one and he has all these work arounds to do his work when he could just use a laptop.

I would definitely either go playbook or Ipad2, depending on your needs. For me it was a playbook 64GB, it has all the apps I need and plenty of good games. Skype and netflix are some apps sadly missing for some, I don't use them but wish they would make it happen. The new iPad isn't all that, bad wifi, overheating , no 1080p from netflix yet, and most apps still aren't retina ready. If you MUST HAVE the new iPad don't rush for it as I'm sure it will have improvements in a update hopefully soon. Or get Ipad2.

Specifically made for " READING." For people who has small spare time to play games and web surfing.... Buy it because READING is your THING. Portable, fits most on woman's purses. Plenty of choices on ebooks and shopping. Money wise.
Made for " BUSINESS." People who also has minimal time to play games, who needs to get to the point, from point A to point B. Who needs to get the job done. Who do much web surfing, ok for reading, however minimal choices for ebooks, unlike Kindle. But you gains many apps for business types. Also Support Flash, easy to watch Anime websites, Japanese tv series, and other movie websites. Amazing multi tasking, Poratable, Security, and perfect to bridge if you already have a blackberry phones. Buy it because BUSINESS is your THING. Money wise.
Made for " GAMES/IQ " People who has plenty of times. like to play games, a lot, likes to take photos, a lot. who likes to web surfing, a lot. Who likes to watch movies, a lot. Support skype, Netflix. Also for Parents who wants to keep their kids busy, while they're doing chores, or etc. Also for people who likes shoppings, likes to scroll around thousands and thousands of apps. ( correct me if I'm wrong, but most apps are not really useable and poor ) Money is not an issue.
it's all depends on what people really needs...
My choice: Playbook, why? it works perfectly on my bold 9930, i can do presentation with ease, just connect the HDMI ports, bridge the phone and use it as a mouse, with NFC it works on file sharing for my clients.
good review by the way, and thanks..

It's kind of funny because no one brought up the issue of the memory hogging Retina games. Retina games take up 791 Mb of memory-473 Mb more than the same game without the Retina upgrade. Playbook is also way better for Personal Information Management (PIM) and security. It can handle "silos", encrypted portions of the memory for corporate and other sensitive information. It's PIM is excellent. It sucks in information from various accounts that you link it too and it pools the information and email into one convenient location.

I own the 64 GB BB Playbook and the 64GB iPad2. I agree with ANON above - for sheer portability and BEAUTIFUL interface for work, I love the Playbook. Kinda sad that so many posters believe they have to trash one to exalt the other (general net reading, not necessarily here). I enjoy them both and use them both every day. At the end of the day though, I could toss in an extra fifty bucks on the BB site and walk away with 3 64GB Playbooks for my family for the price of one NEW iPad 64GB and call it square. The bigger screen and abundant apps don't make up the difference; PB wins for me. (No experience with Kindle (I have a Kindle 3 but no Fire) so no comment on that.)

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Eu tenho um the New iPad e na minha opinião é o melhor dos tablets.
O que nele é ruim é o 4G porque aqui no Brasil não tem 4G ainda só vai ter em 2014.
Mas vale esperar!

Im having a small issue. I cant get my reader to pick up your rss feed, Im using bing reader by the way.

I am Canadian, but I recently purchased the 32 gig playbook for $130 after tax.
I have ipad 1 and ipad 3 . Using it for surfing the internet and watching movies , I would say that the playbook is faster and the resolution looks great for both models.
From a pure value play, playbook is better, but from a user experience and app experience Ipad is better. I hope that the new apps coming in 2013 put Rim back in contention.