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Early BlackBerry PlayBook reviews: good idea, half-finished

updated 10:00 pm EDT, Wed April 13, 2011

BlackBerry PlayBook reviews show rushed launch

The first wave of BlackBerry PlayBook reviews has emerged and suggested that RIM's first tablet had been rushed to market too soon. Its already known missing (though coming) onboard e-mail and messaging clients were seen as glaring omissions, but it was clear RIM had numerous major apps that were promised later, including video chat, photo sharing, and emulators for BlackBerry phone apps plus Android. David Pogue in his review for the New York Times found that RIM was in a "feverish daily revision" even days before launch and would have a hard time convincing early buyers.

"For now, the PlayBook's motto might be, 'There's no app for that,'" he wrote. "Remember, the primary competition is an iPad -- the same price, but much thinner, much bigger screen and a library of 300,000 apps. In that light, does it make sense to buy a fledgling tablet with no built-in e-mail or calendar, no cellular connection, no videochat, Skype, no Notes app, no GPS app, no videochat, no Pandora radio and no Angry Birds?"

In a more specific breakdown of individual apps, Engadget noted that there were specific repeatable crash bugs that suggested the device simply hadn't been tested properly at RIM. The browser would often close without warning if there were a significant number of apps. BlackBerry Bridge worked for seeing e-mail and messaging, but a browser feature to tether the connection would always crash on start.

Both that site's tests and extra benchmarks from the WSJ also revealed that RIM's claims of iPad-level battery life were false. Battery life ranged between five to seven hours, significantly short of the real-world 10 hours of the iPad and iPad 2. It wasn't evident if this was part of an inherent design trait or due to the lack of optimization.

Praise was still common in key areas. The browser, while seen as much slower by CNET, was not only accurate but one of the few capable of properly handling Flash. Walt Mossberg of the WSJ noted that he "couldn't find a Flash video the PlayBook couldn't handle" and that even Flash-only pages, normally torture tests for Android devices, worked smoothly.

All were usually complimentary of the PlayBook's hardware design, noting its slick construction, the "beautiful" screen, and the ease of holding it in the hand compared to the larger iPad or Xoom. The bezel-based gesture navigation was essentially pilfered from HP's webOS but was relatively intuitive. Media syncing is initially drag-and-drop but, in a rarity on any other platform, can sync content wirelessly. Multitasking is its strong point, and both the interface and the responsiveness are usually ideal.

The reaction was nonetheless such that it led even the verdict from a BlackBerry fan site such as CrackBerry to offer a mixed impression. The good hardware execution was hurt by software that "doesn't fully reflect the potential" of what RIM can do.

"Sid the BlackBerry PlayBook hit the ball straight out of the park? Not quite. To me it's looking more like a line drive and an easy run in to second base... As a BlackBerry fan and somebody who wants to see RIM hit nothing but pure homeruns, I'm of course a little choked up over the PlayBook's first at bat performance. There's no doubt it has some raw talent and killer moves that are going to attract some fans and loud cheers from the crowd..., but to be a real superstar it's going to have to mature a little more and roundout [sic] its skill set."

by MacNN Staff



  1. imNat-imadouche

    Joined: Dec 1969


    You suck RIM!

    You expect people to buy this c***?!! Get your act together!

  1. nowwhatareyoulookingat

    Joined: Dec 1969


    One line describes RIM

    'The good hardware execution was hurt by software that "doesn't fully reflect the potential" of what RIM can do.'

    RIM can bang out good, solid, reliable hardware for portable devices. But they totally lack the ability to create software even close to the capabilities of that hardware.

    And that is why they are losing marketshare to everybody else.

  1. chas_m



    I have no doubt

    that given the chance to mature, the Playbook 2 or 3 for example would be pretty awesome, both due to RIM's efforts and those of outside vendors such as Android.

    But will they get the chance, given that nobody in their right mind would buy v1 with these serious omissions? I mean, no Angry Birds practically pronounces it DOA. (I'm only sort of kidding about that.)

    We're almost five months into the year and so far, Steve was right: 2011 IS the year of the iPad 2. The Playbook sounds like, at best, a "nice try" that if they work REALLY hard might be up to something buyable by xmas.

    Comment buried. Show
  1. nbna

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Welcome to
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  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Joined: Dec 1969


    we'll see

    I think RIM does have one chance left.

    They are still a leading smartphone vendor. Many people do "get it" that 7" tablets are more portable than magazine sized tablets. It's like the old paper back vs. hard back - different sizes for different use cases.

    So Apple is giving competitors an opening, for whatever reason.

    But - Apple is totally owning the app space, the 10" space. And what Apple hasn't completely owned, Android is on the march - so RIM has only the smallest of window here.

    getting the OS right is HUGE! This is where RIM was getting served, year after year, and the early reports coming back that they got the OS right - is cool.

    Now, that was the hard part, writing an email app is fairly trivial in comparison - and yet it must be done, and yet they apparently did not do it! ARGH.

    This is just how fast they are rushing this out - but, looking at the fundamentals I believe they aren't going out of business this year - so they will continue development, by Christmas the apps will be out, the tablet will be looking better.

    But it needs to optimize for battery life, so that it can have less battery - and be thin, as people do want thin.

  1. HappySlug

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Can't sell vapor

    The part that is so insulting to their consumers is the idea that you should buy their device when half the feature set is still being developed. That's a long list of missing items that most would consider standard for a tablet at this point. I still cannot believe that RIM, who is known for secure mobile mail & calendaring, is shipping this WITHOUT an email client!?!

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