The BlackBerry PlayBook a Dual Core, QNX rocking, 7″ Tablet
We’ve all been waiting for this day since RIM announced the BlackBerry PlayBook at the Blackberry Developer conference and now you’ll all be able to BBM and email from your BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. I was able to get a preview unit and have written what I feel to be the ULTIMATE BlackBerry PlayBook review, so read on after the break.
The PlayBook is RIM’s first move away from carrier retail channels and into their own distribution and that’s shown in the PlayBook packaging, as you can see there are no carrier logos so RIM was able to design the package that shows off the product and not slap it with unneeded content providing a clean look which extends to the PlayBook tablet.
BlackBerry PlayBook Specs
Full Tablet Specs Include:
- 7″ LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
- BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
- 1 GHz dual-core processor
- 1 GB RAM
- Dual HD cameras (3 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing), supports 1080p HD video recording
- Video playback: 1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV
- Audio playback: MP3, AAC, WMA
- HDMI video output
- Wi-Fi – 802.11 a/b/g/n
- Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- Connectors: microHDMI, microUSB, charging contacts
- Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.2 Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL, Java
- Ultra thin and portable:
Measures 5.1″x7.6″x0.4″ (130mm x 193mm x 10mm)
Weighs less than a pound (approximately 0.9 lb or 400g)
- BlackBerry PlayBook Table
- Micro USB cable
- Micro USB folding blade charger
- neoprene carrying case
- screen cleaner
BlackBerry PlayBook Hardware
With RIM’s first stab into the tablet market they’ve sure chosen to do it with the attitude of go big or go home. The PlayBook features a full HD 7″ touch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600 and a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is the same ratio you’ll find on your home HD TV’s.
The PlayBook is sporting a 7″ LCD display, 1024 x 600 screen resolution
Multi-touch capacitive screen and I have to say its pretty awesome watching inception on this screen. The screen also supports four finger multi-touch providing you with the control to manipulate photos and fly through RIM’s new tablet OS.
The PlayBook is outfitted with two HD cameras one 3mp on the front and then a 5 mp full 1080p on the rear. Using the application is as easy as one would think, everything is laid out in a thoughtful way and all the options are accessible with your thumbs, which will help you capture some awesome photos or video.
PlayBook Still Camera Test
PlayBook 1080p HD Video Test
PlayBook Camera Layout
RIM has done a great job with the QNX PlayBook OS making sure that all the settings are there for you and easy to get at, just a thumb tap away. Here we have the layout for the PlayBook’s still camera application as you can see there are a few options available to help your get the perfect shot. I’ve used the PlayBook and its camera for just about a week now and I gotta say that the quality it produces is truly best in class.
Research In Motion is no stranger to the level of hardware quality seen on the PlayBook, they’ve carried that over from their handheld devices. The PlayBook has a soft touch back where they have placed the camera and a chrome BlackBerry logo. When the device is flipped over you have the full 7″ screen, a front facing camera and a power LED, the front also sports a chrome BlackBerry logo. The whole device has a gun metal trim around it giving it a slight design accent.
On the top of the PlayBook you will find the volume up, volume down, play/pause and a very…very small power button which is a little bit of a pain to use but there are some hidden features in the PlayBook that will eliminate the use of this button. On the top left of the PlayBook you will find a standard 3.5mm headphone jack to output to your home stereo of a pair of headphones.
Looking at the bottom of the PlayBook you have from left to right a Micro HDMI, Micro USB and a rapid charge port. Also on the bottom left of the PlayBook RIM has placed a little bit of texted indicating what capacity the device is.
Early 2010 RIM bought a software company out of Ottawa Ontario known as QNX. QNX is far from a new software firm, they’ve been powering some of the biggest electronics in some of the most demanding environments like a nuclear power plant or a fighter jet. So you know the PlayBook OS can keep up with your everyday use, and some more.
The PlayBook home screen is quite simple with your application categories, clock, wifi, bluetooth, orientation lock, battery and settings toggle and to access any part of the tablet OS you’ll need to use the PlayBooks gestures. At first I found it cumbersome using the gestures and was wishing RIM has put a home button on this tablet, but after a few days I found my self being quite productive and flying through the OS with ease.
As you can see the PlayBooks touch screen actually extends past the LCD and onto the frame giving you quick access many parts of the OS with very little effort.
PlayBook orientation lock
Continuing on with the PlayBook’s tablet OS we’re going to take a look at how to lock your PlayBook in your desired orientation. Locking the orientation couldn’t be easier, where some software developers decide to hide this function within a maze of menus RIM has placed it right on the home screen giving you access to in no matter where you are in the OS. To lock your PlayBooks orientation just tap the orientation icon and select “ON” and your PlayBook is now locked in the orientation you are currently holding it in.
BlackBerry App World on the PlayBook
RIM has fully revamped App World to take use of the newly acquired screen real-estate and while the overall functionality is there, there is also a lot missing. App World on the PlayBook often feels a little sluggish while scrolling through apps and doesn’t have the same fluid feeling that the QNX OS has. Downloading and buying an application is as easy as can be but there is a downside, once you’ve downloaded an app you are not given an option to go back to the category you where last browsing, you’ll need to start back from square one.
Connecting to WiFi on the PlayBook
The PlayBook is equipped with a wifi networking radio capable of connecting to wireless N networks. Connecting to WiFi on the PlayBook has been one of the easiest I’ve experienced on a mobile device, picking up even the faintest wireless networks to keep me connected. One thing you’ll want to remember is that like all wireless connections WiFi will suck the power from your tablet, so turning it off while not connected is a good idea.
Activating wifi from the home screen
Connecting to a WiFi network is just as easy from the home screen as it is from the settings menus. Just tap the signal icon and select on, once your in a area you have connected to before your PlayBook will sign you onto that network.
Connecting to Bluetooth on the PlayBook
RIM made connecting to a Bluetooth device just as easy as connecting to a WiFi network was. One thing I did notice when connecting to my BlackBerry Bold 9780 was it liked to disconnect and a few times I had to remove the profile from the PlayBook and re-connect them, and after that I had a nice steady connection.
While the music player is a huge leap ahead of that on current BlackBerry handhelds or Android devices I still feel the UI needs a little bit of TAT influence. While at the time of writing this review RIM had yet to offer a media sync tool, I was able to buy music from the store that is on the PlayBook and the audio coming out of the stereo speakers are the best I have heard on ANY tablet to date.
BlackBerry PlayBook Music Store Powered by 7Digital
BlackBerry PlayBook Music Store Powered by 7Digital
BlackBerry PlayBook Calculator
BlackBerry PlayBook Maps
BlackBerry PlayBook Weather
RIM has done a fantastic job providing a lot of the core applications right out of the box. Most of the application are quite easy to use and work flawlessly, all except the BING maps. On the unit I received GPS had yet to be enabled to the mapping application couldn’t find my location, so I tried to give it some information to provide directions to a location and found the app slow and sometimes unresponsive and I’m sure it’ll be fixed in an OS update. Honestly I wish RIM used google mapping services for their native map application.
Probably one of the coolest features of the PlayBook (beside it working with my BlackBerry) is the power that RIM has put into the device. RIM crammed a crazy fast dual core CPU and 1gig of ram making the PlayBook a mecca for high-end gaming. RIM worked closely with Electronic Arts to provide Need for Speed for free on the PlayBook and I can’t stop playing it, even while writing this review I’ve taken breaks to play some Need for Speed. With the power and development tools available I’m quite confident that this isn’t the last of the high-end 3D gaming that we’ll see on the PlayBook.
BlackBerry bridge is a service that will connect your BlackBerrys native PIM applications like contacts, email and calendar onto your PlayBook, giving you a big screen window into your BlakBerry. At the time of writing this review BlackBerry bridge was not available for download.
RIM promised us a full web browser on the PlayBook and oh did they deliver. The PlayBook supports full hardware accelerated flash 10.2, which means no stuttering video and smooth flash animations. The down side to having flash support is that you really start to see how flash slows down your browsing experience causing pages to load a few seconds slower as the browser brings up those flash animated advertisements. In the browser RIM has given you the option to enable the flash support by swiping down to bring up the menu, selecting the gear icon, then go to content and toggle the flash support, doing so will increase browser load time.
So, its time for those great final thoughts on the PlayBook…RIM’s first product in the tablet market, did it win over me? Does it need more work? Well, the answer is yes and yes. The BlackBerry PlayBook is awesome, and I’m not just saying that because it was made by RIM, I’m saying it because you can’t argue with what’s right in your face. The PlayBook features a Texas instruments 1ghz dual core CPU, a 5 mp camera capable of taking full 1080p videos and a vivid 1024×600 high resolution 7″ touch screen.
The hardware on the PlayBook is quite a match for the QNX operating system bringing the best of performance and style, something that RIM has lacked in the past few years and I really think that this is just a small peak at what RIM was in-store for their BlackBerry smartphone line up in the next few years.
So what needs work? Well, I really feel that the missing PIM (personal information) applications like calendar, contacts and email will in the end hurt RIM within the consumer market since the competition has these features from day one. Yes, connecting your BlackBerry smartphone will give your access to these applications but RIM needs to cater to non-BlackBerry users also if they are going to success in this newly created market. While writing this review I had received about three software updates making it a little hard to write the review, as things that where broken got fixed and things that where fixed broke. It’s sad to put things this way but for RIM to succeed in the tablet space they need the developers to build awesome games and applications for the PlayBook, and starting off with 3,000 apps at launch isn’t bad but they need the big guns like EA and Popcap Games to continue developing games on the PlayBook.
So where did RIM win? RIM defiantly won in the operating system front. Even though there are a few bugs in the OS and my PlayBook froze once or twice (while on pre release software), I truly think RIM has a winner with QNX and the tablet OS. Coming in at 7″ some may feel that the PlayBook is a little small but it’s actually the perfect size, letting you bring it around with you and not worrying about where you’ll store it, often an issue with larger 9″+ tablets.
The final verdict is that RIM created a tablet that will appeal to the business and consumers alike. The QNX OS is zippy without pausing to think about what task it needs perform. The Screen used is beautiful providing clean crisp images and amazing HD video. I’m definitely glad and proud to won the BlackBerry PlayBook and excited to see where RIM takes this form factor and operating system in the future.