1. brenin_llwyd's Avatar
    Review of Blackberry playbook.

    Having missed out on the HP Touchpad fire sales last year I made sure I picked up a Playbook following its reduction in the UK Christmas Sales (16GB model for £169.00). Here is my initial review after using the device for a couple of weeks.

    Hardware

    The Playbook hardware is of high quality. The non-slip back and metal construction looks like it will stand up to some abuse. The glass screen looks solid. The touchscreen is very responsive and any inputs are recognised accurately (surprisingly so for someone who normally does not get on with touchscreen devices). The QNX based OS is a breeze to use and easy to navigate around. HDMI output is also impressive and my tests with PowerPoint 2010 presentations worked well (I could use the Playbook with a HDMI projector perfectly well).

    The downside is the weight. When reading eBooks from the Kobo store after about 30 minutes I began to notice the weight of the device. However the playbook might actually last compared to some of the cheaper android tablets I have been looking at.
    Two niggles I have been experiencing. One the Playbook is a little slow in changing when moving from Landscape to portrait mode. Two there is no storage expansion which could be a problem further down the road.

    I have not been able to test battery life fully yet however it lasted a good 5 hours one afternoon with only 20-30% capacity used.

    Backup and Sync

    You have to use the Blackberry Desktop software for synchronisation and backup (which I have used with my Blackberry 9300 for the past year without issues). However there is no USB Flash drive sync unlike most other tablets/phones (update: found usb sync option today). That could cause a problem if you simply need to copy a few files off another PC without the software installed.

    Web Browsing

    The web browser renders web sites as well as my desktop Firefox installation. Full Flash support is also included and works well. The Wi-Fi connection is strong and there have been no drop outs. Facebook and Twitter have their associated apps as well and work well (the Facebook app has seen quite a few improvements with the 2.1 update).
    The device also supports connecting via 3G to a compatible Blackberry device (via Blackberry Bridge) and works ok with my Blackberry Curve 9300. There is also Bluetooth tethering for non-Blackberry devices.

    Messaging

    As Blackberry was the first pioneer in mobile messaging I would have thought there would be an email and IM client out of the box. This is only possible over Blackberry Bridge (which drags the messages and email from your Blackberry smartphone) and does work well. However I think itís a missed opportunity for Blackberry. This hopefully should be fixed in the upcoming software updates (although native BBM access will take a little longer).

    Multimedia Playback

    The playbooks handles high definition mp4 files from my collection without issues. The You tube app is good and MP3 album playback is also very good. No issues here. Standard 3.5in jack for headphones is also part of the hardware.

    Productivity Apps

    The Playbook includes a full version of Documents2Go which worked with all of the Office 2010 files I threw at it. Editing of Word and Excel files is surprisingly easy and typing on the onscreen keyboard is possible. However if writing a novel I would still go back to a full keyboard.

    EBook and PDF file functionality

    This was one of the main reasons for buying a tablet and my impressions are rather mixed. The built in Kobo reader is good with easy purchasing and access to eBooks. I downloaded several of the free titles from their library and could see myself using this as an eBook device.

    However there is currently no native kindle app although there are several cheap options in the Blackberry app store to get around this. The built in PDF reader (actually Adobe Reader) is incredibly basic with no bookmark or search functionality included. It also seems to slow down and be very unresponsive on certain PDF files, some do not work at all and come up as a set of blank pages. I play a lot of roleplaying games and the entire industry has pretty much decided that the future is on PDF distribution. This to me is a big showstopper and there are not alternatives available through the app world.

    App Store

    The Blackberry app store is a breeze to use. Search and browsing functionality is on par with the android market and installation of apps is quick and painless, top marks.
    However the making or break of the Playbook is in the range off apps that are available. I have found the range is not that great compared to IOS and Android. There is no RDP app, no kindle app and no alternatives to the Adobe Reader. Hopefully the upcoming Android player will make the range of apps better.

    Conclusion

    I think the Playbook is a great hardware platform and as a Web Browsing/Multimedia device itís great. However I feel this was a device rushed to market to get a share of the tablet market in the face of the iPad juggernaut. There are a few serious issues with the software that should have been fixed before itís released (no native messaging, and PDF reader). The update to fix several of the key issues will hopefully be with us in February. As an IT Engineer I am prepared to wait but I can see the average end user being disappointed with the Playbook as it stands. Particularly if you had actually paid the original £399.99 Blackberry were originally charging for the 16GB model.

    I have seen this with a lot of tablet devices. Although companies have been trying to get us to adopt tablet/touch devices for years it was Apple that hit the nail on the head with the iPad and I think this caught everybody else napping (and everybody else is playing catch-up). The Playbook and its QNX operating system is great platform but as Android and IOS have shown the real future is in the apps
    01-12-12 03:02 AM
  2. robtanz's Avatar
    Nice review but about 10 months late with this one. You should have waited another month or so.
    01-12-12 04:21 AM
  3. brenin_llwyd's Avatar
    Well hopefully the OS 2 update will make a lot of the problems go away. With activesync support this should connect to my work email as well.

    Heres looking forward to february.
    01-12-12 05:03 AM
  4. jamesbondOO7's Avatar
    Nice review. I have my PlayBook linked to the wifi network, both at home and at the office and I can move files around using windows explorer on the desktop, or Files & Folders on the PB.
    01-12-12 05:10 AM
  5. saescott's Avatar
    "...There is no RDP app..." - this is false.
    There is RDM+ as well as Splashtop (since yesterday).
    I have not tried the RDM+, but splashtop works amazingly.
    Also, logmein.com can be accessed via the PB browser, and it works very well.
    Steve
    01-12-12 07:59 AM
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