Archive | May, 2011
Samsung’s latest smartphone, the Galaxy S2, has been making the headlines for all the right reasons but how does this new, super-smart device fare against BlackBerry’s ever-popular touchscreen messenger, the Torch 9800?
The BlackBerry Torch 9800 was RIM’s first real effort to engage touchscreen smartphone fans, and the device has done a pretty good job of showing the public that BlackBerry’s are more than just a business tool.
But the market is a fluid and ever evolving beast, as the recent release of Samsung’s new Android behemoth, the Galaxy S2 has proven, and we thought we’d put the two devices through their paces to see if the Torch 9800 could hold its own as ably against the new breed of devices.
Samsung’s Galaxy S2 boasts a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display which operates at a resolution of 480×800 pixels and offers more sub-pixels than anything else on the market, which makes for an amazingly clear and sharp viewing experience, but that’s not all it has to offer.
The Super AMOLED Plus also uses 18 percent less power than the first-generation AMOLED displays (which were more efficient than LCD screens themselves) and also offer greatly improved viewing angles and improved sunlight legibility.
The BlackBerry Torch 9800 offers a nice, if not slightly simplistic 3.2-inch capacitive TFT screen which displays 360 x 480. Though it won’t win any contests, the display on the BlackBerry Torch is good, and perfectly responsive for the job its intended.
Winner – Samsung Galaxy S2
RIM’s BlackBerry Torch 9800 offers up a fair slice of power in the form of a 624MHz CPU and 512MB RAM, which chew through tasks on the BlackBerry OS pretty speedily, though the odd bit of lag and slowdown has been reported by Torch users.
Conversely, the Samsung Galaxy S2 comes packed with more power than your average netbook, weighing-in with a dual-core 1.2GHz CPU, dedicated Mali-400MP GPU and 1GB RAM, making the device fly along at breakneck speed. Slowdown, lag and stutter are words that don’t feature in the Galaxy S2’s lexicon, so if you’re an impatient user who demands everything ‘NOW!’ you’ll be well catered for.
Winner – Samsung Galaxy S2
The Samsung Galaxy S2 boasts an 8-megapixel primary camera with autofocus, LED flash, geo-tagging, touch-focus, image stabilisation and face and smile detection, capable of capturing video at 1080P. Performance-wise the Galaxy S2 is quite impressive and while it won’t stand-up to devices like Nokia’s N8 in the camera-stakes, it does hold its own ably.
If you’re in need of a device for video-calling the Galaxy S2 has that covered too, in the form of a 2-megapixel front-facing camera, which you can also use for still images (or doing your mascara).
The BlackBerry Torch 9800 comes fitted with a 5-megapixel autofocus camera with LED flash, geo-tagging, continuous auto-focus and image stabilisation which is streets ahead of most other offerings by the Canadian company.
In fact, the Torch performs pretty well in good light and should be more than enough for more casual snappers, but on pixel count and features alone it loses out to the Samsung.
Winner – Samsung Galaxy S2
RIM’s BlackBerry Torch 9800 runs on version 6.0 of the company’s popular BlackBerry OS, which includes a fair few nice features, such as Universal Search, social feeds and the improved webkit browser with tabs. You can also download apps for the device from the BlackBerry App World.
The Galaxy S2 runs on the ever popular Android OS, version 2.3.4 to be precise, and the platform runs super-smoothly on the powerful device. You’ve got access to the Android Market for all your app needs and the software is also overlaid with Samsung’s own TouchWiz 4.0 UI, for those that like a little bit of custom eye-candy.
While both operating systems are nice, the Galaxy S2 and its Android platform represent the most modern, user-friendly experience and the wealth of free apps available in the Android Market make it a shoo-in for this round.
Winner – Samsung Galaxy S2
BlackBerry Torch 9800 – 111 x 62 x 14.6 mm, 161g
Samsung Galaxy S2 – 125.3 x 66.1 x 8.5 mm, 116g
Samsung’s Galaxy S2 is a great looking device. It’s light, sleek and implausibly thin but the lack of metal or premium materials may put some users off.
We love the light weight but, again, the lack of something more substantial in the pocket may make some people feel uncomfortable, so whether this device appeals is a very personal thing. That aside, the device is well constructed and feels solid, with no creaks emanating from the rather flimsy back-panel.
The Torch 9800 is a typical BlackBerry. The device is solid, durable and feels premium. The sliding mechanism that reveals the top quality hardware QWERTY is smooth and the weight of the device is reassuring without being too heavy.
This round may be chalked down to personal opinion but the BlackBerry walks it in our view.
Winner – BlackBerry Torch 9800
Samsung’s Galaxy S2 has proven its credentials once again, with a convincing victory over the BlackBerry Torch 9800.
It may not have been a terribly fair comparison though, as there isn’t another device on the market that can hold its own against the Galaxy S2 at the moment.
But all that may change with the impending release of the HTC Sensation. But that’s a whole different comparison for another day!
While the BlackBerry PlayBook is outgunned by the iPad 2 when it comes to competing for general consumers, there are two kinds of buyers who will love this little 7-inch tablet.
OS: QNX, BlackBerry Tablet OS with with symmetric multiprocessing
Processor: 1GHz dual core Texas Instruments OMAP4430
Storage: 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB internal
Display: 7-inch WSVGA, 1024×600
Battery: Lithium-ion 5400 mAh
Ports: Micro USB, Micro HDMI, 3.5mm headset
Weight: 14.4 ounces (425 grams)
Dimensions: 7.6(h) x 5.1(w) x 0.4(d) inches
Camera: 5MP rear-facing, 3MP front-facing
Sensors: Accelerometer, GPS, digital compass, 6-axis gyroscope
Keyboard: Virtual QWERTY
Networks: LTE, WiMAX, and HSPA+ models later in 2011
Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
Tethering: Only to a BlackBerry smartphone
Price: $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), $699 (64GB)
Who is it for?
What problems does it solve?
Based on BlackBerry’s overcomplicated smartphone UI that makes users constantly dig through tons of menus, I didn’t have much confidence that BlackBerry could deliver an excellent user experience on a tablet. But, the PlayBook pulled it off. The user experience is simple and self-evident, with no buttons and two basic gestures — swipe-up and swipe-down. It’s as easy to use as the one-button iPad solution, but without just blatantly ripping off Apple. The other big innovation in the PlayBook is the Web browser, as mentioned above. The page-load times are really quick, the fonts render beautifully, and RIM and Adobe worked together to pull off a Flash experience that virtually seamless. For example, you can take a lot of high quality Flash videos on Web page and throw into full screen mode and they look great and render flawlessly. You can even output these high quality videos to an HD TV via the PlayBook’s HDMI port and they still look great.
1) UI and performance – The user experience is the biggest surprise of the PlayBook. It is easy to learn, smooth to navigate, and has some of the best and fastest responsiveness that you’ll find on any smartphone or tablet. It is a completely different experience than a BlackBerry smartphone.
Full-featured Web browsing – As we’ve already talked about, the Web browsing experience on the PlayBook is excellent. The Flash implementation is well-done. Even though I’m not a fan of Flash, it’s still a big part of the Web and will be for years, until HTML5 replaces it. Oh, and the PlayBook already handles HTML5 quite nicely.
2) Usable word processor – One my biggest complaints with the iPad is that there isn’t a decent word processing app for taking notes, writing letters/memos, building basic documents, etc. Apple’s Pages app is a little too complicated than it needs to be and apps like iA Writer are nice but almost a little too bare bones. The PlayBook has the happy medium. Its Word To Go app (see screenshot) is the best word processing app I’ve used on a tablet. It is dead simple to use and has the most important basic features for building a good document. Plus, it’s free and installed by default. This is where RIM’s acquisition of Davaviz — the company behind Documents to Go — has really helped.
3) Brilliant for multimedia – The graphics performance and LCD display on the PlayBook are another big plus — and another pleasant surprise since the BlackBerry isn’t known as a multimedia powerhouse (although its high-end phones have been making strides in recent years). The PlayBook is terrific for watching videos and looking at photos. The images are crisp, the colors are vibrant, and the performance is snappy.
1) Email and calendar require a BlackBerry – The thing you most often hear the PlayBook getting dinged for is the fact that it didn’t ship with native email, calendar, and contacts apps (RIM says it will add them later this year). What the PlayBook does offer is the ability to use its Bridge feature to connect to a BlackBerry smartphone and then use its email, calendar, and contacts on the PlayBook’s larger screen. However, the actual data never resides on the PlayBook. It remains locked down in the BlackBerry phone, which is a plus for users that need tight security. The other thing to keep in mind is that if you use Web mail such as Gmail or Yahoo Mail, the Web experience on the PlayBook is good enough to handle light email and calendar tasks.
2) Needs more apps – The biggest problem with the BlackBerry PlayBook when you compare it to the iPad is the the lack of apps. On the iPad, apps extend the functionality of the device in lots of different ways, for business, for personal productivity, for entertainment, and much more. While RIM claims that the PlayBook ships with 3,000 tablet-optimized apps — “more than any of our competitors at launch,” according to co-CEO Mike Lazaridis — the problem is that the iPad has 75,000 apps now and a lot of important partners who are committed to the platform. RIM will never be able to compete with that, but if it can forge partnerships to get key apps like Amazon Kindle, Evernote, Dropbox, and Netflix on to the PlayBook, then it would have a much easier time winning over a larger niche market. However, companies appear reticent to jump on the PlayBook bandwagon. Amazon initially announced that it would release a Kindle app for the PlayBook launch, but is dragging its feet in fulfilling that promise.
3) 7-inch form factor has its limits – The thing that limits the great Web and multimedia experience on the PlayBook is the 7-inch screen. There are times when it’s just a little too small to clearly read Web pages and when some of the details can get lost in videos due to the smaller screen.
Bottom line for business
The BlackBerry PlayBook is the perfect choice for two types of tablet buyers — 1.) BlackBerry loyalists who want the perfect compliment to their smartphone and 2.) people who want a tablet primarily for mobile Web browsing from the conference room, couch, bedroom, and other places where you don’t have a full PC and don’t want to whip out a laptop.
For high security enterprises and government organizations that are already committed to the BlackBerry platform and have employees clamoring for iPads, the BlackBerry PlayBook is potentially an excellent tablet solution to run private apps and intranet services.