The Blackberry Playbook is a high performance QNX multitasking tablet built for running multiple apps seamlessly at the same time. It is Canadian Research In Motion’s first venture into the tablet field and away from its celebrated, although seemingly declining-in-popularity smartphones. I was very pleasantly surprised by the Playbook, the out of the box user experience is incredible, the multitasking is great, very functional and visually pleasing. The tablet itself feels great in your hands, and it has a very well-built, solid feel to it, like you could drop it without much consequence. The user interface is very simple, yet elegant, unlike Blackberry’s fairly complex user interface in their namesake smartphones. You swipe the touch sensitive bevels around the screen to interact with the Playbook. There are no buttons, save for power, volume, and play/pause buttons which are on the top of the device. This is a smooth and elegant multi-tasking solution.
It has a fully flash-supported browser (with HTML 5 support as well), micro HDMI port, HD video player, music player, 4 touch point capacitive 600 by 1020 pixel 7 inch touch screen (170 pixels per inch, considerably higher than even the 10 inch Ipad 2) dual HD cameras, a 5 mega-pixel camera on the back for snapping pictures or taking 1080P video, and a 3 mega-pixel front facing camera for video-chatting with other Playbook Users.
Other features include Blackberry’s new QNX based operating system, 16/32/64 gigabytes of storage depending on your taste (and your budget), WiFi, 1 gigabyte of RAM, a dual core 1.0 Gigahertz processor, photo viewer, Adobe reader (all the similar functions you would expect in a tablet), mobile Word, Excel, and Powerpoint office productivity apps (Documents to Go), and a pre-installed Kobo e-reading app. Oh, and did I mention, you can run virtually as many apps as you want, in real-time, simultaneously? Videos playback sharply, thanks to the Playbook’s high-resolution (compared to screen size) screen. A nearly ten-hour battery-life finishes off what is an incredible suite of specs for such a small tablet.
Sound impressive? It really is. No other tablet yet offers anything like the multitasking and traditional Blackberry security of the Playbook. However, having just listed all the good points, here comes the down side. The Kobo app is very basic compared to it’s android (I have no experience with the iOS app) counter-part, and I have had several problems with it occasionally not saving my page correctly, problems in the in-app bookstore, it wouldn’t let me buy with a gift-card, I had to buy the book from the website. I have also had problems with pictures not displaying in some books (the majority work). Overall, it feels like a slap-on job and not what I would expect on a Blackberry. If you can overlook these faults though, the Playbook is an excellent form for e-reading.
There is also no native calendar, email, or Blackberry Messenger app (You can use Blackberry Messenger on your Playbook IF you have your Blackberry smartphone tethered to it, but there is no standalone Playbook app). If you will be mainly watching videos on it, you MAY want a different device with a larger screen as, although the videos look crisp and pleasing, a ten inch tablet would certainly bring that out better. The web browser would also certainly look better on a larger screen as well.
What is even more disappointing, and detracts from the otherwise unique and gratifying user experience, is the lack of quality apps. Compared to Android, or iOS, the Playbook’s main competitors, there are virtually no quality apps available from the Blackberry App Store. This is a real problem, as this gives you extremely limited options for time killers or entertainment. This is slowly being fixed, apps are slowly trickling into the App World, but there are still few high quality apps and most of those few have to be paid for (even Angry Birds, free on Android, has the hefty Price of $4.99 per game).
Ther e are so few goodapps to download, in fact, that it detracts from the user experience in a major way. Another small gripe I have is that you cannot remove music from the tablet itself, you have to hook it up to a computer via the micro-usb cable it came with and use Blackberry Desktop software to select what music you would like on the device from your Itunes or Windows Media Player library.
Although it obviously has it’s fair share of faults, I am highly critical of reviewers that seemingly love bashing RIM and, in particular, the Playbook over and over again. In his article “RIM: New CEO but same old problems, failed strategy ” Zdnet Blogger Larry Dignan states boldly “PlayBook 2.0: RIM is a tablet joke at the moment. The PlayBook is tainted and it’s unclear whether RIM can position it as an enterprise device. There’s also the price tag. RIM will have to lose money on the PlayBook with little to no ecosystem backing it.” RIM: New CEO but same old problems, failed strategy.
Another thing reviewers on the Blackberry Playbook have worn very thin, is comparing it to the iPad 2. I cannot emphasize enough that the Playbook is not an iPad, indeed, it is almost in another category altogether. Why? The Playbook is a 7 inch, multitasking tablet designed primarily for enterprise, secondarily for the public. Although it does well in both categories, it is primarily designed to facilitate the business community. The iPad is a 10 inch device (with, it may be noted, no true multi-tasking solution) designed primarily for consumers, and with apps that you can buy/download to make it a productivity device. And, even at that, it still misses the very high standard of built-in security that the Blackberry Playbook offers. My point? These are two different devices, with two different purposes, not to be compared as equals.
It is true that the Playbook was released with far too few apps supporting it, and missing critical features. However, there is a fix coming, and in under two weeks at that! Blackberry Playbook OS 2.0! This will include, among other things, a native multitasking email client (meaning you can compose several emails simultaneously), contacts, calendar (integrated with the contacts app), and a built in android run-time! (This should hopefully allow you to download the Android Kindle app, if you prefer that to Kobo) These are the major changes. I will be posting a review after the new update to share my thoughts, opinions, and how much of the Playbook’s problems this update will have fixed.
The Blackberry Playbook is a pleasing, 7 inch multitasking tablet running Blackberry’s smart new QNX tablet operating System, it is fast, and visually pleasing. However, it also has a serious app and feature problem. Although I love the killer features, like an outstanding flash and HTML5 compatible web browser, great video player, and built-in security, there are few quality apps, and several missing features, like a proper calendar, or email client, and these oversights seriously detract from the overall experience.
As always I encourage you to read other reviews of the product to help get a feel for it and different reviewers points of view.
Thank you for reading and please read my upcoming Blackberry Playbook OS 2.0 review which will address the many new features and capabilities that this upgrade promises! Thanks again until next time!