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BlackBerry PlayBook review

 Review: June 2011  

Last updated February 2012

Rating: 3 stars

In a nutshell: The BlackBerry PlayBook has a powerful dual-core processor at its heart, a vivid 7 inch display and an intuitive gesture-based multitouch user interface. It connects securely to a BlackBerry smartphone for email access, and offers Full HD video calling over Wi-Fi. But its lack of 3G and very poor choice of apps count against it.



Update (Feb 2012): The price of the PlayBook has been slashed, making it one of the cheapest tablets around. And the release of OS 2.0 this month adds native email support and opens the door for greater choice of apps. It's looking like a better deal now.

The PlayBook sounds like something out of kindergarten, but in fact it's BlackBerry's first tablet. With a 7 inch screen, the PlayBook is comparable in size to the Samsung Galaxy Tab and the HTC Flyer. It feels very much like a quality product, and is absolutely rock solid. It's rather square too, in contrast to the usual curved BlackBerry style, but nice and slim at just 10mm thickness. Understated, you might say.

Have no doubt about it: the PlayBook is a serious player in the tablet world. There's stiff competition out there from Apple and Android, but BlackBerry have taken the bull by the horns and released a product that brings genuine choice to the market. Running a new gestural-based operating system - BlackBerry Tablet OS, based on QNX - the PlayBook takes a little getting used to. For example, to close an app, you swipe upwards to dismiss it. Apps live in mini screens on the home page, and you swipe between them. It's completely intuitive after a short while, and more fluid than the "press this button now" style of Android.

The 7 inch screen with a resolution of 1024 x 600 pixels is nothing special in tablet land, but in the flesh we found the screen size and resolution to be perfectly adequate for the job, and the colour depth is rich and detailed. The capacitive screen is nicely responsive and supports 4-finger multi-touch zooming, which comes into its own particularly when viewing web pages, but can be used to control the view in other apps as well. The PlayBook is equipped with some serious power - a dual-core 1GHz processor plus a dedicated graphics processor and a massive 1GB of RAM - making it as fast as any tablet we've tested. This certainly shows up when using the user interface, with some lovely transitions between apps, and stutter-free video playback. Curiously though, there's a noticeable lag when rotating between portrait and landscape modes, with the accelerometer sometimes completely failing to detect that the device has been turned.

There are never going to be as many apps available for the PlayBook as there are for the iPad. Core apps like the music player, ebook reader, Adobe reader and a document reader for Word, PowerPoint and Excel spreadsheets are pre-installed. More are in the pipeline, and some kind of Android compatibility is proposed, but these are not here now. There are a surprising number of games available, but really we don't see the PlayBook as a consumer-focused product.

Web browsing is a joy on the PlayBook. The 7 inch screen is just big enough to display most web pages in full size, and you can easily resize the page with the 4-finger multi-touch control. BBC iPlayer plays well and there's full support for Flash 10.1 and HTML5. You can play flash games and there's a youtube app, although youtube videos play perfectly well through the browser itself. The super-fast processor can handle anything the web can throw at it. We'll stick our necks out and say that this web browser is as good as anything we've seen.

There are two cameras on the PlayBook - a 5 megapixel rear-facing one and a 3 megapixel front-facing camera, both with autofocus. Surprisingly both cameras are capable of recording 1080p Full HD video, and you can use the front-facing camera for video calling, but only over Wi-Fi with other PlayBook users. There's no flash on either, but that doesn't bother us, as we'd never use a tablet for serious photography anyway.

Audio quality can't be faulted. The device has stereo speakers (as well as stereo microphones for recording) and you can plug in a set of stereo headphones using a 3.5mm connection.

GPS capability is supported with Bing Maps, which we don't like as much as Google Maps, but it's OK.

When it comes to connectivity, the BlackBerry PlayBook offers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB. Additionally there's a HDMI port which is capable of streaming video in 1080p Full HD format to a compatible TV. There's no 3G support in the PlayBook, so you have to rely on a Wi-Fi network for connectivity. Alternatively you can wirelessly connect the PlayBook to your BlackBerry smartphone using BlackBerry Bridge. This lets you access email, Messenger, contacts, etc from your phone on the large display of the PlayBook.

Battery life is similar to other tablets. Depending on usage, you should manage between 1 and 2 days between charges.

So, the PlayBook. It has rather a split personality. On one hand is the silly name and the insistence by RIM to push the consumer-focused aspects of the device, which are frankly very poor when compared with the iPad 2. On the other hand is the understated look and feel, the heavy-duty hardware and OS, the productivity tools and BlackBerry Bridge connectivity. Really, this ought to be called the BlackBerry WorkBook. To get the most out of it you need to pair it with a BlackBerry smartphone, make use of its secure corporate email functionality, its document viewer and its ability to display HD PowerPoint presentations whilst simultaneously multitasking other business apps. As a work device for an existing BlackBerry user, it makes a great deal of sense, but as a consumer tablet for the mass market it makes little sense at all.

BlackBerry PlayBook features include:

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BlackBerry PlayBook user reviews

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Average rating from 25 reviews:

Reviewed by mohdimran from 03122750504 on 29th Dec 2015
Scrive my blackberry paly book

Reviewed by stuart walton from England on 21st Dec 2012
Lovely build quality, sound and camera. Terrible Os and customer support. My charging point broke and Blackberry Support were woeful. Sold on eBay now. Never again. The app market is prehistoric too.

Reviewed by stephen from England on 13th Nov 2012
The playbook took 4 hours to get set up with wi-fi connection. Had to select my country from dropdown list but took 10 attempts to get dropdown to appear. Every stage of set up was hard work. Not one piece of written information with device, just one line on box saying wi-fi needed to set up. In that case why was it so difficult.
Web Page loading is slow, quite often back button so have to come out and go back to history to get back one page.
I want to like the playbook but most of the time it is like trying to run on concealed porridge.
Camera and screen resolution are great but nothing else to recommend it.

Reply by Stephen from England on 14th Nov 2012
Sorry about spelling in review. Predictive spelling in PlayBook is terrible. Congealed not concealed. Try typing with-fi - see it does that rather than wi-fi, and this with a dedicated with-fi device. Are all Canadians stupid? I think not, just the ones RIM employs. Wi-fi times out at one hour on my playbook, have to log in again. It refuses to remember my email address - no autofill after first 2 letters. My mid range Samsung smartphone is so much easier, and I don't evenlike it that much.

Reviewed by Elle from England on 3rd Oct 2012
I've had my playbook for 9 months & I love it, I use it daily & do the majority of my web browsing on it. Its great for facebook, checking e-mails, watching TV, youtue as well as downloading games and other apps.
I did have an issue with the charger, I somehow managed to damage the pins in the charger port, however a purchase of a rapid travel charger soon sorted that problem. The rapid charger is bulkier and less portable than the regular charge so I'm not sure why its a "travel" charger, however the magnetic connectors are great and it charges in super quick time.

Reviewed by king from uk on 25th Aug 2012
blackberry playbook for 129 pounds is a clear bargain for a 64 gb version.

Reviewed by Leonard di Falco from Vatican City on 9th Aug 2012
I have 2playbooks,64GB for work and 32GB for private using.never complain about them,perfectory.I am blackberry user for ages,BB is mark of best quallity.

Reviewed by reza from uk on 22nd Apr 2012
I'm working with this machine for a wile now.
every thing is OK about it and what you expect of a tablet with this price tag?
it dos what it says it would do.
the only flaw is lack of compatibility with android which it has promised to be sort out.
and the other thing is lack of support for eastern fonts like Arabic and Persian.

Reviewed by Dr Droidberg from UK on 23rd Mar 2012
169 for the 16GB PlayBook is an absolute steal. I don't regret buying mine. If you want a tablet PC but don't want to splash out on an iPad or Galaxy Tab, this is the way to go.

Reviewed by lalaaf from africa on 15th Mar 2012
its rubbish mine broke on the 4th day i got it!

Reviewed by Chris from England on 8th Mar 2012
Got my playbook a couple of days ago and I'm over the moon with it. For a while I was dead set against getting a tablet thinking they were totally pointless, what made me take the plunge was a Kindle funnily enough. I wanted an e-reader and I looked at it in PC World, it was 89, then I noticed a Playbook was only 169 and that it was only slightly bigger than the kindle. I decided that for the price I would be getting a lot for the money, it does everything my laptop can do and more, and it can be used as an e-reader, a good one at that. It's so good at surfing the web that my laptop is now defunct. I'm glad I chose this rather than any other tablet the size is perfect. I've been on a course this week and I've already found it useful for typing up my notes, creating flow charts and spreadsheets. Brilliant go buy one.

Reviewed by Anita from Uk on 4th Mar 2012
Bought for 169 this week. I think it's brilliant. As a woman it's ideal as it is neat and fits in your handbag. It feels and look top class. I tether it with my iPhone while out and about with no probs at all. This is free on O2. I am going into hospital soon and look forward to using it. Great for reading books. Would quite like a mouse for it. But as no USB I think this will be a problem. I have brought a leather cover for it and simple love it. I don't really use the games because I have the iPhone. And I must admit they do look pretty poor. But for the price I think it's a great bit of kit. I had an iPad 2 but sold it because I thought I was very expensive and too big to just put in your bag. Go and buy I today :)

Reviewed by al's toy barn from toystory on 4th Mar 2012
dam thing wont pause on youtube (sometimes)

Reviewed by simon from Uk on 3rd Mar 2012
As before, a superb bit of kit for the price. And I've linked it via bluetooth to my cheap Nokia phone that supports tethering so can keep working on the move.

Was considering an iPod touch for music & video. This does just the same with twice the screen real estate. Go for it, and don't waste time on a posh case - the neoprene sleeve is snug and protective...

Reviewed by David from England on 18th Feb 2012
Considered buying one of the cheap Android tabs but decided to go for a quality tab and bought the 32GB version of the Playbook. Knew the software limitations but this product still delights me. Eagerly awaiting the OS update next week (21st Feb). For 199 this is a seriously good bit of kit. Have a rapid charger dock by bedside and keep tab turned on all the time, just put it in the dock when battery starts getting low. Thoroughly recommended.

Reviewed by andrea from UK on 14th Feb 2012
this is really good I'm usingit now to write this, it is clearly as good as an ipad if you exclude the game side as it has blackberry app world which does not beat android at all.

Reviewed by elisabeth from uk on 4th Feb 2012
Got the 64gb one this week after seeing the big price drops in them. Am really pleased with it. you either have the option to connect to the internet by either wifi, or via bluetooth to a blackberry phone, so i know it'll be great when on the move. it may be one of the smallest tablets but it is definitely big enough to do its job. i'm actually glad it's not big because it'll fit in my handbag! i'd definitely recommend it to any blackberry user, and even if you haven't got a blackberry phone then you can still use it on wifi alone, or even connect to your friend's phone if you ask them nicely!

Reviewed by TonyJ from UK on 20th Jan 2012
Had the playbook for over a week now and have to say it was a good buy. Comparing it to my wife's ipad I believe it is just as good. Great at surfing the net. Quality screen which is fantastic watching the videos. The only down side I can see is the number of apps. If you want a tablet that is quick, neat looking and a good bit of kit you need to consider this especially at the reduced price.

Reviewed by Craig Dawes from United Kingdom on 10th Jan 2012
I have had my playbook for around 8 months now and find it a joy to use. Battery life is excellent, picture and sound are the best I have seen on a tablet and the speed of the thing. I opted for the 64GB so pay a fortune for it, considering they have lowered the prices now. People are complaining about viseo calling, or the lack of.. Go on the web and google imo or skype on blackberry playbook - this will give you a site that is excellent for video calling on most platforms, ICQ, Skype, Windows live to name but a few. One down side it the amoutn of time to re charge fully! but do overnight and sorted. I think one nice thing RIM could have done was put an email client on there that would work without having to be connected to your BB.

Reviewed by KELLY from ENGLAND on 5th Jan 2012

Reviewed by Muddie from UK on 4th Jan 2012
i have had the playbook for two weeks now and i find it is a joy to use... once i got to grips with inner working i find fast and easly to use. it does not have the App's and 3G like the apple ipad2 but i find a lot better in many ways. i hope that RIM can work on it's App's and same time soon update the playbook....

Reviewed by Bluewood from Thailand on 27th Dec 2011
At the Rugby World Cup 2011, I went to watch the match New Zealand vs France, and outside the stadium were some games. One game was to throw a rugby ball over head into a hoop, and after I won, they let me play on this blackberry playbook. It was total junk, this is the worst tablet ever! The touch sensor is so numb and it lags like hell. It is also an ugly thing which was very inappropriately proportioned.

Reviewed by Susan Mitcheson from England on 26th Sep 2011
I like the playbook but I am disappointed that I can't use the video chat with other tablets, none of my family or friends have a playbook so I find the video chat useless, unless anyone has any other ideas

Reviewed by Bengoey from UK on 7th Sep 2011
I bought the Playbook two months ago. I also have IPad which I bought last year. There is no doubt that if you have only one tablet, for most people it should be the IPad because of the user friendliness of the software, Apps and built quality. I bought the Playbook for travel because of its smaller size, to bridge with my Blackberry phone and to watch videos/films that I cannot watch on the iPad (no flash) despite using sky fire app. It is a superb browser,it has excellent screen and as well built as the iPad . No crashes. If I can only have one tablet I will gladly choose the Playbook because games are not important for me.

Reviewed by Simon Maxwell from England on 7th Aug 2011
Built like it is carved from rock, with no flex at al My PlayBook is fantastic. Seven inches is the perfect size for a tablet, it has Flash built-in, will shortly run Android apps, has the smartest interface and fastest browser of them all and it doesn't need an alternative date plan because it bridges with your existing phone. I've tried every tablet and this one is the hands-down winner. Before you buy anything else, try the PlayBook - I love mine so much I don't know how I got by without it...

Reviewed by Matt from UK on 3rd Jul 2011
It's too small to feel like a tablet, but too large and heavy to feel truly portable. The OS seemed like it had potential, but having to swipe into and out of the bezel felt like a gimmick used to mask the lack of screen real estate. I think I'll wait for the Galaxy tab 8.9, or maybe something later in the year with a quicker 28nm CPU (Tegra 2 is a but limp).

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