Friday, April 15, 2011

RIM BlackBerry PlayBook tablet reviews roll out with Praise and Contempt

Here we go with the RIM BlackBerry PlayBook review roundup. Let's see how it compares vs. the market leader, Apple's iPad 2. The Research In Motion (RIM) tablet now has a release date and a price -- April 19, $499-$699. Tap on the person's name to read the full article.

Melissa J. Perenson has a lot to say:
I'm impressed by its convenient size and novel navigation, but ... the tablet's sometimes primitive native software and selection of apps [are] frustrating. ... At 7.6 inches wide, 5.1 inches high and just 0.4 inches thick [it's] small enough to comfortably fit into a generous coat pocket ... And its weight? ... 0.94 pounds ... downright featherweight.
The audio output from the PlayBook's speakers is the best I've heard yet from a tablet. ... [It] connects to 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, but [for a] mobile broadband connection ... you'll have to wait until late summer. ... [The] OS has a fresh look and feel. ... The PlayBook's handling of video, music, and pictures is a mixed bag. It does some things extraordinarily well.
[It] doesn't include any calendar, contact, or e-mail apps. ... Instead, you'll ... pair your PlayBook with a BlackBerry phone. ... When you decouple the tablet and the phone, the Messenger data disappears from the PlayBook

Mark Spoonauer writes:
The company's 7-inch answer to the iPad 2 ... [is] tailor-made for multitasking. ... A zippy dual-core processor and dual cameras ... make the PlayBook a pint-size powerhouse on paper. ... [It] was comfortable to hold during longer stretches of web surfing and gaming. ... The PlayBook has a resolution of 1024 x 600. ... Colors really pop, text looks sharp, and viewing angles are wider than on the ... Xoom.
The UI is strikingly similar to HP's webOS, but we're not complaining. ... We found the tablet pretty easy to use. ... There is a powerful elegance here. ... The browser supports Flash, so you can access some sites which the iPad 2 just can't load.
BlackBerry Bridge is the PlayBook's most controversial feature. ... RIM says it will be releasing native e-mail, contacts, and calendar clients as part of a free over-the-air update this summer. ... [It] captured some of the best-looking videos we've seen yet. ... We recorded a detailed and stutter-free 1080p clip of New York City traffic [which] looked crisp both on the PlayBook's screen and on a 32-inch HDTV. ... Users should expect about 8 hours of ... battery life.

Walt Mossberg says this:
Even though Bridge is a neat technical feat, it makes the PlayBook a companion to a BlackBerry phone rather than a fully independent device. ... Fine for dedicated BlackBerry owners, but [not] so great for people with other phones. ... All other phones can do is provide the PlayBook an Internet connection using their hot-spot features.
I really liked the user interface of the new operating system, which is based on software RIM bought called QNX. ... When you have multiple apps open, large images of them appear ... and you can scroll though them ... a very clean, attractive approach. ... The browser ... is highly capable ... and does the best job with Flash video and Flash sites I have ever seen on a tablet.
The screen is beautiful, even though it has a lower resolution than the iPad’s. And the cameras are better than the iPad’s.

Joshua Topolsky of EnGadget:
It’s inconceivable to me that anyone at RIM thought it was a smart play to cut off non-BlackBerry users from the ... functionality you expect on a device of this type. ... [it's] insanity as far as I’m concerned ... the device felt nearly useless. ... Even for current BlackBerry users, this seems like a roundabout way to get at your important content.
And for you BBM fanatics, some bad news. ... Bridge requires ... a new version of BBM ... and it was unclear if that would be resolved by the launch date.
The PlayBook is a really solid device with a handsome and clean industrial design ... and a new operating system that shows tons of promise. ... [But it] isn’t hitting home runs just yet. ... The lack of native email and calendar support hurts. ... I can’t think of a single reason to recommend this tablet over the iPad 2, or for that matter… the Xoom.

Mike Isaac summarizes:
A solid product with some issues.
Sexy design. ... Media is a joy. ... Two cameras. ... Supports tethering to BlackBerrys. ... Can read and edit MS Office files. ... Multitasking is innovative and intuitive..
Browser is about as stable as your bipolar uncle. No native e-mail, calendar or contacts. ... App ecosystem is lacking.

Andrew Kameka asks, "Is anyone still interested?"
While the pros and cons of each reviewer differ, there seems to be one common opinion ... the PlayBook [is] a poor competitor to the iPad and Motorola Xoom.
Nothing but walls of complaints about battery life ... lack of basic functions, poor app selection, and an overall experience that just doesn’t stack up. ... The PlayBook has been talked about for months. ... It may be hard to stomach more waiting until RIM gets its act together this summer.
Does anyone still plan on bringing one home next week?

Colin Gibbs and Kevin C. Tofel chime in:
Aside from the revamped mobile platform built on QNX ... the most immediately striking difference between the PlayBook and the iPad is the size. ... [It's] almost exactly half the size of Apple’s device. ... Ease-of-use and portability also makes tablets easily shared within households, businesses and schools. ... The communal use not only makes it easier to justify the cost, it also exposes newcomers to the experience, driving demand.
While the iPad 2 currently dominates the market ... we’re just beginning to see some worthy competitors. ... In addition to the new PlayBook, tablet buyers will get a taste of HP’s excellent-looking ... TouchPad ... in a few months. And this summer, Samsung will release the Galaxy Tab 10.1 v.
We’re sure to see gadgets offered at a wide variety of price points in the coming months ... [which] will play a role in an overall market that sees 54 percent compound annual growth over the next five years, reaching 145 million units shipped in 2015.

Roger Cheng is "baffled" after RIM's weird announcement press conference:
A stage had been prepared and the audience ... was buzzing with anticipation. ... The company went back and forth on whether its chief executives would publicly speak. Ultimately, they scrapped that idea. ... Seems like a strange way to celebrate the company’s entry ... into the tablet race ... but it’s starting to take on a familiar feel for RIM.
Mike Lazaridis blew his cool Wednesday ... when asked for an update about the BlackBerry’s status in the Middle East and India. ... “It’s over. The interview’s over.” ... [He] then pointed at the camera and snapped, “Turn that off.” ... The tension this week is understandable. ... Prominent reviewers this week criticized the PlayBook as half-baked and not ready for prime time.

By Carl W. Brooks

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