Blackberry Playbook Review

Overview

The Blackberry Playbook is a multi-media tablet released mid 2011 by RIM, who are previously well known on the phone market, releasing a range of blackberries that have stormed the market and seriously rivalled Apple’s iPhone as both a business and pleasure phone.

blackberry playbook

Hardware and Features

The Blackberry Playbook features a completely touchscreen interface with a bright color display, the device easily handles the viewing of graphics due to the high resolution screen allowing the user to view vibrant color on the tablet. In terms of connectivity the Blackberry Playbook is equipped with both Bluetooth and also Wi-Fi, meaning that users can connect to the internet on the device and also transfer files and data between other Bluetooth enabled devices.

The Blackberry Playbook is an incredibly fast device featuring a 1GHz processor, allowing the Playbook to cope with all of the features included on the device, not only this but there is an impressive 1GB RAM, making the tablet functional and giving use without worry of the device crashing or freezing.

In terms of media features on the device the Playbook has dual cameras, meaning that the playbook can not only be used to take photos but also to record videos of oneself or even to allow video conferencing. There is also a microphone; dual speakers and a mini HDMI port so that the tablet can be connected to a TV, particularly useful for displaying photos or videos.

The touch screen interface on the Playbook is very advanced with their being very few buttons and all the control being through gestures made on the screen. Alongside the QNX operating system which is fairly unique, the Playbook works like a dream and is a real pleasure for users

Technical Specifications

Performance/Hardware: OMAP™ 4 Platform (OMAP 4430) ARM Cortex A9 processor 1GHz, dual core, symmetric multi – processing, process node 45nn – As can be seen from the technological hardware incorporated to the Playbook, the device is very well equipped to handle a variety of features running all at one time, this running alongside the Playbook being designed to multi-task eliminates the possibility of the device being liable to freeze or crash.

Operating System: Blackberry Tablet OS, Based on QNX – The operating system on the playbook has been specifically designed for the blackberry playbook and therefore works very well with the hardware, it is user friendly and easy to get the hang of, making the use of the playbook a pleasurable experience.

Display: 7” LCD Touch Screen, 1024 x 600 pixels, LED backlighting – The display on the Playbook is one of the best seen on any tablet within the market. The touch screen is very responsive and makes an effective interface for the user. The high resolution display means that any graphics or media on the device are well presented in vibrant colors meaning the Playbook can easily handle video playback, web pages and any other graphics the device may have to display.

Memory: 16GB or 32GB or 64GB – The Playbook is available in three different storage sizes, the more storage on the device the more expensive the Playbook will be, it is important to make the right decision when choosing the storage size as the device has no memory card capacity and therefore once the tablet is full there is no option to expand the memory.

Connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz), Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, Micro USB and Micro HDMI – The Playbook includes wireless connectivity meaning that the user can easily connect to the internet and browse the web or download files. RIM has also included Bluetooth connectivity which allows the user to connect the device to a computer or another device in order to transfer files. There is then a standard Micro USB connection to connect the device to a computer and an additional Micro HDMI allowing the Playbook to be connected to a computer.

Sound: Built in stereo speakers, 3.5mm headphone jack – Allowing the user to listen to music or videos privately or out loud.

Dimensions: 130 x 194 x 10mm (H x W x D), 425g – As can be seen from the dimensions of the device the Playbook is fairly small allowing its transport however the Playbook is fairly heavy, which may cause problems if the user is planning to carry the device with them on a day to day basis.

What's in the Box?

blackberry

The Blackberry Playbook comes packaged simply but effectively in a cardboard box which features an image of the device on the front. The box simply slides out of the outer sleeve and is a simple black box featuring the RIM logo, very similar to the boxes previously seen for the Blackberry phones. The Playbook is the first thing displayed when the box is opened and all of the accessories are then stored underneath the device, held in place by a blue plastic casing. The device is kept in a case which is one of the accessories that comes with the Playbook; it is a basic black casing however it will protect the screen of the tablet.

Immediately below the Playbook are some hints and tips included by RIM to help the user get up and running with the device straight away, when the blue casing is then removed there are two boxes, the one featuring the documentation for the device such as information manual s and warranty, there is also a screen cleaner in this box. The other box features all the cables allowing the blackberry playbook to be charged from the mains and also connected to a TV or computer.

Connectivity 

The Blackberry Playbook has official software that is used in conjunction with the device. On the whole the software is good however there are some bugs in it which can cause hardship when trying to use the software, it also requires a powerful computer to run the software successfully, without it the software can be very slow and also freeze a great deal so make sure your computer has the right specs when buying the device. The great thing about the software for the Playbook is that RIM are releasing regular updates on the software showing that it can only get better.

The Playbook also comes with connections such as the mini HDMI which means that the user can connect the Playbook to a TV which is great for displaying photographs and videos that are stored on the device on a larger screen. This is a great benefit and is a definite benefit for people who may not have a DVD player for instance as they can download content to the device and then display it on screen. The Playbook also has a standard USB 2.0 so that the device can be connected to a computer in order to transfer files and manage settings and files on the Playbook.

In terms of wireless connectivity the Playbook has built in Wi-Fi, this allows users to connect to the internet via the Playbook meaning that the user can browse the web, stream online content and download files to the device without the need for a computer. This gives the user much more freedom with the device and also makes it the perfect companion for people who are travelling. RIM has also said that a version of the Playbook will soon be available with a 4G connection.

Supported File Formats

The Blackberry Playbook has an endless list of supported formats and on a general consensus the tablet will be able to support any media as there are many options to convert the format of the data you are trying to view if the Playbook cannot already handle it. The Playbook works as a multi-media tablet and therefore there is a majority of supported formats. The Blackberry specs list 3GP, 3GP2, M4A, M4V, MOV, MP4, MPEG4, AVI, ASF, WMF, WAV, MP3, AAC, F4V, BMP, JPEG, GIF and PNG as the official supported media formats on the device. The list is extremely long and it is unlikely content will not be supported on the Playbook; therefore there should be no worries within this area.

In terms of using the Blackberry Playbook as an e-reader the formats are fairly limited due to the only reading facilities being through the Kobo app. Anything that is bought off the Kobo store will be supported on the Playbook and is most likely to be in an EPUB format, standing for electronic publication this is the most common format for eBooks and is designed specifically for that purpose as it has the ability for reflowable content. There is also PDF support on the Playbook which makes it useful for users who may want to view files such as textbooks on the device.

Memory

There are three options for memory on the Playbook and these are 16GB, 32GB and 64GB which is all kept as internal memory. Although the internal memory on the device can be extremely large at 64GB this is the most expensive of the Playbook models and each increase in memory size does come alongside a significant increase in price, which can be a big problem for users. Another problem is that there is no expandable memory on the device; therefore once the internal memory is consumed the user will have to delete content if they want to store any more data on the device.

Battery Life

The battery life on the Blackberry Playbook is fairly good, considering the running of the device takes a lot of power it is important to consider this when judging the battery life of the product. With Wi-Fi enabled, the screen brightness set to a good level, browsing the website and listening to music the device should last a few days, considering the user is not on the device constantly, and therefore the Blackberry Playbook is better than some devices on the market in terms of battery, the Dell Streak 7 for example having an appalling battery life in comparison.

There are some other tablets on the market which have the same capability in terms of battery life such as the Samsung Galaxy tab, although there are also some devices out there with a superior battery life, the iPad 2 is one of these.

Screen Quality

blackbook playbook ebook

The display on the Blackberry Playbook is one of the most praised features on the device. The interface is touch and therefore the Playbook does incorporate a touch screen. The screen is very responsive and allows the user to interact very easily with the device, simply through gestures on the screen which has proven to be extremely popular with users of the Playbook. The screen has a high resolution and is LED backlight which makes for a bright and vibrant display, particularly good for viewing graphics and videos. The inclusion of a touch screen has also complimented the Playbook’s ability to support apps as many applications built for other tablets are dependent on touch screen, without it, the Playbook would not be half as good as it is.

In terms of competition the Playbook is matching the Apple iPad 2 in terms of screen quality, with both of them being superior to other tablets in the market. Although the Playbook screen is slightly smaller than some other tablets on the market (with the iPad in particular being a much larger display) the display still handles everything that needs to be displayed well. The smaller screen also makes a big difference to the dimensions and weight of the device, making it much more transportable than it would be if it had a larger screen.

Build Quality and Design

blackberry playbook body

The playbook is a fairly small tablet; at only 7” the device is much smaller than some others on the market, with the exception of the HTC flyer which is also smaller at only 7”. One of the nicest aspects of the design is definitely the aesthetics of the Playbook. With no buttons and a completely plain black matte finish the tablet looks very sleek and sophisticated. Not only this but due to the Playbook being a popular device, there are many cases available in a range of colours, allowing the user to purchase these and protect/personalise their device.

In terms of build the Playbook feels solid and well-built when in use, the screen is extremely high quality, made of glass with an anti-scratch and smudge coating over the top. It is important to protect the screen as much as possible due to the fact that it will be receiving constant wear as the device is completely touch screen, therefore it may be wise to invest in a screen protector.

The device is kept very minimalistic with only a few buttons and ports, which are all concealed on the sides of the device, meaning there is nothing on the front or back of the device which makes for a very attractive piece of hardware.

Blackberry Playbook Vs.

How does the Blackberry Playbook compare to other competitors on the market?

Blackberry Playbook vs. Apple iPad 2

blackberry playbook vs ipad 2

The main competitor for the Playbook is the iPad, with both Apple and RIM constantly in competition this is to be expected. The main difference with the two devices is the operating systems on the devices with the iPad operating a Mac OS compared to the Blackberry Playbook’s OS being QNX. The two devices have a similar capacity when it comes to functioning and the difference is mainly a personal preference, the one benefit of the Apple operating system is that the user has a range of options such as the Mac books which can run in correspondence with the device.

The Apple store also has a much wider range of content than the Blackberry Playbook will be accessible too. With Apple producing phones and iPod’s which have been supporting media, Wi-Fi and applications for many years; they really are top in the market and well known as the market leaders. The App store comes already installed on the iPad and allows quick and easy download straight to the device through an Apple ID, not only this but these purchases can also be transferred across different Apple devices. Although the Playbook has access to the Blackberry app store it is no way near as expansive as the Apple store.

The newest addition of the iPad is the iPad 2, the second generation of the tablet, in comparison to the playbook the two devices have aspects that tie, for example the processor in both of the tablets is equal, and both are very fast and powerful and allow the devices to do whatever they need to. In terms of video playback both of them are also on a par with smooth playback and no lagging making both of the tablets perfect for watching  movies and streaming videos online.

One area where the Playbook is superior to the iPad 2 is the ability to browse the web. The Safari browser used by the iPad is good, and was one of the first browsers developed that allowed users to browse the web on smaller devices, on the go and still be able to view the pages properly, however the biggest downside to the Safari browser is that there is no support for flash due to disagreements between the two companies and therefore there are gaps in many web pages where the iPad cannot display the flash content. The Playbook however has a built in browser than can support Flash and therefore the web support is much stronger.

Overall the iPad is technically better, but only slightly as it is a very close competition and both of the devices are very advanced tablets and can support a wide range of formats allowing a range of features to be included on the device. For RIM’s first tablet to be released into the market, the Playbook has excelled straight to the top of the market, almost matching the Apple iPad which has been so highly condemned.

Blackberry Playbook vs. Kindle 3

The Playbook also has a reading application and therefore can be used as an e-reading device, but how does this feature and the hardware of the iPad compare to the classical eInk reading devices that are on the market. The most popular eInk device is the Kindle 3 by Amazon with the main design of the device being built around the ability for the user to read eBooks and this purpose purely. The major downside of the Kindle 3 compared to the Blackberry Playbook is the fact that the Kindle has no facility for any media other than audio and the Playbook can support eBooks whilst having a range of other features, the massive price difference is due to this however.

The reading app on the Blackberry Playbook is okay, although not as strong as the name playbook lets on. In terms of eBooks for the Playbook RIM have teamed up with Kobo and used the Kobo app completely for the Playbook, therefore the features on the app are very similar to the features seen on the Kobo e-readers. There is a large range of titles on Kobo meaning that the Playbook users are most likely able to find the title that they are searching for.

The Kobo app is fairly limited in features such as note taking, highlights and dictionary support which the Kindle 3 offers, this is expected to a certain extent as the Playbook isn’t fully designed for reading purpose although if more development was put into this area it may easily become a preference for a reading device, incorporating everything into one device rather than having to carry around a phone, MP3 player, portable DVD player, PDA, e-reader and an endless list of gadgets, the playbook gives all of these functions within the one device.

The main difference between a specific reading device, in this case the Kindle 3 and the Blackberry Playbook is the display. The Kindle 3 uses an eInk screen. This is a completely black and white display and works by contrast between shades rather than a backlight underneath the screen. The advantages of the eInk display is that when reading novels the reader can read for extremely long periods of time without any strain on the eyes as the display is not backlit. The Playbook however has a backlit screen and therefore when reading from the Playbook the user can experience strain on the eyes.

The Playbook however can be viewed in the dark due to the fact that there is a backlight and therefore the device does not need to be within a lit area in order for the display to be visible. This is particularly useful for people who may be travelling at night or on holiday, say camping, and don’t have a fully lit area at all times. One major benefit of having an eInk screen is also how much the battery life of the device is prolonged with the Kindle 3 lasting a minimum of 10 days and anything up to 3 weeks with the wireless connections disabled, compared to the battery life of around a day on the playbook.

The Kindle 3 may have stronger battery life, simply due to the fact that an eInk screen only consumes battery every time a page is refreshed in comparison to the Playbook which will constantly consume battery when turned on as the backlight needs to be powered. This does limit the Kindle however as there is no color screen. This means that unlike the Playbook the Kindle 3 is not really designed for media purposes as the Playbook is.

It all depends on use as to whether the reader should opt for an eInk device or the Playbook. If the user is only planning to read on the device then the Kindle will be a better option as that is what it is designed for. If the user plans on using the device for a range of functions however the Playbook is much better as the tablet offers the same sought of functions as a computer and really is superior as a media device.

The one benefit about the Playbook as a reading device is that due to the color screen the Playbook is good for users who may want to view documents such as magazines, kids’ books or cookbooks as many of these books need color to be effective, and therefore an eInk screen would not do the publications justice. The PDF support on the Playbook is also fairly strong and has the ability to zoom in and out and display graphic PDF’s such as brochures much more effectively than an eInk reader would.

 

The Good

There are many good aspects to the Blackberry Playbook. Firstly the design of the Playbook is a positive, sleek and sophisticated the Playbook appeals to a range of consumers, all ages and sex. Another strong point on the Playbook is the web browser, which is much better than the Safari browser used by Apple, simply down to the fact that the Playbook has a web browser that can support flash, and therefore there are no gaps left when displaying web pages as has been reported on the iPad.

The size is also a benefit of buying the playbook over another tablet. With a smaller screen the dimensions of the product are much smaller than other tablets on the market making the device much more portable, perfect for people who plan on carrying the device around with them, especially when travelling on long journeys.

The firmware that is installed on the Playbook is also a positive and has been praised within user feedback as simple and easy to interact with. The graphics on the device are pleasant and the firmware works beautifully with the device as it has been designed to particularly fit the Playbook, this is a massive benefit as it makes the running of the device simple and easy for anyone.

The Bad

The one downside that has been complained about so much on the Blackberry Playbook is the difficulty of pushing down the power button. For users who do not have long nails, it is practically impossible. RIM have clearly designed the Playbook to be as simple and sleek as they possible could and therefore have made the power button too small and therefore users are experiencing difficulty with this aspect of the device. The software that is to be used with the Playbook is also fairly poor and has some bugs within it although RIM continues to work on this and release updates.

It is a shame that the Blackberry Playbook does not have any opportunity for the user to expand the memory on the device. It would have been a good inclusion on the Playbook and would have given them an advantage over their main competitor on the market, the iPad; however neither of the devices offers expandable memory. Although the Playbook is available in 64GB which is fairly large story, there may be some who will easily fill this, particularly with the nature of the media supported on the device translating to large file sizes.

The Bottom Line

On the whole the Blackberry Playbook is a decent tablet device (though there is not much to recommend this device over something like the IPAD when it comes to tablet functionality). The tablet allows the user to view a large range of media on the device without difficulty. The device is best for people who travel a lot as it is much smaller than some other tablets on the market and as a result is lighter and more portable. In terms of competition the Playbook beats some of the other tablets on the market. I can't say it's anywhere near the iPad, though.

The sheer number of apps the several year old iPad has and the Apple name will make the Playbook's battle for marketshare an uphill battle. However, there's a lot to like about the Playbook and it certainly makes a good alternative to the iPad if one is looking for a tablet. The small size makes it far more travel worthy than the iPad for those whose size of a tablet is a big deal. There are some downsides to the device however there is nothing detrimental -- the software is now in the process of being sorted and although the power button may be a nuisance, it is just a case of getting used to it.

As an ebook reader, the Blackberry Playbook is decent. However, the device has been largely evicerated by critics as slow and buggy -- so because of this, you might want to proceed with caution before you pick one up.

There are 5 comments
Y
August 09, 2012 - 22:01
Subject: Reading

I am thinking about Buying one, but is it bad on your eyes...I'm a big reader. How long can you read for without it straining eyes? Is it bad for your eyes?
Thanks!

steve
July 10, 2012 - 00:52
Subject:

It is fucking rubbish to put it mildly.

Ervin
March 28, 2012 - 01:33
Subject:

I have been using the playbook now for 2 weeks. With the upgrade to 2.0 and the ability to use android apps this machine has come into its own. I have great picture quality, 2 decent cameras and video playback is great in hd. I have used it as an ereader and fined it good. It will display epub files using an .bar app. So there is no problem using your ebooks, just load them into your book folder on your root directory. Give it a try hell of a machine for 199.

Reply to Ervin
George Poncho
April 11, 2012 - 12:41
Subject: How do you get the reader to recognize the ebooks

Hi, Question for you.
How did you get your ereader to read the books? I have a bunch of epub books (free 3rd party) and I copied them over to the book folder on the root directory however I dont know how to see them in the app. I hae downloaded various ereaders like Aldiko, greader pro, Kindle etc.. I dont know how to import them in? Please help

Reply to Ervin
Lorna
August 06, 2012 - 21:06
Subject: ereader

I am happy to see your comments regarding the Playbook. I have one which I purchased a few days ago. As you have already downloaded your ebooks onto the Playbook, perhaps you can guide me as to how to transfer my ebooks to the PLAYBOOK. I am having an awful time trying to do this.

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