Web speed tests: Tablet tournament!

Three recently released tablets duke it out for the privilege to challenge reigning Web speed champs, the Xoom and the iPad 2.

Play

Yes, I'm a huge Mortal Kombat fan. This should be evident to anyone after watching the video above. However, I can't take credit for the whole tournament idea. That was the brainchild of my producer, Jamie Yee (she's actually a hidden Easter egg in the video, if you watch closely). Jamie's a huge sports nut (or at least, an San Francisco Giants nut) and apparently thinks only in terms of brackets and tournaments.

Anyway, last week was a fairly busy week for the CNET tablet reviews team. Donald Bell and I received three new tablets in the span of only a few days.

With all that glamorous reviewing we were doing, I didn't really have the bandwidth to conduct any official speed tests, until now.

As I alluded to before, we split the tests into two rounds. The first round, featuring the Acer Iconia Tab A500, T-Mobile G-Slate, and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, would determine which tablet would take on the Xoom and iPad 2 in the final round.

So yeah, it's a two-round tournament. We thought about extending it, but decided that doing so would involve too much repetition in the video.

Check out the results below (or above if you prefer your results in talkies form).

Testing
Site-loading speed is one of the simplest things to test, and it's a test many users can immediately relate to. I'm a greater fan of these real-world tests--involving going to actual, real sites--than of synthetic benchmarks.

We used four different Web sites for the tests: CNET for the first round, and CBSNews, NYTimes, and GiantBomb for the final round. Each tablet was connected to the same closed network with no other devices on it, with the router about 5 feet away. We considered the test to begin the moment we pressed Enter and ended the iteration when the blue progress bar on each tablet disappeared. We used iOS 4.3.1 for the iPad 2; the Xoom is using Android OS 3.0.1, with the Chrome browser and Flash enabled.

Although in the video you'll see only one iteration for each test, we actually ran each test several times; over those runs we got results consistent with what you'll see here. Also, we cleared each tablet's browser cache before each iteration of the tests was run.

Now, as much as we'd love for these tests to be completely relevant for everyone in every situation, that's nearly impossible. We tested these tablets under specific conditions in a "free" environment. The network was closed, but we can't account for noise from other networks interfering. This is a snapshot of performance in our testing environment presented in a way we thought would be entertaining; however, your results may vary.

Round 1

Web site Asus Eee Pad Transformer T-Mobile G-Slate Acer Iconia Tab A500
CNET.com 6 5.2 4.1
Final Round, FIGHT!

Web site Apple iPad 2 Motorola Xoom Acer Iconia Tab A500
GiantBomb.com 4.1 seconds 5 seconds 4.2 seconds
NYTimes.com 7 seconds 8.2 seconds 10.1 seconds
CBSNews.com 10.1 seconds 8.1 seconds 8.2 seconds

Tested specs Motorola Xoom Apple iPad 2 Asus Eee Pad Transformer Acer Iconia Tab A500 T-Mobile G-Slate
Maximum brightness 312 cd/m2 432 cd/m2 320 cd/m2 337 cd/m2 424 cd/m2
Default brightness 131 cd/m2 176 cd/m2 85 cd/m2 67 cd/m2 143 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.26 cd/m2 0.46 cd/m2 0.29 cd/m2 0.24 cd/m2 0.52 cd/m2
Default black level 0.11 cd/m2 0.19 cd/m2 0.08 cd/m2 0.05 cd/m2 0.18 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 1,190:1 926:1 1,063:1 1,340:1 794
Contrast ratio (max brightness) 1,200:1 939:1 1,103:1 1,404:1 815:1

Conclusion
The iPad 2 came out on top overall. Somewhat surprising, given that Xoom had previously swept the iPad 2 in recent tests; however, it was a victory by only the thinnest of margins. The iPad 2 barely beat both the Xoom and Iconia Tab A500 in two out of the three matches. That said, the Xoom won in what was was arguably the most stressful site, CBSNews.

Now, although these tests are the real deal and we feel they can represent what some users can expect from their Wi-Fi Web experience, the big takeaway here is that there really isn't much of a speed difference. At least, on the sites we visited. All of these tablets, including the ones that didn't make it to the final round, are fast.

For the next video, we'll likely go a slightly different route on the testing in order to stress these superfast tablets a little more, but we'll be sure to keep the tests real world.

About the author

Eric Franklin is a section editor covering how to and tablets. He's also co-host of CNET's do-it-yourself and how-to show, The Fix and is a 20-year tech industry veteran.

 

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