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‘A tablet that can’t do email’

Tech critics offer contrasting reviews on BlackBerry’s first tablet, the PlayBook.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2011 13:01 IST
Nikhil Hemrajani

You could say that BlackBerry’s latest gadget, the PlayBook, which was launched in the US on April 19, was its most anticipated device ever. Though droves of tablets have hit the market, starting with the Apple iPad last year, BlackBerry’s device has caught every tech enthusiast’s fancy.

Unfortunately, there’s bad news on the software front. The PlayBook doesn’t support any BlackBerry functionality like email or messaging on its own. You must first possess a conventional BlackBerry mobile phone. The PlayBook will then connect to the device via Bluetooth and then let you access your mails and messages. BlackBerry calls this feature ‘Bridge’.

Critics’ feedback
David Pogue from the New York Times mentions, “The primary competition (for the PlayBook) is an iPad — the same price, but much thinner, much bigger screen and a library of 3,00,000 apps. In that light, does it make sense to buy a fledgling tablet with no built-in e-mail or calendar, no cellular connection, no video-chat, Skype, no Notes app, no GPS app, and no Angry Birds?”

While Walt Mossberg from the Wall Street Journal loves BlackBerry’s new operating system that’s “handsome and quick”, he’s quick to point out its flaws: “This odd system doesn't work with other smartphones. Bridge makes the PlayBook a companion to a BlackBerry phone rather than a fully independent device. That may be fine for BlackBerry users, but it isn't so great with other phones.”

Technology website Arstechnica.com has similar grouses with the PlayBook. “Where the Playbook falls short is its lack of functionality,” it says, adding, “It doesn't do much out of the box, and little third-party software is available. The few third-party Playbook applications that are available from the BlackBerry App World store are almost all abysmally poor. Another issue that might frustrate some users is the Playbook's lack of standalone e-mail and calendar software—applications that are expected to arrive later.”

Yet, the PlayBook does have its plus points. Mossberg mentions that the web browser “is highly capable, even on sites designed for a regular computer, and does the best job with Flash video and Flash sites I have ever seen on a tablet.” Pogue wraps up saying, “PlayBook looks and feels great: hard rubberised back, brilliant, super-responsive multitouch screen and solid heft (408g).”

Blackberry playbook versus apple ipad
On paper, the PlayBook seems highly impressive. For starters, there’s a 1GHz dual-core processor that’s of the same grade as that in Apple’s iPad 2.

Compared to the iPad, the PlayBook has a smaller screen though — 7 inches as compared to 10 inches on Apple’s tablet. However, usability isn’t affected because the PlayBook sports nearly the same screen resolution — 1024x600 pixels.

The PlayBook has better cameras. The five-megapixel rear camera can also record full HD video, and there’s a three-megapixel front camera.

The PlayBook can display 1080p video and can output to a projector or television via its HDMI connection.

Unlike the iPad, the PlayBook doesn’t support video-chat yet.