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A Hands-On Pre-Release Review of the BlackBerry PlayBook
I've FINALLY gone hands-on with the BlackBerry PlayBook and thus it's time for me to report back with my initial review and impressions of Research In Motion's first tablet device featuring the all-new QNX-based BlackBerry Tablet OS. The time I had to prep this post to go live for the embargo was tight and we'll have even more opportunities throughout CES to play with the PlayBook, so I'm going to keep this initial review as concise as possible and we'll likely add to it over the days ahead. Oh, and as for those questions of pricing and release date, those are still TBA, though RIM is still sticking to their Q1 release which means you'll be able to buy a PlayBook before the end of March.
This isn't just another new BlackBerry we're talking about here... the PlayBook is ALL new for RIM. Suffice to say, the way too long review will be coming once we log some real hours on it. But in the meantime, we still have a lot to say (hint: it's pretty awesome!!), so start reading!
BlackBerry PlayBook Technical Specifications and Features
If you're not familiar with what the BlackBerry PlayBook is packing for heat, here's the quick recap of its key features and specs:
7" LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, 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)
Additional features and specifications of the BlackBerry PlayBook will be shared on or before the date this product is launched in retail outlets.
RIM intends to also offer 3G and 4G models in the future.
Unlike BlackBerry Smartphones where RIM has typically been a bit behind the ball in terms of technical specs, with the BlackBerry PlayBook they're much more positioned on the leading edge of hardware. The dual-core processor makes for a SNAPPY user experience.
BlackBerry PlayBook First Impressions
Yes, it really is a BlackBerry!
My first impression of the BlackBerry PlayBook is that it does not feel like a BlackBerry. Don't get me wrong, it still has a BlackBerry look and familiarity about it, and the hardware has that quality BlackBerry feel, but the second I touched the screen with my index finger I could tell this was really a NEW BlackBerry. When I think back to all of the BlackBerry Smartphones I have owned since my first BlackBerry 7290 (old blue), every one of them has largely delivered the same experience. Within BlackBerry 6 was OS 5, and within 5 was 4.5 and within 4.5 was 4.2, etc. While the graphics got prettier, the camera megapixels went up and the experience got snappier (and on some devices slower), it was largely the same BlackBerry experience. The good things were always good about BlackBerry and the bad things were always bad about BlackBerry (random lag, not being able to install apps on flash memory, etc. etc.).
The PlayBook is different. There is no longer any BlackBerry baggage of the past. RIM got 10 years out of the old BlackBerry OS and they're setting up this QNX-based OS for the next ten years of BlackBerry. It's still in its infancy, and there are a lot of things in the works and still to come (we'll get into that below), but RIM's future is looking much brighter now in my opinion. To me there's no doubt that the QNX-based OS will make its way into BlackBerry phones. I hope RIM can make that happen on the next generation of phone hardware to hit the market, but I digress. We're talking PlayBook here!
BlackBerry PlayBook Hardware and Performance
Overall, after having used the BlackBerry PlayBook I'm wayyy more excited for it than I was prior. Though I detest the iPhone for use as my primary mobile device (I've tried it, I hate it... too inefficient for me for what I do with a phone when it's in my hand 90% of the time), I also own an Apple iPad which I really enjoy using (especially for killing time on flights). Steve Jobs' comments of 7" isn't big enough for a tablet had me worried that RIM went the wrong direction with the PlayBook and that they should have started out with a 10" model. I now think going 7" was a smart starting point for RIM though - the PlayBook is portable.
I'm starting to think 7" is a good thing
It fits in my coat pocket and is light enough that I'll actually carry it around with me on a daily basis. When I walk out of the house, I'll toss my Bold 9780 in my front pocket, and my PlayBook in my coat pocket. The iPad just sits around my home (where it doesn't get used that much as I have computers and laptops around) until I'm going somewhere like a trip where I then pack it into a backpack.
Concluding BlackBerry PlayBook Thoughts for Now
I like my iPad, but have a feeling I'm going to LOVE my PlayBook
My brain was in ga ga land while playing with the PlayBook for the first time. Now that I'm writing this intial review, a million more little questions are popping up that I want to address. We'll have more time to play with the PlayBook throughout the week, so you'll want to stay tuned for our follow-up posts. If you have questions, be sure to let us know in the comments.
RIM is really introducing two products with the PlayBook. A new operating system, and new hardware in a different sector. There's a lot of new-ness here. It definitely feels like they're doing the right things. The hardware has great specs and the operating system is fast and stable already which means it's only going to get better as it's refined and more and more features get added.
It's a new race for BlackBerry, and with the PlayBook they've come out of the starting gate sprinting.