BlackBerry PlayBook Review
- Excellent multitasking
- Brilliant display
- Flash and Adobe AIR support
- Limited number of apps
- Biased towards BlackBerry smartphone users
- Poor implementation of the power/sleep button
Right now, the BlackBerry PlayBook is ideal for a BlackBerry smartphone user looking to purchase a tablet. This is mainly due to the BlackBerry Bridge sync option. However, even then we would advise potential buyers to wait it out till there is a respectable apps eco-system. Current apps in the App World are nothing to write home about. RIM had announced that Android apps would soon be ported to the BlackBerry App World, but that has yet to happen. The Wi-Fi data transfer option and ability to edit the Documents To Go app is a big plus point.
RIM was one major smartphone player missing from the tablet segment. With the PlayBook, BlackBerry has entered the arena of sleek tablets sporting a completely new operating system. Although launched globally in April, it was announced very recently here in India with none other than Bollywood actor Salman Khan unveiling it.
The home screen of the PlayBook is divided with the app icon tray at the bottom, the card view of opened apps in the middle and the status bar on the top
Build and Ergonomics
The PlayBook measures 9-inches diagonally, with an effective screen area of 7-inches - there is therefore a prominent bezel around the LCD screen. The device is rounded at the edges, and the edges and the rear side have a rubberised finish which gives a very good grip on the device. Build quality is top notch and the thick bezel has its ups and downs. The positive aspect of the thicker bezel is that it allows you to hold the PlayBook in one hand such that your thumb is on the front portion and does not accidentally activate the touchscreen. The downside is that the slits on sides, when the tablet is held in the horizontal orientation has the speaker section. So if you are watching a movie, you will most likely block the speakers.
As mentioned earlier, the 10 mm thick edge on the PlayBook has rounded edges. The top central portion has a small round power button, which is a bit too recessed for our liking and you will have to depress it at right angles. Considering that is the only way to put the PlayBook to sleep, you will be using it a lot and it will annoy you. Adjacent to it are the volume control and play/pause buttons, which have a metallic body. An audio jack is placed on the extreme right hand side. On the other edge there is the mini HDMI port, a micro USB charging port and an optional charging dock port.
Bottom edge of the PlayBook houses the mini HDMI port, microUSB port and an optional charging dock port
The top edge of the PlayBook showing the volume control buttons along with play pause button and the extremely recessed Power button on the left hand side
BlackBerry PlayBook houses the 1GHz dual core Texas Instruments OMAP 4430 SoC. It runs on the proprietary BlackBerry Tablet OS, based on the QNX Neutrino micro kernel architecture. QNX Software Systems was bought over by BlackBerry last year. It is speculated that the BlackBerry plans to use this QNX OS on its smartphones sometime next year.
BlackBerry Bridge allows you to pair your BlackBerry smartphone with the PlayBook and sync apps such as Contacts, Tasks, Calender, Mail, etc. We will discuss it in detail in the Performance section.
It comes with connectivity options such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. With the Wi-Fi activated, it is also possible to transfer files wirelessly from your tablet to your laptop which is mapped to the tablet.
The rear portion has a 5MP camera on top. There is no flash unit along with the camera. The front-facing camera is a 3MP one. Multitasking is the most important feature of the PlayBook. It supports Adobe AIR applications as well as Flash. Internet tethering is supported.
BlackBerry AppWorld app showing the featured apps
Getting around the UI
You will notice that there are no buttons on the tablet apart from the ones on the top edge i.e., no Home button! The bezel forms a touch-sensitive frame. If you swipe from top to bottom on the home page, a Settings menu will drop down, or, if you are on an active app then its contextual menu will drop down. The Settings menu is highly detailed, and you can control all aspects of your PlayBook from this drop down menu. On swiping from bottom upwards, the application menu is slid up. Apps are broadly categorised into All, Favourites, Media and Games. At any point you can access the virtual keyboard by swiping upwards from the bottom left corner.
Settings tab of the PlayBook is highly detailed and can be accessed by swiping from top downwards
On activating an app from the application menu, we come back to the home page and the app places itself in the blank portion of the home screen and then maximises. You can open various applications and work on them simultaneously. On coming out of the application and onto the homepage, you get a coverflow sort of view of the opened applications. This is also known as the card view. You can wake up your PlayBook from sleep by swiping across the screen from end to end.
There is a definite learning curve involved for a newbie. On the whole though, we like the usability aspect of the tablet where everything just works on finger swipes. Those used to the Apple iPad will keep searching for a Home button, but honestly you do not miss the absence of buttons on the PlayBook.
Continue reading about BlackBerry PlayBook's performance, our verdict and more, on the next page...
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