Blackberry PlayBook Review

The Blackberry PlayBook went on sale in Canada for $300 off. I decided it was time to try out a tablet that wasn’t from the company who makes the leading tablet, Apple.

In the past, I had the iPad 2 so my standards are already quite high for a tablet. The Blackberry Playbook, although I had some problems at the beginning, is quite impressive.

Just because a tablet or even computer has better specifications then another doesn’t mean it is better or more useful. Many tablets exist with much betters specs then the BlackBerry PlayBook. I don’t want to base this review on a comparison of the Playbook and the iPad 2 but just for your information, here is how the Playbook specs compare.

iPad 2 BlackBerry PlayBook
Screen 9.7″ LED 1024 x 768 7″ LCD 1024 x 600
Storage 16GB/32GB/64GB 16GB/32GB/64GB
Camera – Front VGA 30fps 5MP
Camera – Back 720p 30 fps 1080p
Weight 1.33lbs 0.9lbs
Battery 25-watt-hour 5300mAh
Price (CAD) Wifi 16GB $519, Wifi 32GB $619, Wifi 64GB $719,3G 16GB $649, 3G 32GB $749, 3G 64GB $849 16GB $199 ($499), 32GB $299 ($599), 64GB $399 ($699)
Processor Apple A5 1Ghz dual core ARM Cortex A9 1GHz dual core
Memory 512mb (unconfirmed by Apple) 1GB
Current support for Adobe Flash No Yes
Apps Too many Not enough

The BlackBerry PlayBook is positioned as a consumer device that offers the features necessary to appeal to RIM’s enterprise/business customers.

First boot setup

It took me about 2 hours to setup the PlayBook as an update I did bricked the device. This is quite unusual and doesn’t happen with many people. I think I’ll save this for another blog post.

Note: after I fixed up the software update, everything began running smoothly. Don’t let this stop you from purchasing a PlayBook.

External Hardware Design

Great

The PlayBook has a very sleek design with a great form factor and bezel. Around the PlayBook you will find four buttons (Power, Up/Forward, Down/Back, Play/Pause) and 3 connection ports (Micro HDMI, Mini USB, Power)

RIM has successfully created an elegant, thin, light, and small tablet that delivers a high quality external design.

Display

Great

The first thing I noticed about the PlayBook was it’s excellent display. The colours are bright and well saturated. It is viewable from all angles. The PlayBook’s display is quite good and one of the best out there.

Have you ever been using a device such as the iPad and you had trouble viewing it in the bright sun? The PlayBook’s display works quite well in difficult lighting allowing you to read ebooks and use your device to it’s fullest advantage no matter where you are.

Operating System: User Interface

Good

There is a lot I could say about the operating system. The layout and the design is very good.

The bezel is often used to access menus and for getting back to the home screen. A great example of this is multi-tasking. To switch to a different application you can swipe in from either side and scroll through all open applications. You can do the same thing by swiping from the bottom, the only difference is, you get the option of dragging up the main application list (home screen). 

The OS is very elegant. The way that it is divided into three sections makes accessing everything you need easy right from the home screen.

1. Top Bar: Thin, Transparent. This bar at the top of your device is shown on the home screen. It displays the time, date, and various icons including WiFi, battery, alerts, and orientation lock.

2. Middle Area: This section is only used to scrolling between open applications. The thumbnails run a live preview of the application so you can be watching two videos right from the home screen.

3. Bottom Area: Semi-Transparent. This is the area that allows you to browse through your apps. All, Favourites, Media, and Games. You can also swipe up from here to open a larger area for your application list.

I told you about multi-tasking earlier. Switching applications takes no effort at all. Unlike some mobile operating systems, the PlayBook OS allows you to have many apps running at the same times. (videos, games, etc). For convenience, a game will pause once you choose a different app to go into.

Web Browsing

Good

The PlayBook browser is based on Webkit, which is a great browser base code. The only complaint I have about this browser is the tabs. In order to switch to a different tab, you have to swipe down from the top and select one of the many squares, which are you open tabs. It’s not near as fast as switching tabs in other mobile browsers such as the newest Android OS.

The web page loading time is extraordinary. Many websites, even if they include Adobe Flash elements, load very fast.

You rarely see the loading pattern, even if you have a slow internet connection.

Keyboard

Good – Could be better

Typing on the PlayBook for long periods of time is quite comfortable and also has a very quick response time. The only thing that gets annoying is the lack of auto-complete and auto-correct features. I find myself using the oddly placed backspace button often to correct mistakes that I’m used to iOS correcting for me.

Selecting text is very easy. You can tap once to bring up two small arrows. You put the first arrow at the beginning of your selection and the second at the end. Tap once more and copy/paste/select options appear. These features are very responsive and work quickly.

Email

Bad

There is no native email, calendar, and contacts apps in the PlayBook. I was very disappointed as I use email, and calendar constantly when I’m using a computer. In order to have full access to their mail applications, you need a BlackBerry mobile phone and must connect it to your PlayBook by way of BlackBerry Bridge. Unfortunately, I cannot test or make use of this feature.

The Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo app are good enough but I wish there was a better mail application pre-loaded on the device.

HDMI

If you purchase the BlackBerry HDMI adapter, which connects to a small port on the bottom of your PlayBook, you can view your PlayBook screen on your television or external display.

Bluetooth

Bluetooth allows you to connect your mobile phones, speakers, headsets, and other devices to your PlayBook.


Computer Connection

Good

Unlike most tablets, the PlayBook doesn’t mount as a mass storage device. You need to download BlackBerry software from here (Mac and PC) so you can transfer music, videos, and other files to your PlayBook. This software also has a neat backup feature that works quite well.

With this software, you can transfer the photos you took with your PlayBook camera to your computer.

Need For Speed

To download additional applications to your device, you can use the BlackBerry App World. There is a lack of applications in the app world. Hopefully more developers are going to be building applications for the PlayBook when the software update comes out in February. It’s also possible for developers to port over some Android applications to the PlayBook OS. The PlayBook has a lot of potential for great applications.

Camera

Basic photo capture is quite good. The UI is very straightforward.

The rear facing camera can capture 1080p video. The video turns out very well but there seems to be no stabilization in the video or photo mode.

The rear camera shoots 5 megapixel photos at 2592×1456 pixel resolution. Overall, the quality is good but there is some small amounts of ‘noise’ in the photos.

Battery

There is not much you can say about the battery. I usually get two full days out of the PlayBook using it for general web browsing, listening to podcasts, and watching videos. By the way, the podcast application is quite good.

I didn’t expect the battery to last as long as it does. I did notice charging the PlayBook from 0% to 100% takes an extremely long time. (4+ hours)

Conclusion

I love the BlackBerry PlayBook and for $199, it’s a very nice tablet. The device form factor, size, and hardware is great. The display is also very nice.

The lack of a native e-mail, contact, calendar application along with the lack of applications in the App World make the PlayBook less attractive. I see a lot of potential in RIM’s first tablet and I hope it continues to get updates and new applications.

Overall, if you have a $200 budget, the PlayBook should be high on your list, otherwise I think it’s fair to say you should wait a while before purchasing a PlayBook due to the small amount of applications. Let’s hope to see some more applications and additional updates soon.

If you have a PlayBook or are thinking about getting one, please leave your thoughts below in the comments section. We’d love to hear what you have to say.

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  • Tranman

    My family bought 5 playbook when it on sell , First we talk it very good deal 199$ 16gb, 249$ #2gb few week we start have same problem battery won”t take charge any more ( we left battery drain out ) 3 hours used it . Now we try to charge hard boot power +Volume -volume ,new Rapid charger till not help .If any one try to buy (Please don”t ) You will runing same Problem