iPad mini vs. BlackBerry Playbook hands-on

Rene already expressed the opinion that if Amazon, Google, et. al really want to come at the iPad mini based on price, what they're really doing is telling people to buy a $150 BlackBerry PlayBook. So, in the interest of science, I picked one up to put it's through it's paces.

First off, the iPad mini is incredibly light, almost too light. I toss my PlayBook around a lot and the iPad mini feels as though I may break it I tossed it too hard. It's also really thin. Almost stupidly thin. I get why Apple opted to go with the smaller bezels and they do look great but overall, I would have preferred something a little thicker to grab onto. Landscape is fine but portrait annoys me. Apple says there's software to reject unintentional touch events, but it's still a pain point.

Like the iPhone 5, the iPad mini has that slick anodized aluminum backing on it. It looks good but it doesn't feel particularly grippy. I prefer the softer finish on the BlackBerry PlayBook and even the Google Nexus 7.

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The BlackBerry PlayBook has a 1024x600 screen at 169 ppi while the iPad mini has a 1024x768 screen at the original iPhone's 163 ppi. A lot of people have been complaining about the lack of Retina display on the iPad mini, especially compared to the higher density Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire now on the market. I'm not really bothered by it. Some stuff looks better on the iPad and some stuff looks better on the PlayBook. Text, in my opinion, looks better on the PlayBook. It's all in the eyes of the beholder.

While the iPad mini has stereo speakers, a first for an iOS device, and that makes it less likely your hand will completely cover up the sound while playing a game or watching a video, the sound levels are still way to low. On the PlayBook, even if you do cover up the speakers, their loudness makes up for it.

Check out the video above for some more hands-on impressions and a quick run through of the iPad mini vs. the BlackBerry PlayBook. If you have any questions, drop them in the comments, and if you're a PlayBook owner who's also picked up an iPad mini, let me know how you think they compare!

Editor-at-Large at Mobile Nations, gadget junkie, energy drinker, ranter.

  • Chris, Cool article with provocative findings. Well, except for the bit where you prefer heavy and clunky plastic to light and svelte metal. But forgetting that, at the end of the day, it's still a Blackberry -- and your findings don't make me want to buy a Playbook so much as pity poor RIM for developing such an able device and being unable to sell it. So sad, and next year it may be curtains. Apple take note: there but for Dame Fortune go thou.
  • Consider buying PlayBook now as an investment. Regarding the price, when BB10 came out on it, it will be one hell of a device.
  • The Playbook is a solid device, and at $150 for a 32 GB model, it is very attractive. I agree with Blaize that the Mini is too slippery, and the Playbook having features like HDMI out and micro usb are an added bonus. What I like about the Mini is the larger screen and weight. It is a much better experience with a larger screen for browsing or reading, and at the same time the Mini is physically only slightly larger than the Playbook (but not thickness). If you are going to spend a couple of hours reading on your tablet, the lighter weight is appreciated. It all boils down to a $180 premium for a device that has a larger screen, that is lighter, has a better ecosystem, and has half the memory (or you can pay a $280 premium for a Mini with the same memory as the Playbook).
  • The only thing damning with the playbook (or any RIM device for that matter) is the app ecology. QNX is far superior to iOS.
  • "So sad, and next year it may be curtains." Isnt that what people have been saying for 2 years now? However we still see nothing but positive action happening on RIM now (as of late). Including Wall Street (BB10 is real) and I think (my own opinion) it will be a huge game changer in the mobile eco system. Maybe because I have been using it for a couple months now on a Dev Alpha and I along with many others really like the change.
  • Interesting to note that the Playbook is also two years older than the iPad mini, or any other current tablet out there. It's pretty robust for a middle aged guy with a paunch.
  • The original was out in April 2011 and the newer one came out this past August.
  • Will the Playbook get the OS 10 update?
  • RIM says so, but I'll believe it when I see it. Part of me thinks that PlayBook is going to be tossed the second they have the phones on the market. It's kind of useful for them now because they can test features on the PlayBook before putting them on the phone and apps made for PlayBook will mostly run on the phone. But the second the phone is on the market, why would they keep it going from a business perspective?
  • I'm sure the Ipad Mini is great but.. for £129 of my money I instead went with the Playbook 64GB here in the UK. BB Bridge + the growing number of apps everyday sounds like a helluva good deal to me. Can't fault it and we all know QNX is no joke.
  • I dot care that its ceap. What I really care about is the eco system, and IOS has a big advantage there.
  • Each to his own I guess. I care that I saved £300 as the Ipad Mini 64GB WIfi Only is £429 here in the UK. The apps are great but also, are not when I gotta be locked into Itunes and have access to a gazillion apps when I only actually need a max of 50 or so but actually only use 10 or less regularly. For me... it was simply a no brainer to get the PB that's running OS 2.1, can be upgraded to BB10, works with BB phones via the bridge and can run android apps even though not all... but a good number that's growing daily. And of course, the native apps for the PB are growing everyday too. For me... it's just common sense. My £300 saved will serve me well on my holiday trip to Dubai this christmas
  • I used a playbook for awhile. Power button was horrible, had no idea whether I was holding it down or not since it took literally 10-15 seconds for something to happen on the screen. Startup times were also awful. Web browser tiled continually, opening pages in tabs would 50% of the time leave me with a blank tiled screen. Also, wasnt a fan of swiping from off the screen to bring up the apps/menus.
  • I have to agree with you that the small power button is horrible. So is the boot time, not a big issue as there rarely is a need to reboot, and the boot time will significantly be reduced once the Playbook gets BB10. The browser keeps getting better each time it is updated. I do not know why you have a problem with swiping up to bring up the apps/menus. It is so simple and intuitive. The only frustrating thing about it for me is that I sometimes swipe up on my iPhone.
  • Yeah - the power button sucks on some of them, especially the early ones. You can get around this by gesturing, but some people don't no that. Startup time could be quicker, but I never really need to turn it off. I also have significantly better luck with websites than them "not working half the time" as you suggest. :-) I love the swiping myself, but I think that's just a personal preference relating to familiarity. I actually hate app switching on my work iPhone.
  • i have the playbook 4G and it's much faster and a little lighter then the original.. the ecosystem on the iOS is definitely good if ur deep into Apple Products (i find anyway). I have a Windows Desktop, Laptop a blackberry and a SG3.. getting iproduct would be out of pure design likeability.. the ipad mini looks great.. but having the iphone 1 day one of launch and then the iphone 4 on the day of launch .. i felt that nothing really much as changed in the user experience and that's why i sold my ip4.. getting the ipad mini would be i think the same let down... and i love blackberry bridge and being able to control my PB while sitting on my couch and not having to get up to pause, play, fastforward or rewind movies ; > but both devices fit different needs and both look pretty solid and nice!
  • I played with iPad Mini last night at the local Apple Store. Was really surprised at how thin and light it was. PlayBook certainly felt like a chunk after. I'm kind of clumsy though and could see myself slipping and dropping Mini. It's probably more durable than it looks though. Some people have been moaning about the price vs. the specs, but you're really paying for the brand (Apple does price as a premium brand), ecosystem and customer service. Lots of people were interested in mini because of the price and form factor at the store. I got a 64 GB PlayBook last year for a great price and it works fine. Not perfect, but the price I got it for made it worthwhile. Wish there were more apps, but gaming is quite nice on it. If it were to die, I'd probably get a Mini instead of another PlayBook though, just because of the app support. Still trying to figure out how Tim Cook came to the conclusion that iPad Mini's 7.9" screen is 35% bigger than PlayBook's 7" screen though. Put them side by side in the store and I don't see it.
  • Perfect example of an optical illusion. People tend to see linear dimensions much easier than area dimensions. Clearly it's wider, but I bet you wouldn't peg it at around 27% wider. And the tiny extra 5% taller seems trivial, but it counts across the entirety of the width, and at ~27% wider, it adds up to about a third more screen real estate. Perhaps it's not 35% exactly, but I bet it's close.
  • Not to be disrespectful, but I think you're drinking too much of Tim Cook's KOOL-AID.
  • Actually, I'm just a numbers guy. I ditched OS X six months ago to go back to Windows and have come thisclose to switching from iPhone; in, fact, waiting to see the upcoming flagships from LG and HTC on Verizon. I've used every iPad extensively and owned a Nexus 7 for three months. I popped the red pill long ago, I was just trying enlighten another potential blue pill guy that things aren't always what they seem. So thanks for the accusation. :)
  • I own the Playbook as well and took a look at the iPad Mini in our schools bookstore for comparisons. I have to say that i was pleasantly surprised by it since I didn't think much of the iPads, I thought I wouldn't be taken in by the mini but I think I would choose the mini over the 10 inch iPads. I still love my Playbook and I prefer it but don't own a mini yet so its a biased opinion.
  • Actually yes, the Playbook gets bb10.
    98% of all apps are rubbish or don't work.
    Playbook does currently lack video skype although chatting to all messenger types is possible through IM+. Video to other blackberry devices however is possible through free Blackberry network.
    Has dual wifi and is just as quick as the ipad mini.
    Really solid and tough, though relatively heavy.
    Useful ports, great sound.
    Extra capabilities like surfing through a tethered phone, and there's an app for sharing applications with your computer, and you easily 'print' encrypted text to your paybook where it arrives as a file.
    Security is supreme. You can encrypt anything you want, even the whole playbook.
    Flawlessly incorporates email, Facebook, Twitter and other messenger accounts into a grand database of contact information. All messages from whatever source arrive in the one inbox.
    A great look ahead keyboard.
    The 32g ipad mini is actually $429 vs the 32g playbook's average (can be cheaper) $179. Even a 32g Kindle fire hd is $249.
    I'll stop there. I've always been a little stand-offish about tablets until now. The playbook is my first. I can certainly do work with it, and I admire its design.
  • And now we know that BlackBerry's on the verge of shutdown and that Thorsten Heins has been pessimistic about the future of their own playbook tablets lately so it's probably a no for the BB10 update.