Print 10 comment(s) - last by mavricxx.. on Apr 19 at 3:28 AM

RIM still has a lot of work to do on its first tablet

When it comes to today’s tablet market, there's Apple's iOS-based iPad 2 and Google is making a strong push with Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" (we could throw Samsung’s first generation Galaxy Tab in there, but it’s not using a tablet-centric operating system). Apple cornered the market with the original iPad, but the iPad 2 is now facing some stiff competition from the Motorola Xoom and the impending stampede of Honeycomb tablets. 

Not to be left out, RIM is readying its own entry into the tablet field with the PlayBook. RIM first announced the PlayBook way back in September 2010, and just recently announced that pricing for the 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB Wi-Fi models will be $499, $599, and $699 respectively.

For those that need a refresher course on the PlayBook, here are the relevant specs:

  • 7” LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
  • BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Dual HD cameras (3 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing), supports 1080p HD video recording
  • Video playback: 1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV
  • Audio playback: MP3, AAC, WMA
  • HDMI video output
  • Wi-Fi - 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Connectors: microHDMI, microUSB, charging contacts
  • Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL, Java
  • Ultra thin and portable:
  • Measures 5.1”x7.6”x0.4”
  • Weighs 0.9 lb 

Now that we have that out of the way, the first reviews for the PlayBook started rolling in tonight. The device packs some impressive hardware, but the 7" tablet may be priced a little bit on the high side compared to its main competition which pack 9.7" or 10.1” screens at similar price points. 

AnandTech's Anand Shimpi points out that RIM has gotten a lot right with the PlayBook:

Ignoring immediate purchasing decisions, there are some things that RIM has done very right with the PlayBook. Full frame rate playback of 1080p High Profile H.264 content is a huge win. NVIDIA is promising this with Kal-El but RIM and TI deliver it here today. The only thing that's missing is support for .mkv containers and more audio codecs before we can really start putting tablets through our media streamer test suite.

With the exception of BlackBerry Bridge apps, multitasking is ridiculously smooth on the PlayBook. I've never been happy with Apple's multitasking UI and I've been dying for someone to copy webOS since its introduction, so kudos to RIM (and Palm). RIM does have to work on reducing application launch time and providing a consistent 60 fps experience across the OS. The issue with a super smooth UI is that the times when it isn't perfectly smooth really stand out. 

Unfortunately, there are also some glaring missteps as well, including the lack of an email client (an email client won't be available until Summer '11):

In its current incarnation, the WiFi PlayBook doesn't ship with a dedicated email client, calendar or contacts app. Given how frequently I say that email and web browsing are two killer apps for tablets, this is bad for the general consumer. 

The bottom line is that today the PlayBook can't store contacts, it can't organize your day and you can't use it to check emails using anything other than your web browser. RIM's explanation? Most users who buy tablets don't buy it for push email, most are on WiFi, and if you're not getting push email then a web client is probably ok.

We feel that RIM is totally in the wrong on this one, but at least the problem will be resolved in a few months.

Engadget's Tim Stevens notes that battery life for the tablet is adequate, but falls short of the standard set by the iPad 2.

With day-to-day usage, WiFi on, screen reasonably bright, checking out some websites and playing some tunes, the PlayBook has plenty of juice to get you through a couple days without breaking a sweat. It'll handily survive your all-day presentation at the office, make you look cool in front of your boss, then still have plenty of battery life left to chill out to some N.W.A. on the flight home.

But, compared to the competition, it delivers a solid mid-pack performance. We looped a standard MPEG4 video clip with WiFi enabled and screen brightness at about 65 percent, managing seven hours and one minute before everything went dark. That's about an hour more than the Samsung Galaxy Tab, but over an hour less than the Motorola Xoom. The iPad 2, meanwhile, manages ten and a half hours when similarly stressed.

Walt Mossberg raved about the PlayBook's user interface in his review, and even remarked about its commendable flash performance:

I really liked the user interface of the new operating system, which is based on software RIM bought called QNX. It’s smooth and fast, and makes excellent use of multitouch gestures. An area at the bottom of the screen holds the icons, which are divided into sections like “All,” “Media,” “Games” and “Favorites.” When you have multiple apps open, large images of them appear at the top of the screen, and you can scroll though them. It’s a very clean, attractive approach. 

The browser, while sometimes slow to load, is highly capable, even on sites designed for a regular computer, and does the best job with Flash video and Flash sites I have ever seen on a tablet—far better than on any Android device I’ve tested. 

But the overall theme from reviewers seems to be that the PlayBook in its current form is simply unfinished and that the upcoming updates should help the tablet better compete with iOS and Android-based devices.


There's a lot to like about the PlayBook, but unless you're an existing BlackBerry user you're better off waiting to see where RIM takes this thing. 


Right now, the BlackBerry PlayBook is a tablet that will come close to satisfying those users who gravitate toward the first word in its name: BlackBerry. Those who were more excited about the "play" part would be well advised to look elsewhere, at least until Android compatibility joins the party. Then, well, anything could happen. 


Still, unless you are constantly glued to a BlackBerry phone, or do all your email, contacts and calendar tasks via a browser, I recommend waiting on the PlayBook until more independently usable versions with the promised additions are available.

The RIM PlayBook should be in stores next week, but if these reviews are any indication, you may just want to stay away… for now.

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Missed the mark
By dsumanik on 4/14/2011 4:51:13 AM , Rating: 5
No email client???

How embarrassing.

Gotta love how the marketing machine tries to downplay a 700 dollar portable media consumption device aimed at business users that relies on a web interface for email.

A 486/33 running windows 98 could do better.

Yeah its only tempoary but what a management blunder.

Email is a vital component for global communications, period. Not something to be tidied up after the fact... Even a simple client lacking advanced features would be okay.

RE: Missed the mark
By Aloonatic on 4/14/2011 6:18:59 AM , Rating: 3
Just use a yahoo mail app for e-mail. What's the worst that could happen? XD

RE: Missed the mark
By Aikouka on 4/14/2011 11:11:36 AM , Rating: 2
I can't help but think that what they really missed the mark on is pricing. I can't imagine a consumer looking at the iPad 2 and the PlayBook side-by-side, and choosing the smaller device that costs the same. That's unless they really want a RIM device or a smaller tablet.

It'll probably be even worse when ASUS comes out with their eeePad Transformer later this month. It's strongly believed that it will retail for $399 for a 16GB model.

RE: Missed the mark
By Phoque on 4/15/2011 7:08:28 AM , Rating: 2
Although some people will compare and consider the two devices, I doubt RIM means to take the Playbook directly against Apple's IPad. It just seems to me to be generally two different kind of customers who will buy either one. RIM is definitely not as fashionable in the mass market sense as Apple is, but have got a good business reputation of its own.

It's no excuse for the missing parts of the playbook from RIM ( calendar, email, etc ), especially that its primary targets are business people ( but these people probably already own a Blackberry .... ).

In my case, I'm interested by the Playbook to subscribe to electronic magazines and read it on my comfortable sofa instead of on my computer screen, or when waiting at the clinic or any other such occasions. Also, I would feel less alienated by a looser envinronment that is not tightly controlled as is the case with Apple ( that is worth a lot of money to me! I HATE ITUNES! ).

Good shopping!

Logic error?
By Lanister on 4/14/2011 12:01:17 PM , Rating: 2
When it comes to today’s tablet market, there's Apple's iOS-based iPad 2 and Google is making a strong push with Android 3.0 "Honeycomb" (we could throw Samsung’s first generation Galaxy Tab in there, but it’s not using a tablet-centric operating system).

I am confused, by this logic should you also not include the IPAD as that is not using a "tablet-centric operating system", its still the same OS their phones and Ipods use correct?

RE: Logic error?
By Netscorer on 4/14/2011 12:26:27 PM , Rating: 2
I'm with you. iOS is not a tablet-centric OS, yet it is always omitted when iPad is being discussed. Yet, every time Android is brought up, reviewers are quick to point how 'deficient' the pre-Honeycomb releases are.

RE: Logic error?
By Tony Swash on 4/15/2011 5:25:34 AM , Rating: 2
I'm with you. iOS is not a tablet-centric OS, yet it is always omitted when iPad is being discussed. Yet, every time Android is brought up, reviewers are quick to point how 'deficient' the pre-Honeycomb releases are.

That sounds a bit silly. The whole point of iOS is that it is a variant of MacOSX that was designed and refined over several years to run on small touch screen devices. I can't think of another tablet OS that combines the degree of maturity and polish of iOS with such a huge and robust eco-system.

And of course it is the OS that is running on 95% of the world's tablets in actual use.

I can't see the RIM thing succeeding - why would someone spend the same amount of money on a smaller device, that doesn't do native email (!) and which has essentially no apps. It just looks like a half cocked, lame me-too device by a company in a panic. Maybe I am wrong - time will tell.

The iPad is going to be a very hard act to catch. Catching iPad2 will be very hard and by the time anyone has a shot at that iPad 3 and iOS5 will be out, both I suspect will be yet another revolutionary acceleration.

RE: Logic error?
By Paj on 4/15/2011 7:08:22 AM , Rating: 2
The iPad is going to be a very hard act to catch. Catching iPad2 will be very hard and by the time anyone has a shot at that iPad 3 and iOS5 will be out, both I suspect will be yet another revolutionary acceleration.

Disagree. iOS is now the third most popular smartphone OS. Its being overtaken by Android. Eventually, the same will happen in the tablet market. Once some second gen-Android tabs come out, and the Android tablet app market matures, it is inevitable.

RE: Logic error?
By lawrance on 4/18/2011 12:00:09 AM , Rating: 2
First off... we're talking tablets, not smartphones. Phones are practically mandatory, tablets are not. They are more of a luxury device at this point. Apple customers are used to spending big bucks on Apple products. Non-Apple customers generally are looking to save money on their tech purchases even if they are penny-wise, pound foolish. This is why all other tablets have disappointing sales so far. ALL OF THEM. Samsung failed. The Xoom failed. And soon RIM will fail. - I say fail... but I think RIM has a chance to consistently take hold of maybe 5% of the market due to their loyal following and higher-end customer mentality. Whether 5% is worth hanging on to, will remain to be seen.

Give RIM time
By mavricxx on 4/19/2011 3:28:50 AM , Rating: 2
The thing about this tablet is that you gotta give it time to mature. Right now is at its infant state where there are little apps, and the software is still being refined. I will say that the best thing about this tablet that sets it apart from Android is that you won't have different iterations of say Honeycomb 3.0 and having to wait forever for updates. One good thing RIM has going for it is its reputation for kicking out updates. Hopefully, it kicks it in turbo and lots of GOOD apps start coming out. Also, I hope to see alot of cool gadgets for it as well. One major thing I see that RIM screwed up besides the whole email/calendar/contacts thing was the absence of expandable memory. Had they added a FULL size SDXC card support they would have blown this thing to another level. A couple of things I'd like to see with the upcoming updates are: Free turn-by-turn Nav, universal search and maybe some free fps/racing/action/rts games to make this thing worth while to buy. Laslty, I think RIM could have made this thing more desireable to purchase by including headphones, USB adaptor and an HDMI adaptor.

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