The first thing you should know about the PlayBook, is that it isn’t a one-fit-for-all solution. If you don’t own a BlackBerry mobile phone or have no plans of buying one in the near future, the PlayBook may not make the most sense for you.
The way BlackBerry has designed this 7-inch tablet is simple: think of the PlayBook as an extension for your existing BB mobile phone. Once you’ve downloaded the BlackBerry Bridge software on your mobile from BB App World, you merely need to pair the two devices together. Within moments, you’ll see all your emails, contacts, calendar events and other data on your PlayBook. The latest update 1.07 that was launched a few days ago also allows you to use BB Messenger from the tablet and enables video chatting between two PlayBooks.
Compared to its mobile brethren, the PlayBook sports a completely new operating system QNX that’s been designed from the ground up. The interface is smooth thanks to the device’s powerful hardware like the 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB RAM.
iPad Compared to Apple’s second-generation iPad, the PlayBook has a much better 5-megapixel rear camera, 1080p video output via micro HDMI and a 3MP front camera. The screen too, at 1024x600 pixels is sharper than the iPad’s, which sports a resolution of 1024x768 stretched out over a larger screen (10 inches). Using the tablet is very intuitive, and the 7-inch variety is a good size to carry around. It fits snugly in a jacket pocket or handbag. At just 425 grams, it is among the lightest tablets in the market. Its matte rubber finish looks classy, and BB’s been kind enough to include a protective black sleeve in the box. The inch-thick bezel around the screen isn’t merely decorative. It’s touch-sensitive and swipes initiated here are used for a variety of commands. The lack of a home button is unnerving to start with, but soon enough you’ll find out that an upward swipe minimises the application in use and invokes the home screen. A downward swipe from the top brings the options menu. Swipes can also have other functions, which we feel is pretty smart.
Gaming is fun
The gameplay and graphics on the preloaded NFS Undercover game are a treat. Both audio and video playback are good and picture quality is great. The browser also performs well. The fully functional Flash player scores over the iPad too. The highpoint, however, is BlackBerry Bridge that allows you to connect your BlackBerry handset with the tablet. When connected over Bridge, the PlayBook flashes an incoming call alert and you can silence the ringer from the PlayBook itself. Bridge is also very secure in that, the moment you turn off the connection, none of the data can be accessed on the tablet.
The biggest problems with the PlayBook right now are a sheer lack of apps. For instance, hilarious as it might sound, there’s no native email client on the device, neither are there any downloadable options on the app store. No native email app If you want to check your email, you must already have it configured on your handset, or you’ll need to open it through the web browser. What’s also confusing though is the fact that tech sites are abuzz with talk of RIM slashing its internal sales target by more than half from 2.4 million units to 800,000 to 900,000 units.
What we like
Slick operating system
Bridge works seamlessly with compatible devices
What we don’t
Usability is limited owing to lack of apps
Pointless if you don’t use a BlackBerry handset
Blackberry’s message to potential buyers is obvious: don’t bother picking this up if you don’t own a BB handset to begin with. The dearth of applications on BB App World does not offer any reassurance either. However, the numerous device updates – each with new (and much required) functionality – proves BlackBerry’s dedication to its product. We have no doubt that six months to a year from now, the PlayBook will hold its own. But what until then?