BlackBerry PlayBook first look
Tech Guide was given a hands-on session with the product which will be released in the US on April 19 and in Australia before the end of June.
The device is small and light – it is only 1cm thick and weighs just 400g – and has a 7-inch multi-touch 1024 x 600 resolution screen.
Its size makes it easy to carry around – if you’re wearing a suit it will fit in the jacket pocket.
When people think of BlackBerry they often think of its place in the corporate world. BlackBerry devices have been deployed in some of the world’s largest companies.
BlackBerry handsets are also growing more popular among general consumer.
The great news is that the BlackBerry PlayBook will appeal to both corporate and general users.
BlackBerry was quick to point out the PlayBook is a professional grade tablet which is backed up by the specifications – 1Ghz dual core processor, 1GB RAM, symmetric multi-processing.
And while that all looks good on paper it was apparent from the moment we got our hands on it that the PlayBook was a serious device.
The speed was apparent – apps opened and closed instantly and the system was very responsive.
But the real test for the processor was multi-tasking. Now while many other tablets, including the iPad, boast multi-tasking, the PlayBook demonstrated this fact dramatically.
We were able to run a high definition video, play a game and have the browser all running at the same time.
And with the ability to scroll all of the open applications we were able to see the video and game still running simultaneously along with the browser.
The user interface is similar than that used on the latest BlackBerry devices with apps being able to be viewed as a whole or in groups.
Gesture controls make it easier to open and close apps and access the settings.
The most common is an upward sweep from the bottom of the bezel which places the app inside a smaller window with the other open apps.
A sweep from the right side to the left also puts the app in a larger active line of apps while a flick towards the top of the screen closes down the app.
The browser supports Adobe Flash Player 10, Adobe Mobile Air and HTML 5.
Apps are going to be a big part of the success of the BlackBerry PlayBook and the number of BlackBerry apps are growing day by day.
But BlackBerry has cleverly made it also compatible with Android apps using a type of on-board emulator.
With so many apps to choose from between the BlackBerry and Android app markets it’s going to eventually challenge Apple’s App Store for size and choice.
While the PlayBook offers many functions regular consumers will enjoy – games, videos, music, apps, web browsing it will also be attractive to the enterprise market.
The PlayBook will only be available in the wi-fi version available at launch but existing BlackBerry users can link – or bridge – their device via Bluetooth to the tablet.
This then creates a bigger and easier way for users to view their mail, contacts and calendars securely on the PlayBook’s 7-inch screen.
The second that Bluetooth connection is severed the PlayBook retains none of the secure information displayed on the screen via the connected BlackBerry handset.
A connected BlackBerry handset can also act as a tethered modem and provide a 3G connection outside regular wi-fi areas.
Companies with existing BlackBerry Enterprise Servers can easily include the PlayBook within their secure networks.
There are two cameras on board the BlackBerry Playbook – a 3 megapixel front facing camera and a 5 megapixel rear camera which is also capable of capturing full high definition 1080p video.
The device has HDMI and micro USB ports.
Playbook will be available in three memory capacities – 16GB, 32GB and 64GB and will be priced at $US500, $US600 and $US700 respectively when it goes on sale in the US.
With the strength of the Australian dollar at the moment we can hope for similar pricing.
Even after a brief time using the BlackBerry PlayBook the speed and performance are quite obvious.
The device is equally at home as a work horse, entertainment device or plaything and will appeal to a wide cross section of users.