What about the battery?
April 19 is D-Day for the RIM PlayBook. Rumors that the BlackBerry tablet would compete with the iPhone 5 for an early June launch have been proven just as ludicrous as they sounded. The PlayBook will launch on April 19. Best Buy will start taking orders today. There will be 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB options at launch. Pricing starts at $499 and goes up to $699.
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I've had several chances to play with RIM's new slate and I've walked away impressed each time. The PlayBook's edge-to-edge gesture-based UI is smooth, even more so than the iPad 2. It multitasks well and and handles graphics rendering like a champ. But is it worth buying in a tablet market growing more crowded every day?
Here are some things to consider before you plop down between five and seven hundred bucks on a shiny new toy.
The Display: The PlayBook's display is a 7" WSVGA capacitive LCD touchscreen. If you have experience using tablets like the Xoom, you'll be surprised by just how small 7" really is. If you're used to your 3-4" smartphone, you'll be shocked by how much more space you have.
The 7" form-factor means the PlayBook is comfortable to use one handed. It also means you'll be able to reach your fingers entirely across the middle of the keyboard while holding the tablet on either side. The PlayBook is more comfortable to type with extensively or to use as a messaging device than other, larger tablets.
But the loss of those inches really hits you when it comes to browsing the Internet or reading through documents. 7" isn't too small to be comfortable for these tasks, but the "squished" screen doesn't lend to a surfing experience as organic as something like the iPad.
The Weight: Thanks in part to the aforementioned display, RIM's PlayBook is much lighter than any of its high-end competitors. It only weighs 0.9 lbs, compared to the iPad 2's 1.3 lbs. As an e-reader or an "airport tablet", the PlayBook will be much more comfortable for extended use.
The Gesture-Based UI: I've been using an iPad 2 since launch, and I can safely say that navigation between apps is much faster on the PlayBook than the iPad 2. And the PlayBook is a superior multitasker to any Android rival because of this gesture-based interface.
One negative here: Edge-to-edge swiping is a pain in the butt when you're using a tablet one-handed. In effect, this means app switching and multitasking will be require two hands or some careful finger-work.
The Cameras: The PlayBook has a 5 MP rear and 3 MP front-facing camera, both are capable of shooting in 1080p. And, since the PlayBook is closer in size to a camera, shooting with it ought to be a more pleasant experience.
Price: The PlayBook has the Xoom beat, hands down. And it matches the iPad with $499 entry-level pricing. RIM did what they needed to here, but whether or not the PlayBook is worth as much as an iPad 2 really comes down to one feature the promo materials have been mysteriously quiet about...
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Battery Life: At CES and MWC, reps from RIM would only say that they planned to be competitive with the iPad in battery life. But let's be honest. If the PlayBook was capable of breaking 10 hours in-use, that fact would be slathered over every piece of promo material RIM put out. If longevity is important to you, hold off on making that pre-order until RIM comes clean or a reviewer puts out a stress test.