November 24, 2011 by staff
Blackberry Tablet, Research in Motion’s BlackBerry PlayBook met with mixed reviews in April and it hasn’t made much of a dent in the tablet space, with only 700,000-odd units shipped worldwide by September.
But RIM will likely see a sales burst leading up to the holidays because of a $300 price slash, bringing the 16-gigabyte unit down to $199.99 from $499.99. That’s a serious discount.
As long as you’re aware of its shortcomings, you should consider picking one up for yourself or a loved one – unless, of course, you already have an iPad or Android device. And at last check, retailers and cell carriers still had inventory.
Here’s the good news about the product.
At just 5.1 x 7.6 x 0.4 inches, the 7-inch PlayBook is a more portable alternative than the iPad and most other tablets. You can slip it into a purse or suit pocket effortlessly, yet the high-definition screen looks great when flicking through movies, photos and websites (including those with Flash). The PlayBook also offers a speedy dual-core processor, dual HD cameras – one for snapping pics and shooting video and the other for video calling – and it comes bundled with a few games and apps, ranging from Tetris and Need For Speed Undercover to Word to Go and Bing Maps. You can also read Kobo ebooks, write in a document or stream music from TuneIn Radio.
The interface is also clean and intuitive; simply swipe left and right on the horizontal touchscreen to cycle through your apps – divided into All, Favorites, Media and Games. While one app is running, such as a web browser, you can swipe up from the bottom border to minimize the app, select another app, such as streaming radio, swipe up again to launch the camera, and so on. Multitasking is smooth and stable. In card view, tap the small “X” to close the minimized app (or swipe upwards) or tap to expand it.
So, why the lukewarm reviews?
My biggest issue is you can’t easily pick up your email on the PlayBook unless you have a nearby BlackBerry to secure a “BlackBerry Bridge” wireless connection (via Bluetooth). You can read your webmail — such as Gmail, Yahoo! or Windows Live (Hotmail) — but you can’t read your ISP or corporate mail without a nearby BlackBerry. The irony is BlackBerry was synonymous with push email, but this feature (and the ability to access your calendar and BBM messages) won’t be available until early 2012.
On a related note, there is no cellular access on the PlayBook, therefore you can’t surf the web or stream music without that nearby BlackBerry (like I can on my 3G-enabled iPad 2). Sure, it has Wi-Fi for when you’re in a wireless network, but there is no 3G/4G version of the PlayBook. The only other way to get online is if your smartphone supports a “personal hotspot” feature.
Another issue with the PlayBook is the lame App World store. Compared to Apple’s App Store and Android Market, there isn’t a heck of a lot to choose from here – and any apps you might’ve purchased on your BlackBerry smartphone won’t work on the PlayBook. By comparison, anything purchased on an iPhone or iPod touch will work on an iPad 2, no problem.
So, here’s the bottom line: If you’re looking for a fun but flawed tablet at an aggressive price, the $199.99 BlackBerry PlayBook is a great deal. It’s great for consuming media, surfing the web and reading ebooks – and blows away the similar-priced Kobo Vox and Amazon Fire from a hardware perspective.
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