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Blackberry Playbook review- a high quality 7 inch tablet that’s really close of being perfect

The Blackberry Playbook is a corporate oriented 7 inch tablet from Canadian manufacturer RIM, a company that previously released countless smart phones aimed also at professionals. The Playbook runs on the company’s proprietary OS, Blackberry OS, being an exciting alternative to all the Android and Windows tablets lurking around. Although advertised as a business tablet, the Playbooks is also an entertainment tablet and the demos we had until now revealed a slate able to deliver stunning HD video, as well as great gaming. It’s too good to be true or the Playbook is the revolutionary tablet we’ve been waiting for? Stick around and find out from our review.

The specs

Let’s take a quick look at the hardware and software the Blackberry Playbook has.

  • 7 inch, LCD, multi touch screen, WSVGA, with a 1024 x 600 resolution
  • 1 GHZ dual core processor
  • 1 GB of RAM
  • initial 16 GB of storage (maximum 64 GB)
  • WiFi, blue tooth 2.1 + EDR, 3G via tethering and 4G to come later on
  • microHDMI, microUSB
  • rear facing 5 MP camera, 3 MP front facing camera with 1080p recording support
  • Blackberry Tablet OS
  • weighs 400 grams
  • dimensions: 5.1″ x 7.6″ x 0.4″ inches

The specs are very good for a 7 inch tablet, especially the dual core processor, huge amount of available memory and HD cameras.

Design and construction

Considering it’s a business tablet and looks are important in the corporate world, the Playbook is surely a perfectly built tablet. The tablet has a soft rubbery finish all around, excepting for the metal bezel around the screen. The tablet felt very good in our hands, not being very heavy, as some rugged tablet, or too light, as one of those anonymous plastic tablet that are all over the place these days. Like all good things, it’s somewhere in between and is a joy to hold.

The 7 inch tablet weighs 425 grams, which is less than the iPad 2, but of course the tablet is smaller than Apple’s second entry. It’s a very portable device that doesn’t necessarily have too much bling attached to it, but it’s the crafted simplicity of this all black device that might appeal to a more taste driven audience.

A major design flaw is the fact that the power button is located on top of the tablet and it’s a little submerged in the chassis. It’s difficult to press and if you eventually can press it with a fingernail, it’s difficult to keep it pressed for enough time in order to go off. Around the power button there are volume controls and the play/pause button. On the bottom there are the microUSB, microHDMI ports and a dock connector and charger, able to power up the tablet three times faster than microUSB.

The tablet looks great, while keeping a minimalistic feel and functional design

The tablet looks great, while keeping a minimalistic feel and functional design

Display

The tablet has a 1024 x 600 display. It has a 4:3 aspect ratio, being comfy to use both in landscape and portrait mode. The viewing angles are good and the screen has bright and vivid colors, but you’ll have to look for them, as the initial UI and theme are kind of dark. What’s more interesting about the display it that the bezel is also part of the touch experience, not just the actual glass; you close apps by swiping on the bezel, which is cool and takes advantage of all the real estate around the screen. This way, it’s also easier to deal with apps, without constantly moving your finger over the screen, but just by touching the frame of the display.

Hardware and performance

The Blackberry Playbook is powered by a dual core, 1 GHZ OMAP processor, 1 GB of RAM and has a minimum storage capacity of 16 GB. There’s WiFi and blue tooth and support for flawless 1080p playback, both on the screen and on a bigger TV via the HDMI port. The tablet is fast and launches apps in no time and has one of the best multitasking abilities we’ve seen on a slate. You can run a game and a video at the same time and both will work just fine.

The graphics are handled by a Power VR design, which takes the pain of decoding HD video away from the processor and lets it deal with other apps while displaying video. Overall, the experience is very smooth and apps launch very fast. Everything works smoother than on the current version of Android 3.0 and memory management seems to be better than on different operating systems.

Software and applications

The Playbook runs on Blackberry OS, which is an enhanced version of QNX, a program that RIM bought a while back and developed into an original mobile operating system for tablets (and for smart phones soon enough). Browsing through pages and apps is made through a card like system, where you move the cards horizontally and chose an app to launch. You can then tap the application and that will launch it full screen. When you want to close an app, you can just swipe up on the top bezel or, more conventionally, tap the close button on the right of each windowed app.

When you swipe down from the top, you get a menu that lets you change system settings and you can see connectivity preferences. The on screen keyboard looks kind of standard, but gets the job done…in a very modest way. In comparison with other features of the tablet, the keyboard is a little clumsy, as special characters are not immediately available and you have to dig for them in sub menus.

HD video and gaming are not a problem on the Playbook

HD video and gaming are not a problem on the Playbook

The browser is top notch and displays pages very fast. The tablet comes with Flash 10.1 support, so videos will work great, even when they’re embedded. There’s also the Blackberry To Go Suite, which is clearly a productivity app. It has Word, Excel and Slideshow, so you’ll be able to view and edit your work documents while on the go. Blackberry Bridge lets you connect your tablet with your Blackberry smart phone and use apps like email, calendar, memo etc. Without a smart phone, you can’t use all that on the tablet, which is plain depressing. RIM says that an update will come in the following months, so until then you either have a Blackberry phone with you or no email and calendar for you on a business tablet. Fantastic.

Finally, games work well on the tablet thanks to the good screen, CPU and accelerometer and there are a couple games to choose from, including some EA titles and some other to download from Blackberry’s Market environment, that has about 3.000 titles (but which is not available yet).

Cameras

The Playbook has two cameras, a 3 MP in front and a 5 MP in the back. The tablet doesn’t have flash, so good light is needed to capture good pictures and clips in 1080p MPEG-4. If the conditions are right, you’ll get very good colors and brightness.

For now, you can choose between 3.000 titles available on the App Market

For now, you can choose between 3.000 titles available on the App Market

Battery

The battery of the Playbook is very good, being able to go on a single charge for 6-8 hours of normal use.

Conclusion

The Playbook is surely an exciting entry on the tablet market, coming with fresh and functional features, thanks to the innovative OS and good build. Still, there are some problems, mainly to do with the fact that RIM decided to release the tablet before all the features were completely optimized. There are still things to fix and features like email and calendar have to be brought on board. When those things will happen, we’ll have on our hands maybe the best 7 inch tablet to come our way since the slate frenzy began.




About the Author
Mark
Mark is an Editor here at TabletBite.com. Based in London where he studies Screenwriting and Production, he blogs about technology as a hobby. He's mainly in charge with news here on the site, but he doesn't mind publishing some guides, tests and editorials from time to time as well.


Last updated: May 9, 2011 | Published: April 23rd, 2011
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