Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
Over the last 24 hours, RIM has gone on the defensive after all the early negative reviews of the BlackBerry PlayBook.From what I can tell after spending several hours with the device, those reviews are more than justified and RIM has a lot of explaining to do.
It seems like everything wrong with the tablet won’t be fixed until later. For now this thing is only good if you happen to have a BlackBerry phone and don’t mind a poor app selection.
I’ll have a full, in-depth review of the PlayBook on launch day next week, but here’s what I think so far.
- The screen is bright and clear. HD video looks gorgeous, but I only got to test that out with the short video clip that came preloaded on the tablet. There’s no easy way to get movies and TV shows on your tablet. Lack of content aside, the screen is definitely sharper than the iPad 2’s.
- Touch is responsive. It’s not better than the iPad, but pinching and zooming, swiping, and typing are much better than the Xoom or any other Android device.
- I like the approach to multitasking. You can swipe left and right to cycle through open apps. It’s not perfect though. I found myself accidentally switching apps if I swiped too close to the edge of the screen in an open app.
- I also like that there are no physical buttons on the front. Everything from returning to the home screen to accessing open apps is managed with touch gestures, something Apple has been rumoured to consider for the next iPad or iPhone.
- The stereo speakers on either side of the screen is a nice touch.
- The app selection is horrible. No Twitter. No Facebook. No native mail or calendar app. The AppWorld store is full of silly games like “Tilebreaker X” and “Cardster.” RIM says Android app support and email is coming soon, but that does no good now.
- When you boot up the device for the first time you have to download a massive update. It took 30 minutes for it to download and install for me. After that, the PlayBook forces you to sign up for a BlackBerry account and go through an annoying tutorial.
- If you do want to use email, you’ll have to tether it to your BlackBerry phone. That’s great for BlackBerry owners, but I don’t understand why RIM would alienate those of us who use other phones.
- There’s no 3G. Again, if you want to connect to 3G, you’ll have to tether the PlayBook to a BlackBerry phone. There’s a 3G version of the tablet coming this summer though.
- It annoys me that RIM added icons for Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Facebook, and Twitter in the apps list, but each of these lead to those respective websites. I feel ripped off. Where are the apps?
- It’s missing one of the best BlackBerry features that everyone loves: BBM.
The only audience I can see the PlayBook appealing to is people married to their BlackBerrys who have no need for extra apps. That’s a pretty narrow market.
Again, this is only a first impression, but my immediate advice for anyone looking for a smaller tablet is to go for the Samsung Galaxy Tab or wait for the Honeycomb-powered Galaxy Tab 8.9 this summer.