BlackBerry PlayBook First Thoughts

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BlackBerry PlayBook First Thoughts

In my review of the BlackBerry PlayBook I must say I am impressed with the device - it is small - not too heavy, feels good in your hands and runs Flash like a champ. The back of the device is rubberized which holds the promise of increased durability and a large degree of scratch-resistance. TMCnet's Stefanie Mosca has more thoughts on the device and as a BlackBerry user it was certainly more functional for her. She also thinks it is an ideal device for traveling which is tough to disagree with - it likely even fits in most purses. But if you don't have a BlackBerry smartphone you may be disappointed as the PlayBook doesn't have native Microsoft Outlook connectivity yet. A BlackBerry smartphone lets you not only tether it to this tablet to gain access to your contacts and email but you can utilize the 3G connection as well. This is important as the PlayBook currently lacks connectivity to cellular carriers.

During my testing I think the nearby iPhone and iPad actually got jealous as I went through a number of TMC videos on the screen and enjoyed them in native Flash format. Until HTML5 becomes common on websites, I find the support of this format to be crucial for all computing devices.

The tablet is similar to an iPad in many ways such as allowing you to pinch and zoom with two fingers. Due to its smaller size, typing is quite comfortable in landscape mode while a larger tablet requires single finger typing - unless you rest the device on your lap or a table.

The sound the PlayBook makes when typing is satisfying and minimal haptic feedback makes the onscreen keyboard feel real. And it actually has a Web browser which works very well - especially when you consider how poorly many other BlackBerry devices render Web pages. It may be a tad slower at rendering pages than an iPad 2 but it certainly isn't a terrible delay.

Multitasking doesn't trip it up either - you can be listening to Slacker Radio while viewing Flash videos and both music sources can be heard simultaneously. You can also upgrade the OS via WiFi which is a breakthrough compared to having to connect to a PC and the process took me about 15 minutes to complete.

The swiping gestures allow you access to everything the PlayBook has to offer. Just swipe from the very bottom and very top to access virtually everything you need such as settings and options. In fact the swipe replaces the home button which doesn't exist.

So is it as good as an iPad? In some ways yes as it is more portable and allows you to actually see all websites - not just ones without Flash. I also found it to be a great size for viewing video. Where if falls down is in polish - the software while awesome is not quite as refined in terms of usability as an iPad or iPod. Moreover, there are far fewer apps available for this device.

This gets us to the controversial question of device size - in my opinion the PlayBook is small enough to carry very comfortably and still it is large enough to read web pages and books all day long. It does generate a fair bit of heat - more than either iPad 1 or 2 but nothing like a laptop. In terms of screen real estate you're talking about 2.5-3 smartphones in total.

Obviously being able to view all websites makes the PlayBook a far better purchase decision than an iPad or iPod but the flipside to this benefit is the massive number of apps in the Apple App Store vs. the BlackBerry App World. Moreover, in the case of the iPad the larger screen will likely be seen as better by most users.  If you don't have a BlackBerry smartphone on and near you, Outlook email access is not currently possible - except via OWA and perhaps third-party apps.

If you are BlackBerry smartphone user and the limitations above don't put you off - definitely consider this tablet. For non-BlackBerry users - a software update with Outlook compatibility will make this device a solid choice - but you may want to hold off till then.


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