To the test: BlackBerry PlayBook
by Keris Lahiff
2011 is certainly the year of the tablet with many tech companies releasing – or planning to release – their version of the mobile tablet device. Released earlier this year, the BlackBerry PlayBook is Research In Motion’s (RIM) entrant into the tablet space. But does it deliver? And how does it compare to the flood of similar devices coming on the market?
What it does well
Straight out of the box, the PlayBook is an impressive gadget – its slimming black chassis has a grippy rubber backing and a smooth sleek face. It’s no ‘hey look at me’ device. Instead, it perfects the serious business-like look with professionalism and understated class.
The next thing you’ll notice is its size. At seven-inches, it’s one of the smaller tablets on the market, but this does it no disadvantage. It’s small enough to fit comfortably in your hand, handbag or briefcase, but not too small to hinder performance. Browsing and reading are beautifully rendered on its clear, crisp screen.
But it’s not just about looks. Once you’ve booted it up, the integration of RIM’s new operating system – QNX – is equally impressive. Flicking between apps across the interface is seamless with no lag time whatsoever.
And, if you already own a BlackBerry smartphone, the ability to tether the devices over Bluetooth is incredibly handy for business applications.
Plus, a big drawcard for those tired of Apple’s limitations, the PlayBook is Flash-enabled, so browsing the web is as it would be on a desktop computer.
Where it falls short
While it is an impressive piece of technology, the PlayBook doesn’t deliver in several key ways. First, while tethering between a BlackBerry smartphone and the Playbook unleashes many useful functions, this exclusivity between the smartphone and tablet is also limiting. While Apple has been known to favour its own products, here the pool of BlackBerry phone users and Playbook owners is much smaller, meaning the tethering benefits will only be accessible to a few.
Also, the tablet doesn’t have 3G connectivity. It can connect to Wi-Fi and can piggyback on a BlackBerry smartphone’s internet if tethered, but this can be limiting to the user on the go.
Apps are often the drawcard of mobile devices but in the case of RIM’s App World, the choice is slim, compared to, say, if you’ve trawled the aisles of Apple’s App Store – this is mainly because a lot of the apps available on other devices haven’t yet been coded as compatible with the QNX operating system. Once they have configured this, the PlayBook’s potential will definitely improve.
Finally, a qualm which may seem trivial but could cause hair-pulling annoyance down the line, is the clumsily positioned tiny and difficult-to-press power button – on the ridge at the top of the device, almost in the centre. To wake up or lock your device, you’ll need to locate it by sight (as it is imbedded and imperceptible by touch) and then press… hard. This is one gripe of the otherwise flawless design, which means it stands out as even more of a disappointment.
The final verdict
This tablet isn’t about the bells and whistles. You won’t find yourself playing Angry Birds into the early morning hours, nor will you cradle it in bed watching a movie. It’s about productivity and functionality and for these, it ticks all boxes.
If you’re a 24-seven business kind of guy or gal looking to work smarter, not harder, meet your new business partner. If you’re an average consumer, look elsewhere.
In the case of BlackBerry’s PlayBook, it’s all business and no play.
Published on: Wednesday, September 14, 2011