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Samsung Galaxy S2 Review

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Monday, June 13, 2011

7 inch vs 10 inch tablet typing: Playbook vs iPad

One of the things tablet won’t ever be able to do better than PCs and laptops is typing fast and comfortable. That’s at least my opinion, but the fact virtual keyboards are inferior to plain keyboards doesn’t mean they’re unusable. That’s why I’ve decided to run a comparison test on the most popular tablet formats today, the seven and ten inch diagonals, so I took the iPad and the Playbook and shoot a video showing how fast you can type on them.
It’s not a comprehensive head to head test and I didn’t run any special software to give you results in words per minute and percentage of typos, nor have I used special chars (which are usually available by first switching the layout of the virtual keyboard). It’s more of a summary of my own observations during months of iPad use and days of typing on the Blackberry Playbook.

Since the Playbook has a 7 inch wide screen and the iPad a larger 9.7 inch 4:3 aspect ration screen the biggest difference is that RIM’s tablet is almost twice as small as the iPad, making it a lot more suitable for thumb typing. This is a scenario when you’re not sitting down, so pretty much any situation when you hold the tablet with two hands and type with your thumbs, exactly like you do on a smartphone. In this case the Playbook in portrait mode is the winner, with the wider iPad screen making it harder to touch the letters in the middle of the virtual keyboard.
Turn the Playbook in landscape mode and you get roughly the same experience as with the iPad in portrait more. It’s hard to pick a winner in this situation, but when you use both tablets in landscape mode it’s clear the iPad is no good at thumb typing (it’s impossible to hit the keys in the middle of the keyboard).
I’ve also tested the iPad in a scenario I think it’s very plausible: holding it with the left hand and typing with the right one. While it seems awkward at the beginning, it’s speedy enough to type an URL  in the browser, post short comments on Twitter and Facebook, as well as typing passwords. It’s not speedy enough, but allows you to do basic typing on the iPad without having to put the tablet in a stand, on a flat surface or on your lap when sitting down.
If you need a conclusion, I’m inclined to lean towards the Blackberry Playbook in portrait mode, but since a lot of apps don’t support yet this mode (the Facebook app for example) it’s not probably the best option and you’ll have to rely on the landscape mode, which as typing speed goes is comparable to the iPad in portrait mode.

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