Sunday, October 2, 2011

BlackBerry Playbook Review. Finally a Realistic Price!

BlackBerry PlayBook
With most 10" tablets hovering around the $500 price point it never made sense to me why the major vendors thought they could ask the same for their 7" tablets.  HTC's 7" Flyer is $499. (edit: Oct 1st BestBuy lowered the price of the HTC Flyer to $299).  RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook was $499 until a few days ago when they dropped the price to $299.  The PlayBook finally offers a compelling set of specs and an innovative OS/UI at what is now a reasonable price.
Headphone Jack, Volume and Play, and Power.  Rear Camera on Back.
 - Dimensions: 7.6" x 5.1" x .4" thick. Weighs 0.9 lbs/425g.
 - Cameras: 3mp front.  5mp rear.
 - Touch-Sensitive bezel.
 - Bluetooth DUN, HID, SPP.  A Bluetooth mouse worked, but I failed with Bluetooth keyboards.
 - WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
 - Front-facing Stereo Speakers
 - Two Microphones. Voice Notes sound excellent.
 - Notification LED
 - External Volume rocker
 - External Play/Pause button.
 - Headphone jack.
 - Mini HDMI port.  Full mirroring of the UI on your HDTV.
 - Micro USB port.
Bottom Edge: microHDMI, microUSB, and Dock Port. 
With more features than the upcoming Kindle Fire, the $299 price may be right on track to help RIM sell a few million more of these.  They'll still need more apps in their apps store. Adding the ability to run Android apps will be a step in the right direction even if there are limits on what apps will run.  Updating the Playbook with Email, Contacts, and Calendar app will also go a long way to bring this tablet into the mainstream.

The Playbook is well built and comfortable to hold. It doesn't feel flimsy or squeaky, and the matte-finish rear is both fingerprint-shy and non-slippery.   Tapping on the back only finds a small hollow right in the middle where the logo is, with the rest of the area sounding solid.  I greatly appreciate the play/pause button between the volume + and - buttons on the top edge. The front facing speakers are loud and efficient. The included soft slip-on cover was a nice touch too.

Cons:  No dedicated email app.  No dedicated contacts app. Limited app store compared to Android. The power button is also hard to press when you want to turn the Playbook ON.  Very slow to boot up from the OFF state.
Music App
Media:  Codec support is decent.   AVI, WMV, and MP4 videos play just fine with the stock Video app.  An MKV sample I had would not play.   MP3s, WMAs (+ WMA lossless), AAC and M4A audio files would play.  FLAC files wouldn't.  The Music app allows sorting by Songs, Artists, Albums, and Genres. You can shuffle or play sequentially though a list. There is an on-screen volume slider, progress bar, and full play controls within the app. You also have a dynamic Search function. No Bookmark or Playlist options I could find though.  The video app takes advantage of the Touchscreen capabilities and lets you stretch your video with two-fingers to enlarge or shrink them, as well as pan around the moving video as if it was just a photo. No bookmarking in the video app either, and it won't remember where you left off when you return to a video either.
Video Scene
UI:  I'll give RIM some credit here.  The Playbook's User Interface is original, practical, easy to understand, and fascinating to use.  Far more clever than any iOS or Android device has implemented to date.  I have to believe it was only the high price and missing apps that kept the Playbook from catching on faster.  The price has been corrected now.  Hopefully an Apps update will show up soon.

Summary:  This is a very capable tablet. The $299 price is fair for what you get and what it can do.  Screen reaction is fluid. Media playback is beautiful though not fully-featured. The OS is refreshing compared to Android and iOS, but the missing email app and android app support is a wound that needs repair before I'll recommend this to anyone. Are you listening, RIM?    I'm parking mine until that update shows up. The HTC Flyer is also $299 now, and it's an Android 7" tablet with some useful enhancements.


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  1. Just purchased the Playbook. What is the reason many apps are not available for the device? For instance, it says the TSN app is available, but when go to download, it says not available. Finally, will BB ever have Skype???

  2. Naya: I don't work for RIM/BlackBerry. I'm assuming that since they had the price too high when released, and the tablet didn't sell well, that developers haven't been interested in making apps for it.

    I have no way to know if there will ever be a Skype app for it.


  3. Well I bought one today for £169 (UK)

    It's a lovely tablet - I particularly appreciate the ability to create and edit Docs.

  4. Are you still going to make updates I haven't seen any new products on here yet just wanted to know?

  5. Sorry, but this recession has a firm grip on my wallet. No new reviews unless manufacturers send me something. Not likely to happen.

    Thanks for visiting though!