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Review: BlackBerry PlayBook

Jul 6, 2011

BlackBerry PlayBook

A lot rides on the small shoulders of the PlayBook. From a company that has traditionally been the mainstay of enterprises worldwide, the PlayBook is a welcome change because it does both, work and play. Since it is a bit late to the tablet party, it made sense to divide the whole review into positives and negatives.

First, the positives. The size is very handy - if you use a larger tablet, you realise just how portable the 7-inch really is. The build quality, clean lines and matte anti-slip coating on the back inspire confidence.

The screen is pin-sharp with good colours and viewing angles. Thanks to a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels in a relatively small 7-inch display, the pixels are smaller and sharper.

BlackBerry PlayBook

The BlackBerry Tablet OS (by QNX Software) is beautiful, robust, intuitive and offers multitasking to the power of 'n'. We're talking multitasking like other tablets can only dream of. Swipe upwards from the touchsensitive bezel (irrespective of the orientation) and the current app will be minimized to a 'card' - allowing you to open another app. You can choose to keep all apps 'live' so that they are constantly updating, or just have them suspended (to preserve battery life). We simultaneously opened multiple browser windows, calculator, a high def video, a photo slideshow, heavy PDF file and a 3D game -but the PlayBook showed no signs of slowing down.

The battery life is good, and will last you about 6 hours of hard use. You get dual HD cameras and finally, native HDMI out is always welcome - with the supplied micro HDMI cable, you can mirror the display on a larger screen. And thanks to the multitasking features, the PlayBook can be outputting an HD video to a large screen, while you continue to browse the web or check mail on the device screen.

Now, the negatives. The overall quality is good, but the design of the PlayBook is bland. As a standalone tablet, the PlayBook will struggle, because it needs a BlackBerry handset in order to be 'complete'. Email, tasks, contacts/addresses and calendar will be synced with a handset via BlackBerry Bridge (within Bluetooth range only). Disconnect the Bridge, and all data on the PlayBook vanishes. And Bridge doesn't work with just any Blackberry handset, mind you - only with one of the newer ones that runs BB OS5 or later - the older devices that you see advertised for throwaway prices won't work. Standalone apps for these functions may be enabled with future software updates.

BlackBerry PlayBook

But here's the biggie - good or desirable apps are hard to come by. Comparisons to iOS and Android are inevitable, and they have far more apps that you would want. One way to get around this is to allow easy porting of Android tablet apps to the BlackBerry App World -something that RIM promises will come later this year. Without the apps that you want, the functionality is limited.

The starting price for the PlayBook is Rs 27990 (for 16GB). The 32GB and 64GB versions are priced at Rs 32990 and Rs 37990 respectively. Not bad prices, but with the current limitations that the PlayBook has, it's not low enough. Since the features are still playing catch-up, individual buyers might shy away from this one - to play ball with the big boys, RIM needs to take away the crutches they've given the PlayBook and give it a strong pair of legs.
BlackBerry PlayBook
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