Having always been one to enjoy fiddling with new(ish) tech, I looked at it as an opportunity to explore the world of BlackBerry that I had left behind many, many years ago when I fell in love with what an iPhone could do and my BB Curve got tossed into our electronic junk drawer.
First off, if you are going to compare it to an iPad2 then forget it, it loses hands down. But if you judge it for what it is then it has its merits and uses.
If you are a BB user (I know there are still some of you out there who swear by them and not just at them) then you will probably like the way it works. It just feels BlackBerry-ish. Be prepared for a large download as soon as you start the wi-fi setup process. You can’t avoid it either, it has to be installed, but from what I understand its replacing the OS and it makes the PlayBook much better to use. Be forewarned, it’s just over 360 mb and you need a good clean connection, so don’t think you’re going to set it up at the local coffee shop. In fact it stopped a couple of times for me, but after kicking everything and everyone off the home wi-fi, it managed to chug on thru and finish.
Once you are done the setup, which can only be done using wi-fi which kinda sucks IMO, then the rest of the setup is dead easy. The tutorials are short and sweet and show you the basics in just a few minutes. The screen is clear and bright, and the sample video in HD that is pre-installed looks so realistic you’d almost think it was 3D, at least according to my youngest daughter.
The multitasking is impressive and try as I might, opening tons of apps all at once didn’t seem to cause any trouble. Even the pre-installed racing game that uses the built-in gyroscope worked flawlessly when flipping between it and any of the other apps I had open.
The PlayBook has almost all the features you’d expect of a tablet, including access to a music store and an app store, its just that they are not iTunes – the unchallenged king of media. I flipped thru the store quickly and it seemed to have a lot of current media with comparable prices to the iTunes store. Speaking of price, the PlayBook itself is about half the price of an iPad, and if you are looking for a smaller form factor then it might be just the thing for small hands. Kids for instance would appreciate that when it comes to holding and typing on it.
There are front and back cameras for stills and video, which according to the specs should be better than that of my iPhone4, or the iPad2 but in side by said comparison it just didn’t measure up. The photos looked flat and needed much brighter lighting to capture a good image. No flash either. Not the flash that Apple hates, the type that lights up your subject is what I am referring to. This little tablet does support Adobe Flash when you are on the web, but doesn’t have one for photographs. Why can’t we have both?
One thing that does annoy me though, is the lack of an email app. Without bridging your PlayBook to your BlackBerry smartphone there is no calendar, email, or contacts. This may be something that is about to change if you read the PDF specs of the PlayBook. One little word “will” makes me think there are newer versions on the not-so-distant horizon. Who knows, maybe the $299 price tag is to try to clear out the older models and make way for the next one.
If this product had come out without needing an update right out of the box, or hadn’t tried to come off as an iPad alternative, then maybe it would have been received better. Also with all the uncertainty about Research In Motion (RIM) many people who might have welcomed BlackBerry’s first foray into the tablet market have held off, and that trepidation seems to be keeping people’s wallets closed . Even at the lower prices, they are not exactly flying off the shelves the way you’d expect. Hopefully with the right publicity and advertising RIM can increase their user-base and get back some of the huge investment they put into development.
Bottom line, would I buy one? Yes. Heck I’d like to buy a couple of them as travel-sized media players. They are perfect for that. Is it a full-blown tablet? No, at least not yet. Maybe after the next OS update (version 2.0 is close to release and hopefully won’t require new hardware), because it seems like there are still too many features missing that I want in a tablet. You are not going to replace your laptop with this, but it will make a welcome addition to your electronic family whether or not you are a BlackBerry smartphone user.