BlackBerry PlayBook review

Blackberry's PlayBook feels like a BlackBerry smartphone, but it has the touch interface and feel of a tablet, too.

NameTablet: BlackBerry PlayBook
At a glance:Mini-HDMI means you can stream from tablet to TV,Lacks native email and BlackBerry apps for now,Runs full Flash and HTML5,Battery life is the poorest of the tablet devices tested
Summary:This won’t become a full consumer tablet until September, which is hopefully when it lands in NZ, but even without bells and whistles, it’s slick.

#3 in our 2011 Tablet Countdown.

Disclaimer time: This model is not yet available in New Zealand, except via parallel import. We picked this one up at BlackBerry World, which Zara Baxter attended as a guest of Research in Motion.

Blackberry's PlayBook has the unique distinction of being the first tablet designed for business. It also runs Adobe AIR as an overlay on QNX ( a version of POSIX), rather than running a tablet or smartphone OS. The end result feels like a BlackBerry smartphone, but it has the touch interface and feel of a tablet, too. For a new tablet OS, the immediate question is: are there any apps? The answer is, as yet, not many. BlackBerry has a simple way around this planned, however. An ‘Android Player’ means that any Android app can be installed on the PlayBook, as though it were a native app, if the Android developer submits it to BlackBerry App World.

The squared-off 7-inch design is apparently modelled on a Moleskine notebook; the influence is apparent in the soft-touch rear of the device. It sports front and rear-facing cameras (3MP and 5MP, respectively), and includes a volume control, 3.5mm headphone jack and mini-HDMI port.

While iOS has its well known ‘home’ button as a key navigation tool, and Android uses home, menu and back buttons, BlackBerry has opted to use the device surround as part of its navigation. Swipe up from the base to go home, swipe down from the top for menu options, and swipe apps upwards to close them. It takes a little getting used to, but quickly becomes second nature.

The apps are responsive, no doubt thanks to the dual-core 1GHZ processor and AIR overlay, and everything from viewing slideshows to reading books feels crisp and snappy.

Text in all apps is sharp and clear, with excellent font display. It's particularly noticeable in the PlayBook’s Facebook app – the first designed specifically for tablet use. There’s full Adobe Flash and HTML5 support thanks to AIR, too.

We were impressed with the camera quality and, like Android’s camera app, there are options for customisation and adjustment. Video and pictures display well on the 1024 x 600 screen, which has good colour accuracy and excellent brightness. The only disappointment is the large bezel, which can be slightly distracting.

While the PlayBook we tested comes with 16GB of storage, you can also get 32GB or 64GB versions, but note that none come with external storage of any form.

There are other drawbacks, too. A swipe upwards turns the tablet on, as does the on button, which may have contributed to poor battery life (we carried it around in a bag most of the time), but we found that it lasted around 24 hours with intermittent use. It has the shortest battery life of any of the tablets we tested.

The current method of using BlackBerry mail, BlackBerry messenger, and other BlackBerry core applications is, wait for it ... to tether it to your BlackBerry 6 phone. RIM says it will roll out native BlackBerry email, calendar, and so forth before September. In the meantime, you can use third party email apps, or access webmail via the browser over Wi-Fi.

In the US, the 16GB version costs $499, which we hope will convert to a New Zealand price around $800 maximum.

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Tags posixPlayBookadobeQNXplay bookadobe flashAIRflashBlackberryadobe AIRTabletbb

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Zara Baxter

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