/>
X

Photos: BlackBerry PlayBook - hands-on with RIM's tablet

Is the small, seven-inch tablet beautiful? Does size matter?
zd-defaultauthor-natasha-lomas.jpg
By Natasha Lomas on
40154193-1-610-487-blackberry-playbook-silicon-homepage.jpg
1 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Is the small, seven-inch tablet beautiful? Does size matter?

RIM has been demoing its as-yet unreleased tablet - the BlackBerry PlayBook - which the BlackBerry maker hopes will be able to challenge the dominance of Apple's iPad. Apple's slate was given a boost by the US launch of the iPad 2 at the end of last week.

There's no firm word on a UK launch date for RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook but it's due to hit the US at the end of the first quarter, according to a company spokesman. Price is also unannounced.

RIM's first foray into the tablet market is in a smaller form factor than the iPad. The PlayBook has a seven-inch display compared with the iPad's 9.7 inches. Apple CEO Steve Jobs ripped into smaller-sized tablets during a conference call last year.

"The current crop of seven-inch tablets are going to be DOA - dead on arrival," he said. "Their manufacturers will learn the painful lesson that their tablets are too small."

Does size matter when it comes to tablet PCs? Check out our hands-on photos of the BlackBerry PlayBook and size it up for yourself.

Pictured above is silicon.com's homepage running on the PlayBook's seven-inch display - which has a screen resolution of 1,024 x 600 pixels.

40154193-2-610-437-blackberry-playbook-multitasking.jpg
2 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Pictured above is the PlayBook's homescreen, with two apps shown running in the background to demonstrate the tablet's ability to multitask: the game Need for Speed and a word-processing app called Word to Go. Background apps continue to run when not in use and can be closed by flicking the relevant rectangle off the top of the screen - similar to functionality in HP-Palm's webOS mobile operating system.

To see a video clip of the PlayBook's multitasking in action, follow this link.

The PlayBook homescreen also has various tabs for quick access - including an option to call up everything stored on the tablet, both apps and any media, and a tab to call up the dedicated tablet browser. At the bottom of the homescreen there is space for a selection of frequently used apps to be positioned for easy access.

40154193-3-610-464-blackberry-playbook-homescreen.jpg
3 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Touching the All tab brings up all the apps on the device - here including a YouTube app, various games, a word-processing app and an SAP Sales app - along with any media content stored on the PlayBook.

The tablet will come loaded with certain apps which have yet to be finalised, according to a RIM spokesman. The PlayBook will come with RIM's BlackBerry App World app store, he confirmed.

40154193-4-610-478-blackberry-playbook-typing.jpg
4 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Here is the PlayBook's software keyboard in use, running in the Word to Go word-processing app.

The PlayBook runs the BlackBerry Tablet OS - a new OS that RIM has developed, following its acquisition of QNX last year. The UI of the PlayBook requires a variety of gestures such as swiping up or diagonally across the bevel - the black area around the screen - to perform various UI functions such as 'go back' or to call up the software keyboard.

Using the bevel as part of the UI enabled RIM to maximise the visible screen size by eschewing the need for any physical buttons on the front of the device, said the spokesman.

40154193-5-610-234-blackberry-playbook-long-side.jpg
5 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

The PlayBook has not done away with buttons entirely. On the top of the slate are a power button, volume controls and a play-pause button for media playback. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the right-hand side.

The PlayBook is 10mm thick, according to RIM - making it a fraction thicker than the iPad 2's 8.8mm. Unlike the iPad 2, the PlayBook has flat rather than bevelled edges, so it feels chunkier.

40154193-6-610-331-blackberry-playbook-ports.jpg
6 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

On the bottom edge, the PlayBook sports a couple of ports: a magnetic docking connector port for charging the device via a proprietary charger, a micro HDMI port for connecting the PlayBook to an HDMI monitor, and a micro USB port which can be used for charging the slate and also transferring data.

40154193-7-610-507-blackberry-playbook-back.jpg
7 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Here's a view of the back of the tablet. The PlayBook has two cameras for videoconferencing - a five-megapixel camera on the back, shown above, and a three-megapixel camera on the front of the device.

40154193-8-610-420-blackberry-playbook-blackberry-curve.jpg
8 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Here's the PlayBook shown next to a BlackBerry Curve for size comparison. The full dimensions of the PlayBook are 130mm x 193mm x 10mm.

RIM's tablet is designed to work in tandem with a BlackBerry smartphone using a feature called BlackBerry Bridge. PlayBook-owning BlackBerry users download the Bridge app to their smartphone which enables the smartphone and tablet to be paired using a secure Bluetooth link.

40154193-9-610-458-blackberry-playbook-blackberry-bridge.jpg
9 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Once the PlayBook and smartphone are paired via Bridge, the BlackBerry user can then access BlackBerry Messenger, email and calendar info on the PlayBook - via the icons shown above. The data is mirrored to the PlayBook - not cached or stored on it - so once the Bluetooth link is severed, none of the data remains on the tablet. BlackBerry email, BBM and calendar remain inaccessible until the Bridge feature is launched again.

A RIM spokesman said the PlayBook acts as a reader for data stored securely on a BlackBerry smartphone, adding that the company has taken this approach to boost mobile data security. PlayBook owners do not therefore require any additional licences to use the device to access BlackBerry PIM features. "BlackBerry Bridge has obvious advantages to businesses," the spokesman added.

Other features on the tablet - such as internet access, and photo and media viewing - do not require a BlackBerry smartphone to function so, theoretically, not all PlayBook owners need to own a BlackBerry smartphone to use the tablet, although these native Blackberry PIM features would remain off-limits to them.

40154193-10-610-420-blackberry-playbook-books.jpg
10 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

One native app that PlayBook users won't need to have a BlackBerry to make use of is the tablet's e-reader app - the Kobo e-reading app and ebook store will come loaded on the PlayBook, said the spokesman.

RIM has also revealed the tablet will come loaded with 7digital's music store.

40154193-11-610-465-blackberry-playbook-sap-app.jpg
11 of 11 Natasha Lomas/silicon.com

Enterprise-software maker SAP is also working on bringing out PlayBook apps. Pictured here is an SAP Sales PlayBook app that displays Flash-based sales dashboards.

Related Galleries

Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6: Electric vehicle extravaganza
img-8825

Related Galleries

Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6: Electric vehicle extravaganza

26 Photos
A weekend with Google's Chrome OS Flex
img-9792-2

Related Galleries

A weekend with Google's Chrome OS Flex

22 Photos
Cybersecurity flaws, customer experiences, smartphone losses, and more: ZDNet's research roundup
shutterstock-1024665187.jpg

Related Galleries

Cybersecurity flaws, customer experiences, smartphone losses, and more: ZDNet's research roundup

8 Photos
Inside a fake $20 '16TB external M.2 SSD'
Full of promises!

Related Galleries

Inside a fake $20 '16TB external M.2 SSD'

8 Photos
Hybrid working, touchscreen MacBook hopes, cybersecurity concerns, and more: ZDNet's tech research roundup
Asian woman working at a desk in front of a computer and calculator

Related Galleries

Hybrid working, touchscreen MacBook hopes, cybersecurity concerns, and more: ZDNet's tech research roundup

8 Photos
Developer trends, zero-day risks, 5G speeds, and more: Tech research roundup
Person seated at a booth in a cafe looks at their phone and laptop.

Related Galleries

Developer trends, zero-day risks, 5G speeds, and more: Tech research roundup

10 Photos
Drive Electric Day: A dizzying array of EVs in sunny Florida
ca3b4019-26c5-4ce0-a844-5aac39e2c34b.jpg

Related Galleries

Drive Electric Day: A dizzying array of EVs in sunny Florida

16 Photos