BlackBerry PlayBook reviewed
Cape Town - The genius of the BlackBerry PlayBook is that it links with the BlackBerry smartphone to connect to the web at no extra cost to the user.
After living with the tablet from Research In Motion (RIM) for a month, the ease of using the tablet is apparent and, while there are shortcomings, the device represents a fascinating proposition, especially if you already have a BlackBerry smartphone.
The PlayBook links to the phone via Bluetooth with the BlackBerry Bridge app and piggybacks on the phone as a modem to connect to the internet.
However, given that most users acquire BlackBerrys with unlimited data package, browsing the web with the PlayBook doesn't cost anything extra.
The device supports an array of multi-touch features, including "up-swipes" to minimise a running app and side swipes to switch between running tasks.
Multi-tasking is made possible by the QNX operating software which RIM bought to implement on next-generation smartphones.
The tablet's screen, at 18cm, is smaller than the industry-leading Apple iPad, but doesn't ever feel uncomfortable. Even though subjective, the device has a feeling of quality.
Weighing in at 425g, the device supports a wide range of video formats, similar to devices supported by Google's Android operating system.
Sound from the stereo speakers is acceptable for music and movies, though plugging in an external speaker set adds more depth to the experience of movies and games.
Loading apps from App World is a simple download, but one has to install BlackBerry Device Manager to download software to a computer and transfer it to the device.
One plus on the PlayBook device is the inclusion of a document reader for Microsoft Office files. These readers are available on Android devices, but are not free.
The reader allows viewing and basic editing of Microsoft Word, Excel and Power point files. A basic text editor is also included on the device.
The two cameras are of decent quality, and is becoming standard in the industry, the main camera (5 megapixel) is significantly better than the secondary camera (3MP), but it is difficult to see how the PlayBook will be used to take pictures because of its size.
The PlayBook does not have an external memory card slot, and the basic model has 16GB of memory, much the same as the iPad, but larger capacity than some Android-powered tablets available in SA.
One functionality that is a bit frustrating is that the PlayBook’s connection to a smartphone appears to work in one dimension: If the device is tethered for internet surfing, the Bridge application is unavailable and image files on the smartphone don't automatically open on the tablet.
Still, BlackBerry phones dominate the market in SA, and it may be a fortunate fit for those who have the smartphone to acquire the tablet for mobile computing.
This version of the PlayBook connects to the web via WiFi or through a smartphone, but there are rumours that the next version will also use 3G networks. However, RIM has not revealed a date for the second generation.
The device is priced at under R5 000 on local websites, which puts it in the iPad bracket and it remains to be seen whether it's good enough to convince the millions of BlackBerry owners of its value.
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