RIM BlackBerry PlayBook review
A fast and long-lasting 7in tablet, the PlayBook's connection to BlackBerry phones make it a must-have for existing users, and its Android app support widens its appeal further
Review Date: 14 Aug 2011
Price when reviewed: £399
Reviewed By: Barry de la Rosa
RIM's BlackBerry handsets have forged their own path in the smartphone world, with their secure email appealing to business users and BlackBerry Messenger finding an unexpected market amongst teenagers. It's no surprise then to see that RIM's tablet, the Blackberry PlayBook, has a unique operating system and a novel approach to tablets.
The QNX operating system the PlayBook runs was first released in 1982, and during its lifetime has mainly been used as a real-time operating embedded in industrial machinery, so it has an outstanding pedigree. In use, however, it behaves much like HP's (formerly Palm's) WebOS, although with an interesting twist: the screen's bezel (the area surrounding the screen) is also touch sensitive.
Swiping from the side of the screen moves to the next open application; swiping from underneath the screen brings up all the open applications (much like WebOS's Card view); and swiping from above the screen brings up the menu for the current application. A swipe in a top corner brings down the system menu, while the bottom corner controls the keyboard. Note that the PlayBook recognises when you're in portrait mode, and adjusts accordingly. This mechanism is smooth and quick, and the screen's oleophobic coating means it's always slick and responsive.
The 7in screen has a 1,024x600 resolution, which is plenty of room for web browsing. The IPS panel is bright and colourful, with excellent viewing angles, although its glossy finish means that under bright sunlight you'll have to angle it to avoid reflecting the bright sky. Overall image quality was superb, however, with great contrast and vibrant colours.
That smaller screen makes the PlayBook stand out amongst its main competitors. The Apple iPad 2 and HP TouchPad both use (roughly) 10in displays, as do all of the current Android 3.0 devices. If you want Android on a smaller tablet, there's the original Samsung Galaxy Tab, the HTC Flyer and Dell Streak 7 - but all these run older, non-tablet specific, versions of Android. There are 7in Android 3.0 devices in the pipeline - such as the Acer Iconia Tab A100 - but they're currently delayed until Google irons out some issues with running the operating system on smaller displays.
Performance from the dual-core 1GHz processor was superb, and a dedicated graphics chip provides plenty of 3D power too. Coupled with the excellent multi-tasking, this is probably the only tablet where you can switch quickly from watching a full-screen HD video to another application and back again without a hitch in the video. Strangely, iPlayer's HD files were jerky, but YouTube's 1080p videos were fine.
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