Posted: 01 Oct 2011 01:56 PM PDT
PlayBook – A Love/Hate Relationship
First I must disclose that there is no doubt in my mind the PlayBook was rushed out by RIM. The idea a company known for email released a device with no native email and follows with "it will be coming in the summer" is nothing short of bizarre to me. And here we are in October, still with no built-in email and no word when that might arrive.
That said, I would still like to give the promised update as to what I think of the device because it does have good points and it had promise. I say had because at this point I think that RIM has dug the grave for what could have been a formidable contender in the tablet wars. More on that later….
The PlayBook’s 7" form factor is very comfortable. I certainly can't throw it into my pocket, but it is easy to just drop it into a briefcase, bag or backpack ready to pull out when you need it. Since it is small the weight is minimal and my arms and wrists are not aching after using it for some time. I really don't use the portrait orientation much, instead preferring to keep it in landscape for my usage. The keyboard is actually pretty comfortable to use and because it is small I am able to type pretty well with my thumbs. I can't imagine typing as well on a larger 10"-11" device.
The PlayBook is excellent at browsing the Web. In what I consider to be a HUGE departure from BlackBerrys I have known the PlayBook's browser is, dare I say it, an absolute pleasure to use. It is super fast, the UI is uncluttered and pleasant to look at and it renders most sites as they should be. Some websites load as mobile versions instead of full versions, but I think that is a problem caused by website authors, not the PB. I don't know others with tablets to compare if that is a common issue or if it is unique to the PB, but I believe it to be the site code. The PlayBook also supports Flash video, if that is something that floats your boat.
The screen is clear and bright, with lots of contrast and that makes the PlayBook a super media player. When you install the bundled connection software the PlayBook looks like an external drive on your PC and you can connect via USB or WiFi. WiFi means that you don’t need a physical connection to copy files to and from your PlayBook.
RIM has done a pretty good job with the camera software, still and video. The PlayBook is light enough to hold for long periods of filming (size matters), and the screen lets you see what you are recording. One of the early software updates (there have been many) also included a video chat application, which turned out to be very easy to use and of very good quality.
Battery life isn't as good as I had hoped as you won’t get much more than a day’s use out of the PlayBook before having to seek out an outlet. While I understand there is not as much room for a battery in a 7" device as there is in a 10" one, I did expect better from RIM since BlackBerrys have always been known for their superior power management features. Maybe the change to QNX is more difficult to control power. To be fair I do not run WiFi on my BB as the sole source of connection so I am sure that contributes to the battery life limitations too.
The Bridge. I have used it and find it acceptable. It is nice to get all my BB functions on the PB and the ability to access BES and BIS email on the tablet is nice. It is a bit cumbersome to have the BB at hand running the Bridge and connected to the PB just to access the BB Mail, but there is always web-based email to get to the BIS email and that is quite acceptable. The Bridge web experience is, at best, tedious. This may be because I am used to the blazing speed of the WiFi connection, but unless there is no other option I don't envision using that browser option much.
Much has been made of the expected ability to run Android applications, but once again that is something users were eagerly anticipating and expecting to see during the summer and it didn't happen. Well, it sort of almost happened. A leaked (beta?) version appeared in July and users were able to load it and get it working, but not without some fancy footwork. Forums started to light up with users posting their experiences, fixes, band-aids and the like along with listing which applications worked and which did not. Suddenly, an OS update was issued in late August, 126.96.36.19942, and the ability to use the leaked Android player was killed. I do understand that RIM was not happy having a leaked version that didn't work completely and that was not what they wanted to represent what will be. RIM has to understand that early adopters are pretty tired of the promises and announcements only to be treading water and still waiting….
Many are whining about the lack of apps available, but that does not bother me. I suppose this is a very personal choice/need and I have never been one to load, test and discard application after application. I look for a few apps I have to have, news, weather, entertainment, office-type, etc and I am happy. I guess that if I spent hour after hour surfing and playing on the PB I would more than likely look for applications to try and maybe if I found different ones that gave me powers I didn't have before I would spend more time using the PB, but I don't. I still remind myself this was bought a s a toy to play with and I really have much more going on in life that restricts the time I can spend with the PB. And for me that has been fine.
I do plan to bring the PB on the annual trip to Cabo and perhaps I will find time to explore deeper than I have.
All in all I really like the hardware and I truly believe this is a solid device with what could have been a fantastic foot in the door for RIM if they shipped it with the capabilities any user could pick it up and actually use for media as well as email and PIM functions.
RIM was promising regular software updates, and up to July/August there were numerous ones being pumped out, but nothing since. Latest rumors indicate the BIG 2.0 update is to include the long absent native email, calendar and contacts as well as the long-awaited Android application introduction.
I hope the new update is not too little, too late, but I am afraid RIM has already doomed this device. Rushing a half-baked, not ready for prime time tablet was a really dumb move and I don't know of anyone that can offer an explanation that makes sense. Perhaps they thought they would be able to slip it in and then follow up with important update in a short time and then the fiscal woes hit RIM, requiring layoffs and redistribution of manpower, but that just seems to be more of their management's inability to manage and to understand the market.
They have allowed way too much time to pass without giving the needed functions and the reputation has already been cemented. If there is a chance they can rescue the brand and the device it will be a real uphill battle.
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