Blackberry PlayBook: Don’t call it a BlackPad. Do call it an iPad contender.

Darlings of the corporate world, Research in Motion made their first foray into the tablet wars with the Blackberry PlayBook. Tech journalists the world over breathed a sigh of relief that the rumoured name “BlackPad” hadn’t been used. Even more surprising, after a slew of quite disappointing “me too” Android tablets (and the Blackberry Torch) was that it actually looks quite good.

Blackberry-Playbook

How so? Well for one thing it won’t be running a poorly modified phone or desktop OS like some of its more rushed rivals (you know who you are) and will instead be powered by Blackberry Tablet OS, which was developed by QNX, a bolt-on acquisition to the Research in Motion team. RIM were keen to mention the multimedia and gaming power this platform provided – amazing when you consider the no-nonsense attitude that drives their phone platform, although they were also keen to describe the PlayBook as “the first professional tablet.”

Fulltime iPad haters will find a lot to like. It handles Flash 10.1 so it will be interesting to see how its performance holds up for gaming and multimedia. Developers will also be able to create apps using Adobe Air.

At 7 inches it is smaller that the iPad, albeit with a pixel dense 1024 x 600 capacitive multitouch display. “Every device I own must have a camera! Does it have a camera?” you cry. Yes, yes it does – two in fact with a front facing 3 megapixel camera and a 5 mega pixel rear one, including video conferencing.

Other conspicuous iPad absentees such as multi-tasking, 1080p support or a built-in HDMI out are all present and correct in the PlayBook, courtesy of the Cortex A9 dual core 1GHz CPU, backed up with 1GB of RAM.

The PlayBook has a symbiotic relationship with its phone-based cousins so smooth synching of data is promised and apparently you can tether your phone’s data connection to the Playbook.

The only thing the PlayBook seems to lack is a firm launch date and any inkling of a price. I’ve played with most of the tablets on offer and I’m writing this on an iPad, but the Playbook (along with the Samsung Galaxy Tab) seems like a definite contender in the tablet wars.

TWIG: Lecci Headphone Splitter, Artificial Moving Ski Slope and iPad USB charger

The Week in Gadgets

Camera makers were unveiling new models at a dizzying rate during this week’s Photokina and we’ll be taking a look at some of these in the coming week. We’ve also got a chance to play with some of the “hot” new Christmas gadgets coming your way – including the Samsung Galaxy Tab, though we still can’t tell you what it costs.

Y-headphone-splitter

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best and I fell in love with the Lecci Headphone Splitter. Sometimes one of the best thing about new music is sharing the experience with a friend – it’s at the core of Apple’s new Ping social network or Last.fm. For those of you with more conventional friends, that you actually meet in the flesh, it’s easier to share music with but also loaded with it’s own challenges. How well do you have to know someone before you share earphones? Especially a nice deep pair of inner ears? Instead of choosing between that and menacing everyone else on the bus with your tinny built in speakers, Lecci have made a little Headphone Splitter with a keyring attachment. Simply plug it into your PMP and … well you’ve seen the picture you can work out how it works. Yours for £5.95 from Gizoo.

Sometimes simple ideas get complicated. Ideas like “I want a ski slope in my living room.” We’ve all thought about, sure. But Skiplex Ltd went a little further and made the Artificial Moving Ski Slope – a continous moving ski slope that can mimic baby slopes or black runs. You will of course need a spare room the size of a squash court. And £176,250. You can probably pop it next to your F1 Simulator. Yours from thepresentfinder.

LINDY-iPad-USB

Love your iPad, hate the way it refuses to charge on certain USB ports? LINDY electronics would like you to part with £9.99 to solve that problem. The LINDY USB charging adaptor (which works with all Apple devices) does what it says on the tin. Whilst you can adapt some motherboards to charge iPads you probably can’t be bothered and £9.99 isn’t a great deal for restoring “charge anywhere” convience.

Samsung Galaxy Tab review roundup

Samsung’s first tablet has received a rapturous welcome from the media following its unveiling this week. Largely, the reviewers are suggesting the Galaxy Tab could be a genuine rival for Apple’s iPad, but it’s yet to be seen if it will become the new “apple” of our eyes (sorry).

Samsung-Galaxy-Tab

First of all, let’s take a quick look at what the Galaxy Tab has to offer. Powered by Android Operating System 2.2, it features a 7” TFT-LCD display and weighs a mere 380g.  The Galaxy Tab supports the latest Adobe Flash Player 10.1, has 3G HSPA connectivity, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 3.0. A Cortex A8 1.0GHz application processor delivers high performance, while the Tab supports HD video content with several multimedia formats and has front and rear-facing cameras. Pretty impressive on paper then.

The Galaxy Tab could be “the iPad killer”, says The Sun; in typically staid style. The newspaper praises the Galaxy Tab’s “pin-sharp graphics” adding, “The Galaxy Tab’s trump card is the built-in phone, which the iPad lacks. It also has a camera, unlike the iPad.”

PC World’s business blog agrees that the Galaxy Tab could be “the first tablet worthy of challenging the Apple iPad”. The Tab “has most – if not all – of the features that many wanted to see on the Apple iPad, like front and rear-facing cameras, expandable memory through an SD memory card slot and a multitasking OS,” it says – but adds that due to the massive variety of Android smartphone hardware available, “some apps may not transition well to a tablet-sized display”, although this is also a problem shared by the iPad.

The Guardian commends the Tab’s unique e-reading application, “Reader’s Hub”, as well as the film and video “Media Hub”. “Allowing access to books, music and films is a major step forward as it ratchets up its competitive positioning against Apple,” it says. “Success will depend on pricing,” it adds.

The Huffington Post was also won over by the Tab.  “I was a little skeptical about the idea of a 7-inch tablet yet I found that there was enough screen real estate to happily browse the web,” said the reviewer, who praised the facility to make video calls via 3G rather than just WiFi. However, like PC World, the Huffington Post points out that the scale of some Android apps could pose problems on the Galaxy Tab display.

All in all, the majority of reviewers suggest the Galaxy Tab could have the edge over the iPad, particularly if it is competitively priced and issues with the size of apps can be ironed out.