wiped the floor with the original iPad in terms of raw specification.
After all, they are all dual-core. However, the new iPad, the iPad 2, has a dual-core Apple A5 processor. And, what's more, the iPad 2 beat the Motorola Xoom to UK shops. The iPad 2 UK release date is 25 March, while the Motorola Xoom UK release date looks like the beginning of April.
We should be seeing the PlayBook arrive in the Spring or early Summer and it shouldn't be too long before the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 appears. But HP has been a little more coy and but it looks like the TouchPad UK release date is June.
And, if you're wondering why the HTC Flyer isn't included here, it's simply that it doesn't match up to any of these tablets - at the moment HTC says it will ship with the non-tablet OS Android 2.3, while it only has a single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. However, this might change by the time the tablet is actually released.
Let's see how the iPad 2 stacks up against its rivals.
This is the biggest difference between the five tablets. The iPad 2 runs Apple's own iOS, now coming up to version 4.3. The Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 both pack Android 3.0 Honeycomb, the BlackBerry PlayBook runs RIM's own Tablet OS and likewise the new HP TouchPad also has a bespoke OS.
iPAD 2: Apple's new iPad has a new version of iOS - 4.3
The Touchpad will run Palm's webOS, first developed by Palm - who HP then bought. The tablet will runwebOS 3.0.
WEBOS: HP bought Palm and is now taking full advantage of its webOS platform
iOS is still the leader in terms of usability, although having used Honeycomb, we think it's awesome and provides a real alternative choice OS for tablets - it helps that it's fast and responsive.
GALAXY TAB 10.1: Named after its screen, it also runs Android 3.0 Honeycomb
There will also be no Motorola MotoBlur interface overlaying Android 3.0 – this could be part of a bigger move by Google to stop having so many variants of Android.
The PlayBook and TouchPad are also highly usable, but lack the 'pick up and use' appeal of the iPad. We got hands on with the BlackBerry PlayBook at CES a few weeks ago and it's a serious threat to the iPad's dominance of the sector. TechRadar's Reviews Editor James Rivington says the PlayBook "could well be the tablet that changes the game. In a word, it's a triumph."
ANDROID 3.0: Honeycomb looks special and works extremely well
All five units use dual-core ARM Cortex-A9-based silicon. The iPad 2 runs Apple's brand new dual-core A5 processor clocked at 1GHz, while the Xoom is plumps for a dual-core Nvida Tegra 2, capable of recording 720p video or sending 1080p full HD to your TV via HDMI. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 also goes for a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2.
The PlayBook is also running a dual-core 1GHz Cortex-A9-based processor, though there are no more details on who has manufactured it. It's probably an Nvidia Tegra 2. The HP TouchPad has the highest clocked processor yet announced though - a Qualcomm Snapdragon APQ8060 dual-core running at 1.2GHz.
DUAL CORE iPAD: The new iPad now matches the other tablets by using a dual-core processor
The largest of the tablets, the Motorola Xoom and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 have 10.1-inch, 1,280 x 800 displays.
Like the original iPad, the new iPad 2 has a 9.7-inch display with a resolution of 1,024 x 768 - as does the HP TouchPad. Apple has obviously decided to stick with a winner - shame we didn't get an iPhone 4-esque retina display though.
SAME SCREEN: iPad 2 sticks with the same screen as in the original iPad
The PlayBook is only a 7-inch tablet and to us it can feel small. The touch on the PlayBook does extend right across the bezel though, which is a nice touch and pretty important for navigating around the OS.
The screens on both the PlayBook and Xoom look pretty spectacular and of course, we're big fans of the iPad 2's tried and tested screen. The PlayBook's size gives it a pixel advantage though, as we said in our Playbook hands on:
"The PlayBook's 1024 x 600 resolution isn't far off the 9.7-inch 1024 x 768 iPad, but because of the Playbook's 7-inch display, the increased pixel density makes all the difference. It's sharp and crisp, and 1080p HD video looks fabulous."
CRISP: The PlayBook's screen is quite pixel dense - largely because it's only a 7-inch tablet
Storage and memory
The Xoom has a Micro SD slot, but Android 3.0 doesn't yet support it (apparently). However, Moto says that as soon as the OS permits it, you'll be able to use up to 32GB of removable storage. As you'll know, the iPad or iPad 2 don't have any kind of slot – though it has 16, 32 or 64GB on board flash storage of course. Once again, the HP mimics the iPad's approach - no slot, but 16 or 32GB of on-board flash. The Samsung also goes for 16 or 32GB options.
We don't yet know the system memory of iPad 2, but we'd hazard a guess at 1GB (although some estimates say 512MB). The original iPad lagged behind in this department, though you'd have scarcely noticed it - it had just 256MB of system memory. The other tablets all have 1GB of RAM. Perhaps Apple is hoping we won't notice that this is one are in which iPad 2 falls behind.
The Xoom has two cameras front (2MP) and a 720p capturing back 5MP camera with a dual LED flash. The Playbook packs two cameras – a 3MP front-facing camera and a 5MP rear-facing one. The new iPad 2 also packs two cameras, but there are no details on the megapixelcount - again we suspect this is something Apple would rather not talk about!However, as with the Xoom, the rear camera will record 720p HD video though it sadly has no flash.
REAR CAMERA: iPad 2 has front and rear cameras, but no flash
Unusually, the HP TouchPad doesn't have a rear camera, only a front-facing 1.3 megapixel one. However, the trump card belongs to Samsung - there is also an 8MP rear-facing camera. But this is coupled with a poor 2-megapixel front-facing offering.If you want ot shoot video, then this will be done at 1080p Full HD video, 24fps.
FRONT CAM: But HP's TouchPad has no rear camera
All five tablets are designed for use with 3G networks. However, we may well get a Wi-Fi version of the PlayBook before we see a 3G-enabled variant – obviously this is speculation currently. This also looks likely with the HP TouchPad.
The base iPad 2 is also Wi-Fi only of course. It looks like there will also be two versions of the Motorola Xoom. Another version will work on 4G networks in the US, though we'll only get 3G here of course. All have 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi. HP has also promised a 4G version of the TouchPad in due course. The Samsung Galaxy Tab boasts HSPA+ HSPA+ and Bluetooth 3.0.
The Xoom and PlayBook also support HDMI output to a TV – the iPad supports AirPlay for wireless streaming via Apple TV. All have Bluetooth 2.1 plus GPS support. The Xoom and PlayBook also have Micro USB while the iPad sticks with the trusted Apple dock connector. All five tablets have 3.5mm headphone jacks. The PlayBook can be paired with a BlackBerry phone via Bluetooth for full interaction with its Email, Calendar, Docs and BBM.
Location and sensors
Each tablet has an accelerometer (three axis in the Apple and Motorola) and compass plus Assisted GPS in their 3G variants. The Motorola Xoom, HP PalmPad and new Apple iPad 2 also feature a gyroscope while the Xoom also has a barometer for measuring the atmospheric pressure. Details seem sketchy on whether the PlayBook will have a gyroscope, so we're keeping an open mind.
GYRO: Will the PlayBook have a gyroscope like the Xoom?
The Motorola Xoom looks like it will start at £499 in the UK, A great price, but it still makes the iPad 2 look like a steal. The original iPad Wi-Fi version was £429 at launch of course, but the VAT rise has seen this increase to £439 - expect that to be where iPad 2 starts from. There are no details from HP on pricing, while the PlayBook also doesn't look like it will be as cheap as the iPad. There are also as yet no pricing details on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, though it will be available on subscription from Vodafone. What's ace is that, at the moment, the original iPad is available for £329 - get them while you can.
The iPad 2 has stolen a march here, at just 8.8mm thick. The 7-inch PlayBook is 9.7mm thick and weighs just over 400g, which beats the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 at 10.9mm and 599g and the iPad 2's weight of 601g. The weight of the 10.1-inch Xoom has been reported to be around 730g, with a 13mm thickness. The HP is similar - 14mm thick and weighing in at 740g.
As most of the world's population knows, the iPad family doesn't support Flash. Android 3.0 does though, as does RIM's Tablet OS, with full Flash 10.1 and Adobe Air. WebOS also has Flash 10.1 All have HTML 5 compatibility.
Can Android 3.0 and the other new operating systems really lay down the gauntlet for iOS and the iPad? Only time will tell.