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BlackBerry PlayBook demo

We get a hands-on with the device that RIM wants to be an iPad killer

While RIM may be best known for its corporate smartphones, it’s trying to make its products appeal outside of work, too with the PlayBook tablet. We paid a visit to the stand at CES 2011 to get a hands-on with this wannabe iPad killer.

We weren’t quite sure what to expect from this device and if RIM would be able to pull of a simple user interface that appeals to consumers used to the friendly iPad, but first impressions were really good, and we were quite taken with the BlackBerry Tablet OS.

BlackBerry PlayBook

Switching tasks is achieved by sliding a finger up from the bezel. All of the open apps are displayed as thumbnail windows, but the really impressive part is that they’re live previews. So, if you were watching a video, you can see the video playing in a thumbnail. The demonstration in the video above shows this working with a video and game – impressively, both are running smoothly in thumbnail mode.

The homescreen is refreshingly uncluttered, with simple shortcut buttons to applications, split into categories, such as Internet, Media and Games. The demo unit we saw didn’t have a lot of apps on it, but they’ll be more available for download when the product launches this year. We suspect the PlayBook will live or die by the quality of its final app store.

BlackBerry PlayBook keyboard

Existing BlackBerry users will be pleased to know that they can sync their existing handset to the PlayBook over Bluetooth. This lets you access email, contacts and appointments through the tablet, plus gives the PlayBook 3G access to the internet – the default model is WiFi only; however, in the US a 4G model will be released. Thanks to Flash 10.1 support, every website can be accessed.

The 7in screen feels like the right choice and its 1,024×600 resolution looks sharp and detailed at this size. We were impressed with the screen quality and responsiveness when we used the tablet. Colours looked nice and bright and viewing angles are excellent.

As you can probably imagine from the smooth multitasking, the hardware is relatively high-spec. There’s a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM. Two cameras are available (one front and one rear facing) and both can shoot 1080p video. We were unable to shoot any proper test footage to see how the quality stands up, though.

The product’s not quite finished yet, but if first impressions are anything to go by RIM’s done a brilliant job with the BlackBerry Tablet OS, creating a slick user interface that works really well on a touch-only device. We can’t wait to get a final model for review.

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