‘Shoot-out’: Comparing Surface RT, iPad 2-3-4 and Galaxy Tab 10.1

The website DisplayMate.com has published a very comprehensive review of three leading tablets: Microsoft’s Surface RT, Apple’s iPad 2, 3 and 4, and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1.

The review actually lists the iPad 3, as it was written before the introduction of both the iPad 4 and the iPad mini. However, the displays of the third- and fourth-generation iPad models are the same. The latter model was just introduced and is a replacement for the iPad 3–the main differences are in the dock connector and a new processor, the A6 chip.

It’s refreshing to read reviews that don’t obviously favor one side over another, or that concede one product is better but will make snarky comments about it.

The article is written by the president of DisplayMate, Dr. Raymond M. Soneira. As a fair warning: it is a bit dry and technical in its language. Still, it is an in-depth review of the three devices, and for the visually-minded there are very helpful diagrams near the end.

Here is an excerpt:

The new Windows Tablets, led by Microsoft’s Surface, provide a third major family of Tablets for consumers and the computing world. The significance and stakes are enormous because Tablets are among the most important developments in computing and consumer products in the last 20 years. Like Google’s Android Tablets, the Windows Tablets will be made by many different manufacturers. And just like Google’s Nexus, which provides reference designs for the Android product line, Microsoft is producing its own Surface Tablets for the Windows product line.

With large numbers of Tablets and Smartphones running virtually identical software, the display becomes the single most important way for manufacturers to differentiate their products – that’s been true for Android and the same will apply for Windows devices. A top notch display makes everything that runs on a Tablet or Smartphone look great or as good as possible – including all of the Apps, web content, photos, and videos – looking a lot better than on devices with inferior displays. The inferior displays will be either cheap low-end displays, or expensive displays manufactured with bad parameter choices, or high quality displays ruined through improper calibration at the factory. It will be interesting to see which manufacturers play for the top, and those that try to get away with playing the bottom…

The Microsoft Surface and all Windows Tablets are coming in two versions: the just launched Windows RT with a 1366×768 display that we test here, and the Windows Pro Tablets with a 1920×1080 display that will launch in early 2013. In this Display Shoot-Out we’ll tell you all about the Microsoft Surface display with extensive Lab measurements, viewing tests, and objective in-depth analysis. For other aspects including its OS, Apps, and overall operation and functionality you’ll need to refer to reviews that cover these issues in detail but generally provide little information about the display.

The Shoot-Out

To examine the performance of the Microsoft Surface RT we ran our in-depth series of Mobile Display Technology Shoot-Out tests and compared it toApple iPad 3 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. The Galaxy Tab 10.1 was chosen for this Shoot-Out because it has the best display performance for the standard resolution 10 inch Android Tablets in our Display Shoot-Out series. The Apple iPad 2 is also included in the comparisons.

We take display quality very seriously and provide in-depth objective analysis side-by-side comparisons based on detailed laboratory measurements and extensive viewing tests with both test patterns and test images. For additional background and information see the iPad Display Technology Shoot-Out article that compares the iPad 2 and the new iPad 3, the 10 Inch Tablet Display Technology Shoot-Out that compares 5 “popular” full size Tablets, and the 7 Inch Tablet Display Technology Shoot-Out that compares the Amazon Kindle Fire HD and the Google Nexus 7.

Results Highlights

In this Results section we provide Highlights of the comprehensive lab measurements and extensive side-by-side visual comparisons using test photos, test images and test patterns that are presented in later sections. The Comparison Table in the following section summarizes the Lab measurements in the following categories:  Screen Reflections,  Brightness and Contrast,  Colors and Intensities,  Viewing Angles,  Display Backlight Power Consumption,  Running Time on Battery. You can also skip the Highlights and go directly to the Conclusions.

The iPad mini is not included in this review–as I mentioned, it was written before the iPad 4 and iPad mini were released, so there’s no help in comparisons there (although the resolution is the same as the iPad 2, just smaller in size).

There are many links to other material. I hope this will be a guide to anyone considering purchasing a tablet and concerned about the quality of the display–please keep in mind, however, that there’s more to a tablet purchase that a beautiful picture on the screen. There’s the quality of the fit and finish, the availability of apps, the robustness of the OS and software–are there hiccups as you open pages? Do apps crash? Is there sluggishness when you move around a webpage, or open another?

The consideration of each of those qualities, as well as others, will help you determine what’s a good choice for you.

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