First announced in September, the BlackBerry PlayBook, Research in Motion’s (RIM) ambitious entrant into the tablet market, is now set to hit stores on April 19 at $499.

Sintaro News has been testing out the device over the past week and also talked to Mike Lazaridis, the founder and co-CEO of RIM, about PlayBook, what it means for his company, and the opportunity he sees in a space that’s getting more crowded by the day.

Read on for the pros, cons and our view as to whether or not PlayBook stands a chance against iPad and the slew of Android options already available.

Connectivity and Camera

The two cameras on the iPad 2 have been panned — and rightly so — for being decent-enough for video but not usable for still photos. With the PlayBook, RIM has delivered solid optics that for both the rear and front facing cameras. The PlayBook is still too large to act as a real optical device, however, it should work quite well in the field and for video chat (though at launch, there is no native video chat app for PlayBook).

As far as connectivity is concerned, the PlayBook has a mini-HDMI port that allows users to interact with content, games and video on a second screen. Lazaridis played this feature up in our meeting, saying that this makes the PlayBook valuable for both presentations and a social experience – for instance being able to connect your PlayBook to your TV to share music or movies.

“[We’re] enabling a use case that everyone has been wanting but no one has been able to fufill in a technology that is affordable and powerful,” he said. While we agree the user experience here is friendly, we think it’s still to-be-determined if this becomes a common use case for tablets, especially in the age of Internet connected TV.

A more impressive innovation that will have an immediate impact for PlayBook owners is its ability to sync wirelessly with your desktop or laptop computer. Once setup through BlackBerry Desktop Manager, there’s no need to connect your PlayBook to your computer – files automatically sync over WiFi.

Build, Form Factor and Screen

Out of the box, the PlayBook feels sturdy and compact despite weighing in at just 425 grams. The front of the device is glass and there are no buttons. The rear is a soft rubberized plastic that feels good in the hand. The sides have that same rubberized coating, which makes us feel more secure about potential drops — and that’s before adding any of the optional accessories.

Unlike the Xoom and the upcoming Acer Icnoia Tablet, the BlackBerry PlayBook breaks away from the 10-inch form factor popularized by the iPad, opting instead for a 7-inch device, making it much more akin to the original Samsung Galaxy Tab.

Last October, Steve Jobs famously called 7-inch tablets “tweeners,” stating that the devices are too large to be a smartphone and too small for a tablet. Generally speaking, we feel that 7-inch screens can still make for a great ereader (like the Kindle), but don’t quite make sense in a tablet.

The PlayBook is interesting, however, because even though it does have only a 7-inch screen, its resolution of 1024×600 makes it feel — at least in landscape mode — very similar to an iPad. Further, in landscape, the text is clear, graphics are bright and the keyboard feels good to the touch.

The problem, at least for us, was using the device in portrait mode. Reading text on most websites was almost impossible without significant zooming, and the keyboard was uncomfortable even in short periods of time. Unfortunately, using the device solely in landscape mode presents other challenges, like typing long emails or documents because the keyboard takes up a significant portion of the screen real estate. Switching to portrait mode allows more visible text, but that text is smaller and the keyboard is difficult for even small hands to navigate.

Beyond the size – which we ultimately do find to be less desirable than iPad and larger Android tablets — the screen on the device is WSVGA rather than IPS (as seen on the iPad). That said, colors still look good in portrait and landscape mode from a variety of different angles, and the touch screen itself is capacitive and very responsive. The accelerometer works in all directions and is fast.


It’s no mystery that one prominent reason BlackBerry has lost favor in recent years to both Apple and Google is because of its relative lack of apps (or more to the point, lack of quality apps).

With the PlayBook, RIM is taking an interesting — if risky — multi-faceted approach to platform development. In addition to being able to run apps built in Adobe Air, the PlayBook will support older BlackBerry OS apps and (though not at launch) Android 2.x apps via a virtual machine.

The PlayBook ships with a variety of pre-installed apps, including Docs to Go (an app for opening, creating and editing Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents), Need for Speed Undercover and Kobo Reader.

Need for Speed Undercover is a fantastic example of what type of games can be played on the PlayBook. The game is a dead-ringer for PS2/Xbox versions of the Need for Speed series and the accelerometer works great with the game.

Unfortunately, the web browser and some multimedia apps aside, that pretty much covers all of the truly native PlayBook apps. The apps in the App World are sparse and the rest of the applications on the home screen are really just web shortcuts. While Lazaridis pointed out in our interview that the 3,000+ apps at launch is the most ever for a tablet, that’s moot given how many apps now exist for PlayBook’s rivals.

Another downside to consider is that in order to access the BlackBerry mail client, BlackBerry Messenger and an address book, users need to connect their BlackBerry devices to the PlayBook through a Bridge mode that allows the PlayBook to access data without actually storing any data on the device itself. While great for security, it’s rather inconvenient.

Moreover, at this time, non-BlackBerry owners will need to use a web client for receiving and sending email. For a company like RIM that has made its mark by understanding messaging, not having a native messaging client available without bridging to another BlackBerry is a bitter pill to swallow.


Posting Komentar