I agree completely with the first half of the review. But unfortunately i have to disagree with the last sections. Its game catalogue has came on leaps and bounds and with many great app releases such as the Pacemaker app (which you really need to check out and review) and citrix receiver the app store is growing at a steady pace. Good review though
BlackBerry PlayBook review: Cheap at half the price?
It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride for us BlackBerry users of the past couple of years.
Where many of us were simply happy with a smartphone that worked and did the important things right, it was impossible not to be tempted by the forbidden fruit of games and silly apps as RIM attempted to spread its reach into the consumer space.
But with Apple being Apple and Google’s Android swallowing everything in its path, it took monumental failures from Nokia and Microsoft to stop the floundering BlackBerry bandwagon becoming a complete laughing stock.
With RIM in full retreat licking its wounds, making noises about protecting its position and moving back to its core strengths, it seems BlackBerry’s flirtations with the mainstream are over. But while the tide has gone out, some interesting things have been left washed up on the shores of the consumer experiment.
Probably the most noteworthy of these is the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet PC. A shining example of everything that was almost right about the big BlackBerry push, its release was a mess of contradictions and half realised dreams.
Take half a tablet…
At release, reviews were rightly critical. It felt like a beta release, with half the functionality up and running smoothly while the other half had been inexplicably dropped at the last minute. Security and document handling were as great as you’d expect from a RIM product. However, it wasn’t a 3G device and relied on Bluetooth for email, calendar and the rest. This only worked via BlackBerry’s own ‘bridging’ technology, which needed you to have a relatively recent BlackBerry handset to operate – so, no modern BlackBerry handset, no email.
In terms of fun, both the media player and cameras were a little better than you’d expect from a BlackBerry device, while the included games (Need For Speed Undercover and a new-fangled thing called ‘Tetris’) were sharp, smooth and promised that the ‘Play’ part of the tablet’s title may actually be fun. But a trip to BlackBerry App World soon left those dreams shattered – describing the selection as sparse would be generous.
In terms of tech spec, the PlayBook was competitive but unspectacular. The seven-inch screen was on the small side, but it was clear and bright; battery life was mid-range, as were storage capacity, processor speed and RAM. And the look was very BlackBerry: dull but clean and functional, chunky and heavy, but actually a great weight and size in the hand. With the half-finished software being such a downer, nothing in the spec sheet was going to save it.
Reviews ranged from awful to cautiously optimistic and it was no surprise to anyone when the BlackBerry PlayBook died on its backside – especially when you consider its initial price point of £400-600, which seemed a lot to pay for something that didn’t really do what it said on the tin.
A year on
While the sensible thing to do may have been to put a bullet in its head, for whatever reason RIM persisted with trying to make something of the BlackBerry PlayBook – and I for one am delighted they did. While it’s still not a complete success, I would say this tablet is more than worth its much reduced price tag of £170-250. So what’s changed?
Well, the price certainly helps. As someone with only a passing interest in the idea of a tablet PC as a format in itself, I needed a lower price point to be tempted in. Like many consumers, I see a tablet as nothing more than convenience – something that can sit on the sofa and boot up fast, to save putting the laptop on. Everyone has their price and for me, under £200 seemed fair for the usage it was going to get, if not for the tech packed inside (which is clearly worth more).
Also, with the release of the BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 a few months back, some of the initial blunders have been fixed. It now has a native email client, alongside a unified inbox, calendar etc - your contacts list incorporates everything from your friends' email address to Facebook and LinkedIn accounts too, which is wonderfully convenient.
As a BlackBerry user the bridging technology works an absolute treat, really making the PlayBook/smartphone synergy work to perfection. The PlayBook uses the phone’s 3G signal too, as long as it’s nearby, so getting online on the train etc is a breeze and solves all those small screen issues you have with a traditional Curve or Bold device.
On the downside, there’s still no place for BlackBerry Messenger, but personally this is a minor issue. More disappointing is the reversal of the decision to include the ability to use native Android apps on the device, but having heard the security scares involved it’s hardly surprising. As RIM tries to take back its control of the corporate handheld tech market, it would’ve been a mistake to let a bunch of unruly apps ruin its fantastic security reputation.
So what you’re left with is a sturdy seven-inch tablet with great hardware, reasonable web browser and media functionality, plus great email and office applications – for less than £200. I’d go as far as saying that at this price point, the PlayBook is a must-have for any BlackBerry smartphone owner considering a tablet – as long as it’s not games you’re after.
With BlackBerry’s future looking anything but safe, the one sure thing is that there won’t be a rush of fantastic new games and apps hitting the platform. But as an extension of your trusty smartphone (which, let’s face it, is crap for games anyway), the BlackBerry PlayBook is a cheap and more than worthy companion.
Good and honest review! Thanks for sharing! I don't have a tablet myself but if I buy one it will probably be a Playbook. I am just not convinced by the usefulness of having a tablet when I already have a laptop...
I bought a playbook this week as an ereader for my digital comics. At $150 used (near new condition) it is an absurdly good deal. The playbook is a perfect device for a few core functions like browsing online and video.
When it comes to app selection I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry at how awful the selection is. The number of worthwhile apps counts in the dozens and that's being generous. Even Android and WP7 had better apps in their infancy than Playbook has even today.
I am typing on my PB with official keyboard and I have had the device for about a year now. I have been using the PB far much more than the laptop once I have understood the distinction between tablet and laptop. PB (or any other tablets) are designed to consume information with basic edit capability. The upcoming Win8 running on a hybrid device will be an interesting one because (as I understand) it will attempt to merge the best of both world.
Have both iPad3 and blackberry play book. For video browsing and web surfing it beats the iPad. The screen is brighter and with greater contrast, while the stereo audio reproduction trumps apples lower volume mono speaker.
I also prefer the more compact size of the play book for travel.
Er, Android apps do still run on the PB, but need to be in .bar format first. I sideload most of mine using the conversions downloaded from goodereader.com.
Rim produces far superior products than Apple.
I bought my PB about 3 months ago now and think it's fantastic! Reasons for getting the PlayBook? Price, having a BlackBerry business phone, quality, portable size - its great for travel, and not wanting to lock myself into the expensive Apple experience. I spent some time comparing the iPad, Samsung devices and the PB. For a third of the price of the iPad you can't go wrong. The PB has a great screen, powerful OS and as I've said, it's the perfect size. The iPad is too big for travel. Especially when carrying a laptop also. And I'm not into playing games!