I’ve now been using the BlackBerry PlayBook for over two weeks now and to be quite honest its a terrible device but it has yet to win me over. I’m still not too sure if it’s all of the previous years of being a BlackBerry handheld user or the short time I have been using an iPad that have tainted my judgement against the PlayBook but I just can’t see this thing as anything else then an expensive web browsing toy that is still in Beta.
First let’s look at the hardware, a 7 inch tablet that weighs about a pound (0.9) compared the to the 10 inch iPad that only weighs a 1.4lbs. It’s a pretty solid device with a rubberized back for an easy gripping that does tend to run quite hot while playing videos and games. The screen is actual glass compared to the plastic feel of the Galaxy Tab but quite as responsive as the iPad. Both front and rear facing cameras are fantastic and shooting HD video is rather impressive as can be seen by this mock video that Steve and I shot this weekend.
The battery doesn’t seem to last very long either, but this could simply be due to the fact that the device has to be “Bridged” in order to get email so you tend to have both Bluetooth and WiFi radios on all the time in order to maintain your workflow and productivity. Not only is the battery life not as good as the iPad, but the device can only really be charged using its special 7.4amp microUSB wall charger. Trying to juice the device up using the PC USB is a real joke and it won’t even initiate a charge if the device’s battery in completely depleted. Getting back the WiFi radio, it doesn’t appear to be very powerful not always picking up the same networks that an iPhone or an Android phone does. Not to mention that the PlayBook also appears to roam for new and better signal networks quite aggressively.
The only buttons on the device on the top of the device and in the middle of the screen making it rather awkward to actually hit the power button in pinch. The other buttons
Yet with all it’s little design quirks, the device is rather well put together and on parr with the build quality BlackBerry users have been accustomed to with the higher end handheld devices. For this I really must commend RIM, they have always known how to build quality products even though they have been known to make mistakes from time to time.
Unfortunately the biggest flaw with the PlayBook is still the OS and the UI. As nice and fast as QNiX is, RIM has simply done a terrible job trying to get QNiX ready for this launch and have not been able to pull it off. For a company that has built its entire business on supplying rock solid secure device for Enterprise and Governmental customers, taking the beta route on the launch of their most anticipated product since the first non side wheel scrolling device was a really bad move. No matter how many updates they release at regular intervals they just can’t seem to get one out that is stable enough to sign off on for corporate users.
For example, at first you couldn’t even open BlackBerry attachments on the PlayBook, then they allowed opening of some devices as long you had a media card in the BlackBerry itself and had previously saved the attachment to that card. Then finally they sorted out the attachment viewing but made it impossible to save the document back to the device even they allow you to make edits to it. This is just one example of the many other cluster fr@cks that have surrounded this update.
Some colleagues of mine were at the BlackBerry World convention with their recently updated PlayBooks but could not take advantage of the newly released video chat feature do to a firewall issue with the RIM provided WiFi while some other convention goers were walking about easily conducting FaceTime chats interviews via iPads on the very same network.
And that is the perfect example of what is happening here: while RIM is arrogantly trying far too hard to get it right, the Apple products that have been setting the new gold standard in the smart phone and tablet world JUST WORK… And usually from the day they are launched.