Speed tests: iPad 2 vs. PlayBook vs. Xoom

The RIM BlackBerry PlayBook, the Motorola Xoom, and the Apple iPad 2 go head-to-head in Web speed tests.

Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
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Eric Franklin
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Watch this: Speed tests: iPad 2 vs. PlayBook

Get ready, 'cause it's coming.

By "it," I'm of course referring to the deluge of tablets ready to flood the market. Make no mistake, in the next two to three months, consumers will have more tablet options than they know what to do with.

This week sees the launch of RIM's long-awaited BlackBerry PlayBook. This tablet is targeted at an arguably esoteric market, and includes the expected features aimed at that business demographic, but it also includes features that average shoppers are looking for.

Check out the full review for more details, but before you do that, read the PlayBook's speed results in their entirety.

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 real-world tests, like going to actual, real sites, than of synthetic benchmarks.

We used three different Web sites for the tests: CNET.com, CBSNews.com, and GiantBomb.com. 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.

Although in the video you'll only see 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, and your results may vary.

Web site Motorola Xoom Apple iPad 2 RIM BlackBerry PlayBook
CNET.com 5 seconds 6 seconds 11 seconds
CBSNews.com 7 seconds 9 seconds 11 seconds
GiantBomb.com 4 seconds 4 seconds 8 seconds

Tested specs Motorola Xoom Apple iPad 2 RIM BlackBerry PlayBook
Maximum brightness 312 cd/m2 432 cd/m2 610 cd/m2
Default brightness 131 cd/m2 176 cd/m2 510 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.26 cd/m2 0.46 cd/m2 0.58 cd/m2
Default black level 0.11 cd/m2 0.19 cd/m2 0.48 cd/m2
Default contrast ratio 1,190:1 926:1 1,062:1
Contrast ratio (max brightness) 1,200:1 939:1 1,052:1

The PlayBook noticeably trails both the iPad 2 and Xoom in Web speed performance, taking (in some cases) twice as long as Apple's and Motorola's machines. The PlayBook natively runs Flash, and initially we pegged that as the culprit for its slower performance; however, after running the same tests on the Xoom with Flash enabled, we quickly abandoned that theory. Future firmware updates notwithstanding, the PlayBook is simply put, not as fast in Web speed as the iPad 2 or Xoom.

The PlayBook obviously has the highest brightness of either the tablets mentioned here. That high brightness unfortunately translates into a high black level, thus its contrast ratio isn't quite as high as the Xoom's.