BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

Summary: While the BlackBerry PlayBook is outgunned by the iPad when it comes to competing for general consumers, there are two kinds of buyers who will love this little 7-inch tablet.

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Research in Motion's BlackBerry PlayBook has been much-maligned, including by yours truly (see BlackBerry PlayBook: Beware of the demo-ware tablet). But, as I said when I first got my hands on the device, the PlayBook's low expectations have led to some pleasant surprises, and I think there are definitely a couple types of users who would prefer the PlayBook to any of the other tablets on the market.

Photo gallery

BlackBerry PlayBook: Unboxing and comparison photos

Specifications

  • OS: QNX, BlackBerry Tablet OS with with symmetric multiprocessing
  • Processor: 1GHz dual core Texas Instruments OMAP4430
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Storage: 16GB, 32GB, or 64GB internal
  • Display: 7-inch WSVGA, 1024x600
  • Battery: Lithium-ion 5400 mAh
  • Ports: Micro USB, Micro HDMI, 3.5mm headset
  • Weight: 14.4 ounces (425 grams)
  • Dimensions: 7.6(h) x 5.1(w) x 0.4(d) inches
  • Camera: 5MP rear-facing, 3MP front-facing
  • Sensors: Accelerometer, GPS, digital compass, 6-axis gyroscope
  • Keyboard: Virtual QWERTY
  • Networks: LTE, WiMAX, and HSPA+ models later in 2011
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
  • Tethering: Only to a BlackBerry smartphone
  • Price: $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), $699 (64GB)

Who is it for?

The PlayBook is not for everyone. If you've been longing for an iPad, the arrival of the PlayBook is probably not going to change your mind and make you jump to the BlackBerry tablet instead, unless you are a devout BlackBerry smartphone user or you want a tablet primarily for surfing the Web. If you are a BlackBerry smartphone lover who has never even considered switching to iPhone or Android, then the PlayBook is probably the perfect tablet for you. It is is an excellent larger screen companion for your BlackBerry and expands its strengths to include top-notch Web browsing and multimedia capabilities. Speaking of Web browsing, the Web experience on the PlayBook is so good that I think we're likely to see plenty of users who will buy one just as a Web tablet. The Javascript and Flash performance are excellent on the PlayBook -- in terms of Flash, the implementation is significantly smoother and more stable than the Android implementation of Flash. The PlayBook is the first mobile device that provides something close to the full desktop Web experience.

What problems does it solve?

Based on BlackBerry's overcomplicated smartphone UI that makes users constantly dig through tons of menus, I didn't have much confidence that BlackBerry could deliver an excellent user experience on a tablet. But, the PlayBook pulled it off. The user experience is simple and self-evident, with no buttons and two basic gestures -- swipe-up and swipe-down. It's as easy to use as the one-button iPad solution, but without just blatantly ripping off Apple. The other big innovation in the PlayBook is the Web browser, as mentioned above. The page-load times are really quick, the fonts render beautifully, and RIM and Adobe worked together to pull off a Flash experience that virtually seamless. For example, you can take a lot of high quality Flash videos on Web page and throw into full screen mode and they look great and render flawlessly. You can even output these high quality videos to an HD TV via the PlayBook's HDMI port and they still look great.

Standout features

  • UI and performance - The user experience is the biggest surprise of the PlayBook. It is easy to learn, smooth to navigate, and has some of the best and fastest responsiveness that you'll find on any smartphone or tablet. It is a completely different experience than a BlackBerry smartphone.
  • Full-featured Web browsing - As we've already talked about, the Web browsing experience on the PlayBook is excellent. The Flash implementation is well-done. Even though I'm not a fan of Flash, it's still a big part of the Web and  will be for years, until HTML5 replaces it. Oh, and the PlayBook already handles HTML5 quite nicely.
  • Usable word processor - One my biggest complaints with the iPad is that there isn't a decent word processing app for taking notes, writing letters/memos, building basic documents, etc. Apple's Pages app is a little too complicated than it needs to be and apps like iA Writer are nice but almost a little too bare bones. The PlayBook has the happy medium. Its Word To Go app (see screenshot) is the best word processing app I've used on a tablet. It is dead simple to use and has the most important basic features for building a good document. Plus, it's free and installed by default. This is where RIM's acquisition of Davaviz -- the company behind Documents to Go -- has really helped.
  • Brilliant for multimedia - The graphics performance and LCD display on the PlayBook are another big plus -- and another pleasant surprise since the BlackBerry isn't known as a multimedia powerhouse (although its high-end phones have been making strides in recent years). The PlayBook is terrific for watching videos and looking at photos. The images are crisp, the colors are vibrant, and the performance is snappy.

What's wrong?

  • Email and calendar require a BlackBerry - The thing you most often hear the PlayBook getting dinged for is the fact that it didn't ship with native email, calendar, and contacts apps (RIM says it will add them later this year). What the PlayBook does offer is the ability to use its Bridge feature to connect to a BlackBerry smartphone and then use its email, calendar, and contacts on the PlayBook's larger screen. However, the actual data never resides on the PlayBook. It remains locked down in the BlackBerry phone, which is a plus for users that need tight security. The other thing to keep in mind is that if you use Web mail such as Gmail or Yahoo Mail, the Web experience on the PlayBook is good enough to handle light email and calendar tasks.
  • Needs more apps - The biggest problem with the BlackBerry PlayBook when you compare it to the iPad is the the lack of apps. On the iPad, apps extend the functionality of the device in lots of different ways, for business, for personal productivity, for entertainment, and much more. While RIM claims that the PlayBook ships with 3,000 tablet-optimized apps -- "more than any of our competitors at launch," according to co-CEO Mike Lazaridis -- the problem is that the iPad has 75,000 apps now and a lot of important partners who are committed to the platform. RIM will never be able to compete with that, but if it can forge partnerships to get key apps like Amazon Kindle, Evernote, Dropbox, and Netflix on to the PlayBook, then it would have a much easier time winning over a larger niche market. However, companies appear reticent to jump on the PlayBook bandwagon. Amazon initially announced that it would release a Kindle app for the PlayBook launch, but is dragging its feet in fulfilling that promise.
  • 7-inch form factor has its limits - The thing that limits the great Web and multimedia experience on the PlayBook is the 7-inch screen. There are times when it's just a little too small to clearly read Web pages and when some of the details can get lost in videos due to the smaller screen.

Bottom line for business

The BlackBerry PlayBook is the perfect choice for two types of tablet buyers -- 1.) BlackBerry loyalists who want the perfect compliment to their smartphone and 2.) people who want a tablet primarily for mobile Web browsing from the conference room, couch, bedroom, and other places where you don't have a full PC and don't want to whip out a laptop.

For high security enterprises and government organizations that are already committed to the BlackBerry platform and have employees clamoring for iPads, the BlackBerry PlayBook is potentially an excellent tablet solution to run private apps and intranet services.

Competitive products

Where to get more info

This was originally published on TechRepublic.

Topics: Mobile OS, Browser, Hardware, Laptops, Mobility, BlackBerry, Software Development, Tablets

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  • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

    Mad dogs and Englishmen?
    A Grain of Salt
  • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

    [i][b]What?s wrong?[/b][/i]

    You missed one glaring one... the price.
    Badgered
    • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

      @Badgered ... the price is not out of whack. Cell phones are smaller and without a contract would the same price as any tablet if not more. Screen size should not be an indicator of price.
      striker67
      • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

        @striker67 you paying the same for less solid state, and yes, size matters when you browsing the net and watching videos. With the phones you are connected almost everywhere and with or without contract you paying the same if not more. Anyway there is market for all, in the end the consumer is the judge and they will decide the market share for every device.
        humb1962
      • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

        @humb1962 I guess it could be seen both ways. In defense of the playbook - the consumer is paying same for a device with stereo sound, multitasking support, wifi connectivity for adding/removing files to the device, for 3MP+5MP cameras opposed to 0.3MP+0.7MP, and most importantly---portability due to its size + weight. etc, etc. etc. I guess we'll have to wait and see how the market responds / what they really want. It won't take the majority of the market share anytime soon, but will be interesting to see how much marketshare a 7" device will take.
        NO_CARRIER
  • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

    Also good for us Android smartphone users. I'm purchasing a Playbook, it's good for me as I'm not currently tied to iTunes, and with Android app support coming, it's a logical solution.
    NO_CARRIER
    • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

      @NO_CARRIER
      iTunes is awesome!! combine it with Apple TV and people go WOW! at my parties lol
      Hasam1991
      • Message has been deleted.

        man_strosity
      • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

        @Hasam1991
        Lol is it "Wow you wasted all your money on this crap"..Itunes is the worse music market there is and apple tv well whats the point you pay for what any windows machine, adroid machine or xbox or playstation gets you for free with better quality.
        Fletchguy
      • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

        @Hasam1991
        The worst malware on my computer was iTunes. When it wasn't running, it tried to contact the mother ship. After I uninstalled it, it left rogue processes behind to contact the mother ship. Apple is very good at writing malware for a company that stinks in software.
        rengek
      • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

        @Hasam1991 - Ignore those other replies, some people don't recognize sarcasm when they see it!
        levinson
      • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

        @Hasam1991 ''

        You are kidding right, Hasam1991? My sister bought the iphone because of the hype and she regretted ever since. It's not customizable and Itunes is proprietary and very expensive to use.
        business owner
    • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

      @NO_CARRIER
      RIM has missed the boat. Reminds me of Blockbuster.

      The Playbook is 1 or 2 years too late. If it came out before iPad, that's a different story. However, that would mean that RIM can actually invent something new. I believe their glory days are over...
      prof123
      • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

        @prof123 - I disagree. The first horse out of the gate isn't always the winner in the long run. Technology doesn't work that way. Betamax came first, VHS took more market share. Xbox360 came first, Wii took more market share. iOS Finger-touch UI came first, Android took more market share. Yahoo came first, Google took more market share.

        Truth is, the world is big enough for multiple 'large players'. If RIM went down, there would be another company to take its place. There will never be 'one big' cellphone or smartphone manufacturer for everyone.

        I don't think for a second the Playbook will outsell Apple's products anytime soon. But it doesn't really need to either. Just like Apple's laptops won't outsell Windows-based PC's... they don't need to outsell them, but there is still a huge market for them, and they will continue to sell.
        NO_CARRIER
      • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

        @prof123 I disagree. I never have had an iPhone, did not want an iPad (thought it was way large for one thing, and the monthly fees...not for me.) I do have my Blackberry Curve...now I have a Playbook. I love it. Can go online wherever I am that I get cellphone service, no extra charges, now if only they had Netflix!
        harpcomposer
    • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

      Hi @No_Carrier,

      Alex from RIM here. Glad you?re picking up a PlayBook! Support for Android apps via a new application player is expected this summer.

      When you get a chance, check out this short video from BlackBerry World showing the PlayBook?s Android App Player in action (http://bbry.lv/lbt7jz).

      Cheers,
      Alex, RIM Social Media Team
      alexkinsella
      • Gently requeast from Thai people

        Hi Alex,
        I love blakberry playbook since we have had os2. Also many thai people. Now we have to use Thai language via android instead of bb keyboard which have no Thai keyboard. Can I gently request Thai keyboard or application to support thai typing? Now you have korean, russian, japanese but no thai now!! This is an issue for Thai people. I m just saying the actual feedback from playbook thailand facebook....hopefully you can say sonething, thank you/ Art
        arther5555
  • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

    Wonder if RIM will write a Bridge app for Android?
    podstolom
    • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

      @podstolom Not sure what you mean by bridge app for android. They are writing an Android Player which will run Android applications natively (as long as they have been packaged and certified by RIM's Appworld to run on the PlayBook). They've demoed lots of different Android apps (all 2.x versions) running on the PlayBook. The email/calendar apps run natively in bridge mode but it appears that the forthcoming versions will run in BBOS emulation mode inside a BBOS Player. Will an iOS Player be far behind? :-)
      mapsonburt
  • RE: BlackBerry PlayBook is perfect tablet for two kinds of people

    IN most of the articles no one talks about battery life, what will happen when you bridge to your blackberry, what kind of usage time will you get?
    davefm@...