Playbook, at its debut, opened to not so positive reviews. Despite the hoopla, Research In Motion (RIM) has probably managed to garner about 3% of worldwide tablet market share. This reviewer has owned an excellent BlackBerry Bold 9790 and was tempted to look at tablet offering from RIM. This 16 GB base Wi-Fi tablet was bought with the intention of finding out to see how best it could be integrated in daily work flow.
The new BlackBerry (BB) operating system (OS) is based on QNX Neutrino, which is highly resilient and secure embeddable system with its own custom user interface (UI). Its the 7 inch capacitive screen and the form factor thats the icing on the cake. Its big enough to be held in hands comfortably, a bright screen display (1024 x 600 WSVGA) that can be easily read in direct sunlight and portable, weighing in mere 410 grams . There is a physical volume and power button while rest of the tablet is entirely gesture based which is intuitive for majority of informed users; the tutorial at first start up would get you used to it straight away.
PlayBook has been designed to complement BlackBerry smartphone from ground up, which connects to your existing BlackBerry mobile phone through encrypted Bluetooth via BlackBerry Bridge. Its easy to access the text messages (in addition to emails, contacts, memo pad, BlackBerry Messenger and Calendar). Bridge Browser (the browser on the phone) accesses internet without tethering on your existing data plan. It also helps you get on presentation mode on PlayBook and control cursor/power point presentations through trackpad on Blackberry mobile. It also allows the user to access files and folders on BlackBerry mobile. The native messaging/calendar applications on PlayBook supports various protocols to keep PlayBook in bidirectional sync, while the native browser (HTML5/Webkit compliant) is fast, responsive and enhances browsing experience.
The front (3 MP) and rear camera (5 MP) shoots in high definition beauty; stills as well as video. Although native picture app is limited in scope for image manipulation, but for serious photography, a separate camera is recommended. The sound output comes from its fabulous external speakers and standard mic output (3.5 mm jack). It plays standard video and music formats flawlessly. Adobe Flash is in-built for Web (contrast to iPad) making internet browsing seamless. Despite the intense multi tasking (I open up multiple apps/screens/browser instances), I havent seen my tablet lag at all.
There is a standard micro-HDMI slot for HD videos and pictures through HDMI cable(not provided with the unit), charging port and a connector dock for external keyboard and mouse pad. This reviewer can transfer files/folders through Wi-Fi Sharing on his Linux desktop.
One of the purported failure of RIM has been the lack of applications. Despite thousands on competing platforms, majority are clones of each other. How many Twitter/Photo apps would you need to do the same thing on your tablet RIM plans to run encrypted apps in future update which translates into enhanced security for the user. Android market is full of malware and neither Apple or Android gives you a fine tuned control over applications that BlackBerry does restricting information that can be leaked out by it. This user security and enhanced privacy is baked in PlayBook and BlackBerry platform.
I primarily use my tablet as a reading device; I recommend Instafetch which helps in offline reading and epub (electronic publication) reader for e-books. Unfortunately, native PDF support comes from Adobe Acrobat which is insipid. I recommend Quopa PDF reader with some degree of PDF manipulation like highlighting across text which is preserved across platforms. Presently, lack of Skype support is a dampener but Playbook has inbuilt video chat allowing me to connect to other PlayBook users. With full on Wi-Fi usage, 5300 mAh battery is able to give me a good eight hours of back up; I have clocked over three days of standby back up before needing it to be recharged in daily use.
RIM doesnt market its PlayBook with fancy jargon or create a reality distortion field. A BlackBerry is designed for practical use with straight forward menus, giving its user absolute granular control over the hardware and installed applications, which is a perfect complement to existing computing platform.
The writer is a practicing doctor with keen interest in technology