BlackBerry PlayBook 2.0 -- outstanding value (review)

Summary:The major update to the PlayBook software turns the tablet from the maker of the BlackBerry into a solid product, the low prices make it a good value.

The BlackBerry PlayBook disappointed me when released last year, and for good reason. The omission of integrated email and PIM functions made the tablet from RIM a hollow shell for most.

My PlayBook had been consigned to a desk drawer for a while, and I had to get it out and prepare it for the version 2.0 update that recently rolled out. I'm glad I did that, as the PlayBook 2.0 is a very nice tablet.

The biggest improvement brought by version 2.0 is the integrated email app, which is quite good. It handles multiple email accounts with ease, and has a great interface that makes working with threaded conversations quite nice. It is restricted to running in landscape along with the new calendar and contacts apps, which is a shame as I often use the 7-inch PlayBook in the comfortable portrait mode. It's worth rotating the tablet around for the email, but I find the lack of portrait support to be lazy on RIM's part.

See also: Virtual tour of PlayBook 2.0 | BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0: Déjà Vu?

The PlayBook browser has always been good, and it's even better with version 2.0. It is as desktop-like as any mobile browser today, even giving Google Chrome for Android a good run. It's fast and works as expected. For those who find Flash support important, the PlayBook handles it just fine, unlike Chrome for Android.

Sadly the app situation hasn't improved tremendously since launch, although there are more apps available now. The big change in the app area with version 2.0 is the inclusion of Android apps in the App World. These are vetted by RIM for use on the PlayBook, and run much like native PlayBook apps. There is not anything in the App World to tell Android apps apart from native, something I wish RIM would change. It would be nice to be able to scan through all Android apps in the store.

There aren't a lot of Android apps in the store, but it is possible to easily sideload Android apps onto the PlayBook, opening up the tablet to many apps. It is important to note that no tablet-optimized Android apps (those requiring Honeycomb or later) will currently run on the PlayBook. Gingerbread apps run fine though, and I've tried some of them with no issues. The first app I sideloaded was the Kindle app, which works just like it does on the Kindle Fire.

See also: Matt Miller's gallery of Android apps running on the PlayBook 2.0

Speaking of the Kindle Fire, the PlayBook is routinely available at retailers for $199 for the 16GB model, and that puts it competing squarely with the Kindle Fire for the same price. The hardware of the PlayBook is better than that of the Kindle Fire, and with the ability to run Android apps it is a firm competitor. The PlayBook 2.0 OS is better than Android, too.

Anyone looking for a cheap tablet that is high quality should seriously consider the BlackBerry PlayBook. It is easily worth the same price as the Kindle Fire, and a better tablet for the price.

Topics: Tablets, Android, BlackBerry, Google, Hardware, Mobility, Security

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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