I stopped by Best Buy earlier this week and picked up a 16GB BlackBerry PlayBook to review.
I’ve spent the past couple of days playing with it and thought I’d put together a video review and this first impressions post while everything is fresh in my brain. I’m not going to go into a lot of details about the specs because they are already listed over on the dedicated BlackBerry PlayBook review page.
I’ll start off by saying this is my first venture into BlackBerry territory. I’ve never used any of their phones before so this comes from the perspective of someone totally new to the platform. Plus that means I can’t test out the BlackBerry Bridge feature, which can be used to share information between BlackBerry smartphones and the PlayBook.
What jumps out first about the BlackBerry PlayBook is the design is simple but solid, with a soft matte coating on the sides and back to give it a pleasant feel. The second thing that jumps out is the screen. Colors are very vivid and detailed. In fact, it’s one of the best-looking tablet screens I’ve seen thus far. The touchscreen responsiveness is really good too, and supports different kinds of gestures.
Speaking of gestures, that’s one of the coolest things about the PlayBook. There aren’t any home, back, or menu buttons. All navigation is done by using gestures, swiping up from the bezel, down from the bezel, from the sides and from the corners.
Multitasking is another unique aspect of the PlayBook. The upper-half of the homescreen consists of small windows of each app currently open. This makes scrolling through them and jumping from one to the other fast. You can also slide to each open app without going to the homescreen from within each app by swiping left and right from the bezel.
The new QNX based platform is really smooth and a joy to use on the BlackBerry PlayBook, but I’m finding out that there aren’t very many apps available at the moment. Apparently it cannot run BlackBerry smartphone apps either. The platform is brand new so it’s going to take some time. On the bright side, there’s supposed to be an Android emulator app for the PlayBook that will let it run Android apps. It will be very interesting to see how that works.
My main concern with the BlackBerry PlayBook thus far is the price. For some crazy reason, RIM elected to price the PlayBook the same as the iPad 2, a very risky move. It makes even less sense when you consider the PlayBook has a much smaller screen and offers access to far fewer apps. Heck, the PlayBook doesn’t even have email, contacts, or calendar apps yet. Pretty important things for a tablet, especially one branded as a business tablet.
The PlayBook packs a lot under the hood and has a lot of potential, but those prices are likely to steer a lot of folks toward another brand, especially with $399 10″ Honeycomb tablets like the Asus Transformer hitting the market. Nevertheless, it’s good to see another alternative to Android and Apple, and the PlayBook definitely brings some new elements to the tablet niche.
Hands-on BlackBerry PlayBook Video Review
I apologize for the video quality. My camera has a really hard time focusing on the PlayBook’s screen at times. I’ll put together a couple of better videos featuring the PlayBook next week comparing it to other devices.