The BlackBerry PlayBook review – to get or not to get?

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Everyone seems to be getting into the tablet scene these days. Microsoft came up with the first widely available tablet operating system and flopped belly up. Apple entered with the iPad and created a phenomenon. The rest is history.

So the other day I got a message from a friend who asked if I’ve tried the BlackBerry Playbook. I was like WHAT? You have it? He said YES and within seconds I was at his doorstep. Okay fine, it wasn’t that quick, I took 3 days and we finally met – behold, the fruity Canadian product – the Playbook!

First impression
My first impression was WOW! This thing is small. I honestly thought it was a digital photo frame. Then I touched it and almost immediately, I felt rubber. Apart from the super shiny glass in front, the back feels a little like the iPad – metal like – but it seems to be covered with a thin rubbery layer. In short, this is one solid device.
Then of course there’s the standard 3.5mm audio jack, 16gb of non-removable storage, 2 cameras – 3 megapixel in front and 5 megapixel at the back, LED flash and just 4 buttons above – power, enter, up and down.

(playbook-blank, playbook-slim, playbook-back, ports, playbook-buttons)

Turn me on BABY
Turning it on was special or so my friend said. He laid his fingers on the edge of the screen and stroked inwards; like a panda stroking another panda – she was turned on instantly. To me, it was like magic. If you’ve seen the retina display on the iPhone 4, you’d think they’ve ported it over to the Blackberry. It’s sharp, vibrant, clear – beats the iPad or iPad 2 screen flat anytime.

Stroke and I’ll show you what I can do
The Playbook enjoys people stroking it. Stroke it upwards, it shows the list of available apps and the multi-tasking window. Stroke it downwards and it’ll reveal a menu for the open app. Stroke it to the left or right and it’ll allow you to quickly switch between opened apps. Checkout a quick preview below :

It might seem a little confusing now but once you start using it, I was completely comfortable within the first 5 minutes of usage – which really speaks a lot. Being an iOS and Android user, I was constantly looking for a home button somewhere – but all you needed to do was stroke it upwards… SEXY!

When you first open the Playbook, you see a twitter icon, facebook, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail, Gmail WOW!

All preinstalled? NOT! I felt kind of cheated. Clicking on any of these icons brought up the browser and took me to the icon’s website – Aarrghhh…

So so so sad. It was honestly one of the lowest points when playing with the Playbook – no matter how much I stroked, I didn’t feel any sexier and neither did the Playbook. Problem is, there are no such apps available yet. Heck, for a Blackberry device, it doesn’t even have a mail client! Or BlackBerry Messenger! (don’t panic yet, read on… there’s more :P)

BUT… what they do have is the Blackberry Appworld…

At the moment, they’ve got a decent number of apps and games – nothing close to the BlackBerry AppWorld you get in BlackBerry devices but given time, it will mature and the previously mentioned apps will appear. More apps will be developed and you can smile while stroking your Playbook again.

What about the other pre-installed apps?
Oh, this is where it becomes quite fun. Most of the preinstalled apps are seriously polished. I’d say very Apple like. Great interfaces, very usable and very fast.
For the workaholics, there’s the entire suite of office applications – Slideshow To Go, Sheet To Go, World To Go

Then there’s the music & video players

Photo Gallery

The super pimped up web browser

And more…

but among all, I’d really like to talk about the super pimped up browser. It’s like a browser on steroids. This thing is seriously fast. Not only does it support flash, it renders websites faster than any mobile device I’ve played with. I’d dare say it felt even faster than Google Chrome on my desktop – when I tried both on my Streamyx line.

My signature DDP – Drag Drop & Play
If you’re music or video junky. You will be stroking the Playbook ALOT. Super simple interfaces but what I love is the DDP yo! Got a video file? DivX? Mp3? Wave? Just hook up the Playbook & do the Drag Drop & Play.

No stupid software to go through, no worries about placing it in strange folders – just put it in the device, start the Video or Music app and everything plays. Oh, and the speakers on this thing? I’d replace my mini radio with this – it’s THAT GOOD. Me likey.

What about the camera?
3 megapixel in front and 5 megapixel behind with flash but NO autofocus. WHY? I have no freaking clue. Are they dumb? Perhaps. Picture quality isn’t that bad but really, why no autofocus? The software implementation is simple once again, just works and camera starts up really fast which is a plus. Here are some sample pictures – you decide on the quality.

AND finally, Keyboard? Blackberry Bridge?
This is where the magic is.

The keyboard – being Blackberry has to be flawless – by far one of the best keyboards I’ve used on a mobile device.

BlackBerry Bridge – If you’re a die-hard Blackberry fan, you will flip belly down and start stroking the Playbook like nuts. With your Blackberry’s Bluetooth turned on and hooked up to the Playbook – you’ll be immediately transported into the magical land of Blackberry.

Imagine your Blackberry Messenger, your mails, your calendar – all accessible via the Playbook. The entire gadget literally transforms into an extension to your Blackberry.

Once hooked up, you’d also be able to use your Blackberry’s mobile data connection to surf the net. 1 data bill, 1 connection, 1 price, very cheap, very nice.

BUT there’s one more thing to consider…
Have I mentioned that the Playbook only comes with WiFi and no 3G? (4G models are expected to be released soon but doubt it’ll arrive here).

To some, it might not be a big deal but to me? OH MAI GASH. What were you thinking? I found myself crawling around for free or unprotected wifi hotspots all the time. Tsk tsk tsk.
In summary

I think the Playbook is a well thought out device. Solidly built, very refreshing & intuitive user interface, polished, absolutely amazing for existing blackberry users and top-notch multimedia playback ability – it’s almost flawless. Almost because it’s a pity that many ‘must have’ apps haven’t been developed yet and only time will tell.

I like it and love stroking it. Will I buy it? Only if I own a BlackBerry.

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