BlackBerry PlayBook Review

 

RIM’s BlackBerry Playbook is the companies first effort to join the newly created applucrative tablet computing market. Apple launched the iPad just over one year ago, and in that time sold 14.8 million units or more. They have also recently launched a successor to the iPad 1 tablet, bringing many more features to the table that were expected the first time around. Despite this, the Apple App store really changed the world and the way we use computers today. Google has followed suit with their Android optimized OS for tablets, and as of recent, support for anything and everything; the OS for the world. RIM was a late comer to the tablet party, but despite this we wouldn’t be quick to rule them out. The PlayBook is a very well made device, although lacking in the apps department it does offer basic functionality that even the iPad 2 is without. Now, on to the review.


Hardware

A pure black slate with an industry first advanced capacitive touchscreen 4-finger multi-touch and gesture supporting display. That’s a mouthful.  Gestures are activated by the outer glass bezel surrounding the 7-inch, 1024 x 600 display. The introductory tutorial basically gives you the skinny; swipe from the bottom of the glass up to the screen to pull up the alt+tab style application navigator. Swipe from the top bezel down pulls in additional functionality (if built into the specific app you are in).

Size is actually quite nice. It’s large enough to know its not a smartphone, but small enough that it still fits in the back of your blue jeans pocket. I was quite impressed because it makes it more “mobile” than say, a larger 10-inch tablet.

The Playbook has quite a bit of processing power under the hood. RIM has opted for a 1 GHz dual-core processor with 1 GB RAM to run the new powerful and sexy QNX OS. This speed combined with memory will give RIM an advantage in the gaming department over the iPad’s 512 MB RAM. Increased RAM literally translates to bigger games being ported from the desktop space to the tablet space.

HD video out via micro-hdmi, comes standard, no extra dongles need to be purchased. Here’s a list of the full specs and features for your perusal;


BlackBerry PlayBook Specifications

  • 7″ LCD display, 1024 x 600 screen resolution
  • High resolution, WSVGA, capacitive screen with 4-finger multi-touch and gesture support
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • BlackBerry® Tablet OS with symmetric multiprocessing
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Powerful, user-friendly QNX technology: It’s what the World Wide Web runs on
  • True simultaneous multitasking — apps run simultaneously and in real time
  • Accelerometer, 6-axis motion sensing (gyroscope) and digital compass (magnetometer)
  • GPS
  • Micro USB port
  • Games, media, apps and all the rich content the real Internet has to offer
  • Full Adobe® Flash® 10.1 enabled
  • Built-in support for HTML 5
  • No-compromise rendering of text, graphics and video
  • 3 MP 1080p HD forward-facing camera
  • 5 MP 1080p HD rear-facing camera
  • Stereo speakers and stereo microphones
  • Crystal clear video; H.264, MPEG4, WMV HDMI video output
  • Micro HDMI port for 1080p playback
  • Music Store by 7 Digital, BlackBerry® Podcast app
  • Reliable BlackBerry Tablet OS, powered by QNX technology
  • Supports POSIX OS, SMP, Open GL, WebKit, Adobe Flash and Adobe Mobile AIR
  • 0.9 pounds/425g
  • 7.6″/194mm x 5.1″/130mm x 0.4″/10mm

It weighs 0.9 pounds, lighter than the iPad, but heavier than the Galaxy Tab.

The buttons are crap. Yes, I said it and I do hope RIM will change this for the next version. I have become used to them now after 2 weeks of use, but it was no easy feat. The power button is nestled within a bevel to the left of the audio toggles. Basically here’s how you can skip two weeks of fuddling around and become a pro right off the bat. Use your left index finger only, place it on the top of the tablet edge, slide it across to the right until you hit the audio toggles, then just to the left of the first toggle press down. It’s awkward and I have yet to find any other way.

The camera’s are OK. They work, they are pixelated, slow and grainy, but this isn’t a camera-centric device anyway. It’s often blurry and video is, well, acceptable and not terrible.

Sound is quite good. The speakers are cleverly ported on the outer front edges and give you a real stereo effect.

Battery Life

Not as impressive as I would have imagined. I usually find it completely drained after falling asleep with say, a 60 minute mp3 playing in the background to send me off to la la land. You would think it would perform much better considering it goes into standby and disables Wi-Fi only after 5 minutes. Once you wake it, you will have to manually connect to your Wi-Fi again. A nuisance which will probably be addressed in later updates. I calculated north of 6 hours on a good “light day.”

Software

Get used to that screen; you’ll see it frequently as the BlackBerry Tablet OS continues to improve.  But  I will say the BlackBerry Tablet OS (QNX) is the sexiest tablet OS I have seen to date. I say this from a professional standpoint, being a user interface designer myself, as well as from a consumers point of view; usability is paramount to what’s out there now. Swiping and menu bounces are all dialed in, the opacities and overlays look very clean and high-end. You know who RIM is targeted when you look at this OS. It is a first generation, so obviously there are quirks to it that I’m sure will be sorted soon. Some buttons are a pixel off and shift position when you touch, no search capabilities within the OS, apps tray shows up even when no apps are there, I have noticed small things like this but nothing too serious. Even the volume toggles require you to press them once per step up or down, you cannot just hold it to do a quick change.

I’m not a BlackBerry user so that limits me to not being able to test the full functionality of BlackBerry Bridge, but if you want to learn more read up on it. Without it you can’t send email attachments and do other BlackBerryific stuff.

App World

The app store for BlackBerry apps. Although not loaded to the nines with flashlights, fart sound apps and 20 Angry Birds knock offs, they are slowly building up a good library. Once the Android App browser is released it should open things up plenty. Check the video at the end of this review for more on that.

 

It would be great if you could go back to your search results after installing an app. Unfortunately you have to search again.

Performance

The thing is blazing fast, serious. Just give the bundled Need For Speed Undercover game a run and see for yourself. I did notice some jittery after “effects” when playing the bundled Tetris game while simultaneously playing the built-in Tetris music. I would blame this on software as I can’t conceive a 1GHz processor being inadequate to perform this task.

Multi-Tasking

 

Yes, it is a commonly advertised feature that everyone likes to shout out loud with the their thumbs hanging off their waste belts “it can multitask.” But how much multitasking is possible with the Playbook? It will vary depending on what you are doing. You can technically “run” multiple programs and have them in a suspended state for later. This kind of ruins part of the YouTube experience but not entirely. The YouTube app and MP3 Player will keep playing while you are in another app.

YouTube

If you are an iPad or iPhone user you may share the same feelings as me and believe the YouTube app is crap. The BlackBerry official YouTube app is not far off, but they do actually allow you to use the traditional YouTube website to playback a freaking flic. Try this on iOS and you will get the boot into the YouTube app with entirely different search results. Yep, I’m outing you Google and Apple, you are not giving YouTube users the same search data that native web users get. But low and behold, RIM has really made an impression on me. Not only do you get flash, but you get the actual native web browser search results since you are able to access YouTube from within the “browser” and not just the “app.” This may or may not be a big deal to you, but to someone throwing a party that has a tabletized self-jockey ability enabled for guests, and to ask those guests to play songs and videos they love but only to leave them disappointed with different search results than they are used to, well, this just doesn’t go over well. Words are spoken, not nice ones, and usually about Apple. I should make a note that the BlackBerry official YouTube app also delivers different search results than the native website, but you do have the browser alternative unlike iOS.

 


Finally, YouTube within a browser that works on a tablet!


YouTube in the PlayBook app (meh)


iOS Search Results

Technical Support

If you have any issues with the PlayBook, setup, software, etc. you get 90 days of free support. Thereafter you must purchase an extended warranty for 2 years. It’s $129 and they say gets you “protection against drops and spills” too which is pretty good if you’re clumsy like that. Save yourself a headache though and register first before calling; if you dare do call that is. You just enter your serial number at the bottom of the support page, accept a TOS, then call in.

Once registering I got the following message: “Your BlackBerry® PlayBook™ tablet has been registered. Your 90-Day Complimentary Support expires on 2011-07-27, so you have 72 days remaining.” I’m wondering where the other 18 days went to since I never called in previously. Technical support said not to worry, I have 90 days. Shrug. Dont even waste your time entering serial numbers or case numbers into the phone prompts, no one gets them once you are transferred.

When you phone in the first level support has very bad English and due to RIM policy were unable to tell me where they were located. After trying to comprehend what the agent was saying, repeating and repeating over and over again, then going back and forth with another technical support agent for more than five minutes trying to determine and resolve the issue for why BlackBerry Desktop Software does not work on Mac, not to mention after recommending I download the latest PC software, they finally decided to transfer me to the next level which was about the same experience, just alot longer. I finally ended up with an email listing step by step instructions how to uninstall, reinstall and restart my computer. I am still unable to get this software to work on Mac OSX 10.6.7. I spoke to a third agent who then said he would send me more instructions and ask another higher-level of support about “configuration specifics.” Well, 30 minutes of hold and then a hangup, I got a call from Bill, the fifth and final rep who actually spoke English and let me know that the BlackBerry Desktop Software does not work for the PlayBook just yet. Anyway, to make a long annoying experience short — I believe I was the first Mac user to call in – just use Wi-Fi. Here’s the instructions thanks to Bill to setup your PlayBook share with a Wi-Fi connection

.

BlackBerry PlayBook Tips

 

If your Playbook for some reason would become frozen. Press and hold the power button down for 15 seconds, this will give it a hard restart.

To wipe out your device and start over (this literally wipes out everything) go to Settings > Security > Security Wipe. From here on you will basically revert to a new device, same startup, mandatory tutorials, etc. If you wipe you will lose Need For Speed Undercover and some crappy fake Bust-a-move game upon refreshing the OS; go to App World and get them again for free.

Playbook above China Craptablet (aka: CherryPad)

Bottom Line

This is a great tablet, it’s small, fast, the design is solid and doesn’t feel like a MIC craptablet. It’s got a great form factor, the virtual keyboard is kick ass since the size of the tablet allows you to use it as a perfect thumbboard — I think RIM thought this one through. The OS is slick and sexy, although basic and could use some “bells and whistles,” keep in mind it’s a first gen OS and wow, what a first gen. Technical support is free and not up to the Apple standard just yet. If Android portability and market support come through without any hiccups, technical support passes ESL (I did press 1 for English) RIM could have a serious game changer on their hands. Would you buy one?

The BlackBerry PlayBook is a Wi-Fi only tablet that can use your BlackBerry smartphone’s Internet connection. It is priced at $500 in 16GB capacity, with 32GB and 64GB options for $100 more each step up.

 


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40 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    After having my PlayBook for several months now, I find it needs more RAM.  About 1.5GB would have been much better.  Battery wise, I agree it could be better but its not bad either.  Price wise, I feel they should have priced it lower.  Size, is perfect and love it.  Cameras, I hate it doesn’t zoom in video camera mode and that they didn’t add a camera flash. Also, the camera is sort of slow taking shots.  Another thing I hate is that they didn’t add an SD card slot.  I would have loved to have a FULL size SD card slot to transfer my camera photos directly to the PB or Facebook.  Below is a list of things I’d like to see RIM fix/add:

    -After the 1.05 update,
    the old notifications of the App world show on the left corner of the
    notification screen

    -Blackberry App world
    –from time-to-time the upgrade button switches location

    -Blackberry App World
    needs an UPDATE ALL button

    -Blackberry App world
    needs to be able to scroll side to side between titles: NEWEST, TOP FREE, TOP
    PURCHASED Etc…

    -Major CODEC
    compatibility (I’d like to see an app that adds codecs too if possible like
    K-lite)

    -Bridge doesn’t detect media files stored in my phone. It’d be nice if they
    added the ability to transfer/copy files back and forth as well.

    -Bridge doesn’t
    copy/Paste in email

    -Can’t see/send sms/mms messages

    -Needs Swype

    -Universal Search like OS6/7

    -Turn-by-Turn voice guided GPS (I’d even be willing to pay for an App that can
    save the maps and updates on the PB as well)

    -Spell Checker & add to Dictionary option like my phone.

    -File managing for my apps and bookmarks. Be able to rename my bookmarks and
    arrange them in folders like Windows)

    - That “Dot” in Android that easily helps you fix misspelled or
    change words.

    -Native BBM App

    - USB hosting to connect external devices like printers, Digital cameras and
    external Hard drives.

    -Camera Zoom when using the video camera

    Camera needs to shoot pictures quicker- feels sluggish to take pics

    -Yahoo Messenger, Skype and OoVoO- what good is the front facing cam if you
    can’t put it to good use!

    - An App to remember my passwords so I don’t have reenter them every time into
    the websites/apps login

    -Android Apps as
    promised

    On a different note- Here’s a few
    accessories I’d like to see:
    -A Dock that has full size USB, HDMI and possibly SDHC in addition to the
    MicroUSB. That way you can actually have better use for it than the rapid
    charging one they currently sell.

    -a dock that lets you connect multiple devices to the PB via wifi/Bluetooth
    such as a printer, camera, or hard drive.

    -Car dock for GPS

    -Bluetooth Keyboard/mouse

  2. reng2011 says:

    I plan to buy one. First, I love the size — not too big, not too small, not too heavy (the iPad is too heavy).

    Second, I love the UI and QNX platform. The PlayBook may not be “naturally” intuitive like the iPad, but it doesn’t take long to understand the UI, and after that, it’s very easy to use…fun, actually!

    True multitasking is a major plus, thanks to QNX, a highly regarded, real-time operating system.

    Third, I require and demand Flash support. Sorry, this is non-negotiable. I’ll be using the PlayBook as my main conduit to the Web, and a heck of a lot of websites are Flash-based, esp. those with embedded Flash/YouTube videos.

    Fourth, because the PlayBook is primarily a Web device for me, I don’t need no stinking apps — I’ll be living in the browser most of the time. I can patiently wait for RIM to grow the app store and eventually indulge in a few choice apps.

    Fifth, I love the hardware. The PlayBook is well-made, robust, easy to grip, and sleek. I don’t have a problem with the power button (that’s why God created fingernails ).

    Sixth, Wi-Fi access is perfectly adequate for me. I do NOT want to fork out more money for a data plan (I don’t even have a cell phone). Web-surfing over a cellular network is too extravagant for me.

    Seventh, if the software has minor nits, they’ll be ironed out over time. This is a first-gen product and I’m perfectly willing to give RIM a chance. Isn’t that what software updates are for?

    In conclusion, I do not find the PlayBook lacking in any significant way. It will be a very useful and enjoyable tool for me. I can hardly wait…

  3. Bsmk says:

    I would have loved this two years ago. I used to love blackberry but when they took there time to compete with apples iphone and then ipad thats when I jumped the wagon. I have spent a lot of money on converting everything to apple but I believe it was very worth it. I have the best media set up ever for my house and now everyone including my computer illiterate parents can control everything with there iphones or ipads. I know most people can’t convert in such a drastic way as myself but for people who can its worth it.

  4. Waynesburg says:

    I would love to buy the blackberry playbook. I already have the phone and love what I see here. Money well spent for sure.

  5. Sbwwedding says:

    I prefer blackberry over the iphone, and really would love to have a tablet.  I have not bought the ipad as I have nothing Apple.  If this product is easy to use and has good hardware and a decent price, I would be interested in purchasing 

  6. Galwatts says:

    Love my blackberry phone! If this is as easy to use as the phone, I will buy one! Heard rumors that the battery life isnt the greatest. 

  7. Strangerinkl says:

    It looks like a great device , I’m using Blackberry phone and its functioning very well , so I’m looking forward to buy one and use it as soon as possible .

  8. Surveysprofit says:

    I will still buy this one as it is able to support adobe flash. This is critical for many users these days since the ipad does not support flash.

  9. http://itcrazy.net says:

     I would definitely buy one of these, if only the battery life was superior. It looks like a great little machine and i LOVE the GUI. 

  10. Ryan R says:

     I would love to buy a playbook!  I have always had a blackberry, and the thing I love about the phones is they just work.  I assume RIM has now made a tablet that just works and is easy to use and gets the job done.  I want one!

  11. Annie Catherine says:

     I would buy the blackberry palybook for my on the spot presentations and for entertainment purposes.

  12. Timetravel21217 says:

     It actually seems easy enough to use – I tried out the Apple Ipad at an Apple store recently and liked it, but wasn’t ready to buy yet.  I would like to try this out, too, before deciding which one to get.  Being a huge Youtube user, the Blackberry holds the edge with that!  Again, not sure, but the Blackberry obviously is a work in process and I just might wait till they upgrade it like the ipad2. 

  13. Paula2761 says:

    I would definitely buy a blackberry playbook because I have never owned one and I  am extremely impressed by the review and specifications

  14. Thefatalbd says:

     I would buy a balckberry playbook as it will be the new one with new features. Though I do not have a blackberry currently, I am interested about this newest product. It’s big, nice, many applications. I think I’d go for it.

  15. Tludy30 says:

     I really want to buy this. It’s easy to use and looks like it can give Apple a run for their money.

  16. lee hancock says:

    I think the Play Book is not the most intuitive tablet out there.  There is no way to know to use the bezels for navigation and the like.  You cannot pick up the Play Book and just know how to use it like you would a Xoom or an iPad.  However, I do think that RIM is headed in the right direction trying to grow into a more consumer segment.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t know about that. Consider someone who has never seen an ipad before:
       They hit the on/off button, launch an app… now what? How do they get out of the app? Swiping the app out the direction it came in doesn’t work. Ah, the on/off button is an on/home button. Ok, how do they put the screen to sleep? How do they access multi-tasking…. such as it is? Oh, double tapping the home button… now that’s intuitive… not. How do they exit an app as opposed to have it running as a multi-tasked app?

      Almost all of that is more intuitive on the playbook. You don’t have to learn as many things.

  17. Slkeck says:

    It’s not finished it’s a workinprogress! i would go for the galaxy

    the playbook has no Android apps yet. You can’t create custom app categories.
    There’s no universal search to quickly find apps. You can’t rearrange
    your open app cards. Half the time you try to touch a link in the
    browser, you don’t know if you touched it correctly or not — the
    feedback isn’t fast enough.
    It’s also really too small

  18. Jaclark586 says:

    I loved my blackberry phone and can’t wait to try out the new playbook.  The idea of a tablet and all the features of the blackberry band is irresistable.   

  19. Dpsnips says:

    I like it very much and yes I will buy it.  The features are really cool plus it weighs less than iPad.  Stylish, cool features, lightweight… YES, I will buy it!

  20. I would buy the blackberry playbook. Its big enough to see and read what you need to and small enough to carry it with you where ever you need to. My friend has something similar to this and its really cool and easy to use.

  21. Enyenycike says:

    wooow is awesome…it looks awesome..i like it a lot, i would buy it, because i think that is awesome..i am speechless…i will deffinelty buy one and i will recommand to my friends too

  22. Marioluigi0 says:

    I would definitely buy the blackberry playbook. It has all I need. A very nice looking OS, professional and clean, but also offers loads of freedom in the App market and just in general that say the Ipad doesn’t have.

  23. APINK says:

    i wouldnt buy a blackberry playbook because I still consider the apple ipad to be the best and thats what i would buy if i wasnt getting one of these. 

  24. Kevin Ryan says:

    I would love to own one of these. The color scheme on it is incredible. I have always had great luck with Blackberry products in the past. I can’t wait to own one of these.

  25. Kpak73 says:

     I’m a BB fan, but the Playbook seems kinda unfinished… I’ll be playing with my ipad2, until the next Playbook comes out.

  26. Furinkasan says:

    Thank you another good and more than fair review. It’s the second one I’ve read this week!

  27. Bodypiercer_03 says:

    I would so buy the blackberry playbook over the ipads, galaxy tab, etc…I trust the blackberrys more than anything else. You get a better quality for the money your going to spend on it. Knowing I am going to get the best with the playbook, will make me recommend it to everyone that is considering buying any other tablet.

  28. Gborgellas says:

    I was thinking of getting one for my husband because he plays alot of games on there with the apps or whatever. I think he would like it. But reading the reviews I’m starting to think it may be a waste of money because there are already small defaults which most likely will get worst. 

  29. Theaxe says:

     no because I am a happy with my ipad!

  30. Wbitti5774 says:

     I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t consider adding the PlayBook  to my list of  possible tablets I’m considering purchasing. Technical features, App features and price are all very similar to the other tablets of this size that are available.PlayBook  to my list of  possible tablets I’m considering purchasing. Technical features, App features and price are all very similar to the other tablets of this size that are available.

  31. I wanna buy Blackbery palybook because it is very easy and comfortable to connect with WiFi network. On the top of it, Blackbery playbook is very cheaper than other ipads with 16 GB capacity as well as 32GB and 64GB options for $100 more each step up.

    • Boarder95 says:

      You realize that’s exactly how much the iPad 2′s cost right? And you can get the first iPads for like $300

      I don’t believe any product has any problem connecting to a wifi network anymore and if something does it wouldn’t be good enough to sell.

  32. Anonymous says:

    I would not buy a Blackberry Playbook.  Having owned two of the
    Blackberry phones my experience has been like “wow this works great..
    when it works”  I get sick of getting the “sands of time of death,” – I
    have a feeling many of you will know what I’m talking about.  Personally I just don’t see RIMM/Blackberry as being relevant anymore.  With other
    options out there like the iPad and Samsung Tab I’d rather get one of those.

  33.  I would buy the PlayBook because I like its size. I still think the iPad is too big for me and the PlayBook seems like it would travel better.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Finally, a decent demo.  I played with the Playbook and loved it.  I liked the heftiness of it and was very intuitive to use.

    • Jimcmf says:

       I have a 32G PlayBook. and it’s an amazing tablet. I can’t understand so many different opinions from one reviewer to the next. 
      You will not know who is lying or who is telling the truth unless you see for yourself.

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