Earlier today we get to play with some BlackBerry PlayBooks before it arrives here. It was an awesome experience to get a brief hands on time with this new tablet from Research In Motion (RIM).
The BlackBerry PlayBook is a 7-inch tablet that runs on a dual-core 1 GHz processor (they’re mum on what specific processor or brand they used here) and the BlackBerry Tablet OS powered by QNX technology.
Its design is pretty sleek and looks really professional. There are no physical buttons or touch panels at the front but instead controls are made by swipe gestures coming from its frame. Swipe from the top will bring the app menu, swipe from the bottom will show additional apps, and so on. It can be daunting to use at first but once you get the hang of it, you will love its simplicity.
On the top edge you can see the volume or camera zoom control buttons as well as pause play for your media. Beside it is the power/sleep button. On the far right (not see in photo) is the 3.5mm jack for your headset. At the bottom edge is a port for a docking station (sold separately), micro USB and a micro HDMI port to connect it to a bigger screen.
The back features a non-slip surface and the 5 megapixel camera lens. There’s also a 3 megapixel front-facing camera by the way for high-def video conferencing. Yes 3 MP front camera.
I love the PlayBook’s simplistic and well-made design but I love its performance even more. The dual-core processor along with its polished OS gives you a really, really good tablet experience. I’m being bold here but the performance is better than that of the iPad or the Galaxy Tab. It’s really that impressive! The closest thing right now to the user experience would probably be the Honeycomb Android OS but that has a lot of bugs still.
Anyway, the PlayBook features a phenomenal multitasking experience. Launching and switching between apps is exceptionally fast and smooth. You can even continue playing your game or watching your video at the same time without noticing any slowness when you bring its multitask page up. What we have is a YouTube video playing, Need For Speed running, an HD video and some music playing all at the same time and the PlayBook won’t even hiccup. RIM told us that the PlayBook would last about 8-hours on a single charge.
You got to love the HD playback capability on this one. Nothing special with the screen but colors looked really vibrant and the sound coming from this tablet was rich. You can connect it to your sound system setup to enjoy 5.1-channel surround sound.
The web browser renders web sites really well that its like you’re viewing it from your laptop. Flash was not a problem. We tried it on YouTube and it displayed the site as it is. Not a mobile version, nor a device-specific app. It was the real deal with the support for Adobe Flash 10, Adobe Mobile AIR and HTML 5.
It doesn’t have 3G but personally, WiFi is fine with me. It can tether with your smartphone, even non-BlackBerry anyway to get internet access which is totally what other people would want instead of getting a separate SIM just for the PlayBook. This would also make the PlayBook non-carrier specific so a big plus to consumers.
With this promising device, it would be easy for developers to create apps and games for the PlayBook. Right now there are only a limited apps made specifically for this tablet. RIM created a sandbox app that would allow you to install and launch BlackBerry Java and Android apps while waiting for more apps for the PlayBook.
The BlackBerry PlayBook has the BlackBerry Bridge which allows it to pair with your BlackBerry smartphone via Bluetooth so you can have real-time access to your e-mail, calendar, contacts and even BBM. Yep, keep your phone tucked in your bag and use the PlayBook for BBM.
This device looks really good from a consumer standpoint. But what about for the enterprise? The PlayBook is compatible (out-of-the-box) with BlackBerry Enterprise Sever via the aforementioned Bridge. With IT policy settings, you can choose to leave contents, messages, revisions on your phone. It will just keep a cached copy in the PlayBook that will automatically gets wiped once the Bridge connection is terminated.
Pricing and availability
So when will this arrive here and at what cost? RIM can’t say unfortunately. But it’s already available for pre-order in North America with the actual availability going to be on April 19. So if you have relatives there and you want one, it’s $499.99 for the 16GB version, $599.99 for the 32GB and $699.99 for the 64GB.
If you own a BlackBerry and you’re looking for a tablet, the PlayBook could be a very good choice for you. I’m already considering selling my iPad 2 to get one of these even though I don’t have a BlackBerry Phone. Hehe.
|BlackBerry PlayBook Specs:|
|1 GHz dual-core processor using QNX Neutrino microkernel architecture|
|7″ LCD multi-touch capacitive display (1024 x 600)|
|16GB, 32GB or 64GB internal storage|
|Full Adobe Flash 10.1 enabled|
|Built-in support for HTML 5|
|WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n|
|Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR|
|BlackBerry Tablet OS|
|5 MP autofocus read camera, 3 MP high-def front camera|
|1080p HD video recording and playback (MPEG4, WMV, H.264, DivX/Xvid)|
|Micro USB and Micro HDMI ports|
|Pricing: $499.99 (16GB), $599.99 (32GB), $699.99 (64GB)|