Apple unveiled its lighter, thinner and faster rendition of the iPad, the iPad 2, with enough upgrades to give a tough fight to the current breed of Android, webOS and QNX-based tablets.

Though Apple maintained its 9.7-inch form factor, it reduced its weight by about 15 percent to 1.3 pounds from the earlier iPad's 1.6 pounds. Thus it has positioned itself between the 10.1-inch and 7-inch tablet category. The earlier grouse against the iPad was that it was rather heavy. A slew of 7-inch tablets spotted the loophole and brought down the weight below the 1 pound mark. Most of the 7-inch tablets like Samsung Galaxy Tab, RIM PlayBook and Dell Streak 7 weigh about 1 pound.

Apple

Apple unveiled thinner, lighter and faster iPad 2.

However, Apple has found the sweet spot where it can offer a lighter tablet experience without compromising on the display size. Apple is now a tough contender both to 10-inch and 7-inch tablets.

In the 7-inch category, RIM PlayBook has earned plaudits from the industry, for offering powerful specifications on smaller form-factor. But questions remain as to whether RIM PlayBook can take on Apple iPad in its new avatar.

While reports suggesting that BlackBerry maker RIM's PlayBook is due for launch in March, Apple has confirmed that iPad 2 will hit stores on March 11.

OS

Apple iPad 2 runs on the latest edition of iOS, the iOS 4.3, which brings a faster Safari browser experience, enhancements to AirPlay and new iTunes Home Sharing feature to the tablet. RIM's PlayBook runs on QNX which is a departure from its older BlackBerry OS. RIM bought QNX Software Systems, a maker of real-time operating system, in April 2010. QNX created the Neutrino real-time operating system, software well adopted by the automobile industry to power Bluetooth integration, device connectivity and similar systems. Information Week had reported that QNX OS offers a different multi-tasking experience as it keeps apps running simultaneously rather than suspending them. However, in the OS category the favor tilts on Apple's side as its iOS is tried and tested while RIM's QNX has yet to prove its mettle. 

Processor:

Engadget described its experience with iPad 2 as insanely fast and the increase in speed can be ascribed to the new A5 system-on-a-chip that powers the iPad 2. Under the iPad 2 hums an A5 dual-core 1GHz chip. However, RIM has the processing guts to take on iPad 2 with its dual-core 1GHz TI OMAP processor. Engadget had earlier reported that TI OMAP 4430 - the processor that PlayBook uses - NVIDIA Tegra 2 and Samsung Exynos were benchmarked on browser and graphical points by AnandTech for smartphones. LG Optimus 3D's TI OMAP 4 came out trumps with significant improvements, beating the likes of iPhone 4 and Motorola Atrix. The news certainly bodes well for PlayBook.

Display, Size and Weight:

iPad 2 offers a 9.7-inch display with screen resolution of 1024x768 while RIM PlayBook offers a 7-inch display with 1024x600 screen resolution. However, the key difference here lies in the weight and thickness dimensions. iPad 2 with a 9.7-inch screen weighs about 1.3 pounds and is 0.34 inch thin while PlayBook weighs about 0.9 pounds and is 0.4 inch thick. Thus, Apple scores by offering a larger screen at less weight and thinner form. Though PlayBook is still lighter than iPad 2, it is still slightly thicker than iPad. However, a larger display does justice to apps offering a wider surface area for expression.

Memory:

Apple's iPad comes in 16/32/64 GB internal memory configurations while RIM also comes in 8, 16, 32, 64 GB. However, the PlayBook offers a whooping 1GB in RAM while Apple has hidden the details of the RAM it offers. Forbes, citing an Apple employee, claims iPad 2 offers 512 MB in RAM. The iPad 2 is touted to be faster and thus the impact of lesser RAM seems to have been mitigated by a better chip design.

Camera:

Apple has plugged the loophole of an absent camera in the older iPad by offering a front-facing VGA camera and a rear-facing camera in iPad 2. Camera specifications have not been revealed but the rear-facing iPad 2 camera offers 720p video recording capability. RIM PlayBook offers a 5MP rear-facing and 3MP front-facing camera and also offers 1080p video capture ability. Apple brings its FaceTime and PhotoBooth features on the iPad 2, courtesy the VGA camera. However, PlayBook seems to have an upper hand with 1080p video capture capacity.

Battery:

Apple iPad 2 with a gamut of features on display returns 10 hours in battery life while PlayBook returns 6 hours in battery life. However, Engadget stated that poor battery life on PlayBook was reported because all testing on PlayBooks was done on pre-beta units. PC Magazine reported that PlayBook's dismal battery performance is because it incorporates Adobe Flash.

Pricing:

Lastly, its pricing which can also make a key difference as Apple has priced its iPad 2 competitively as it starts with $499 for a 16GB WiFi model and goes all the way to $829 for a 64GB WiFi +3G model. Bloomberg had reported that RIM could price its lowest model under $500 which would match iPad's pricing. 

Apps:

iPad 2 scores over PlayBook as it has about 300,000 apps in its app store. However, RIM's QNX still needs to gain traction among the developer community before a range of apps can come to PlayBook. However, InformationWeek had earlier reported that in one of the company videos, RIM had shown how existing Adobe AIR and Flash applications can be converted into PlayBook apps. Also recently Bloomberg reported that RIM is working on software which will allow the device to run Android applications, in order to give its users more access to applications in the Android Market.

RIM is marketing its PlayBook as an enterprise complaint tablet. It thus offers a feature called BlackBerry Syncing that allows PlayBook to be in sync with a BlackBerry device over Bluetooth. After this, the PlayBook just becomes an extension of a BlackBerry phone. This will bode well for enterprise users even as Apple iPad and other Android tablets fail to offer such compatibility, something which allows RIM to specifically target its bread and butter clientele.

Here is a comparison between Apple iPad 2 and RIM PlayBook:

 Apple iPad 2RIM PlayBook
OSiOS 4.3QNX
ProcessorA5 dual-core 1GHzTI OMAP dual core 1 GHz
Display9.7-inch7-inch
Resolution1024x7681024x600
Memory16/32/64 GB8, 16, 32, 64 GB
RAMN.A1GB
Camera2 cameras rear and front facing5 MP rear, 3 MP front-facing
Video Capture720p1080p
Video Playback720p1080p
Wi-Fi802.11 a/b/g/n802.11 a/b/g/n
Battery10 hrs6 hrs
Depth0.34 inch0.4 inch
Weight1.33 pounds0.9 pounds