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48 Hours With the PlayBook: 6 Things I've Learned

Apr 24 2011, 12:25pm CDT | by , in News | Tablets

48 Hours With the PlayBook: 6 Things I've Learned
 
 

Only one big glitch, so far.


I've been the owner of a brand new 16 GB BlackBerry Playbook for less than 48 hours at this point. It arrived at my home early Friday morning. That afternoon, it was hooked into my car speakers as I blasted down the interstate headed for the green rolling plains of central Texas. Though it's only been in my possession for a few hours, I've already come to several conclusions about RIM's 7" slate. And here they are:

1. 7" Is a Perfect Size...For Some Things.

The most surprising thing about the PlayBook is how tiny it seems compared to my iPad. Browsing on the smaller display is much more cramped than on the iPad. That said, the browsing experience isn't much worse. The PlayBook would be a perfectly comfortable device for extended surfing or e-reading. The lighter weight is nice, but what really makes the PlayBook ideal is how well it fits in your hand.

But if I have my preference? I'll take the iPad's larger screen and more awkward size, eight times out of ten.

2. The PlayBook is Not Pocket-Friendly.

One nice thing about smaller tablets is that they are much easier to store and carry. The PlayBook is small enough to fit in a healthy front pocket. If you have cargo pants/shorts, you're golden. The inner pocket of a jacket is likely to fit as well. That said...the PlayBook is terribly inconvenient for pocket-carry.

See, RIM thoughtfully included a play/stop button and forward/backward skip buttons on the top of the PlayBook. This would be a fantastic feature...if the buttons weren't triggered by the slightest jostle. Even with nothing else in my pocket, the play button would somehow get tapped and music would begin to blare from my pants. The only way to make your tablet pocket-safe is to exit out of the music app before holstering.

3. The Unlock Button isn't as Bad as Claimed.

Most early PlayBook reviews harped on the unlock switch as one major flaw in the tablet's design. And I'll admit- it isn't great. But it also isn't notably worse than the iPad's unlock switch. Quite frankly, I consider it a non-issue. RIM can- and should- improve things with the next iteration, but the PlayBook's unlock button is far less irritating than I expected.

4. The PlayBook May Have a Master Volume Glitch:

Before I started my drive, I spent several minutes struggling to connect my PlayBook with a set of Bluetooth speakers. Though everything was connected properly I could not get any sound to play. Eventually, I realized that the solution is simply to go into Settings and tap the master volume control. It doesn't seem to matter whether I turn it up or down, so long as I alter it.

This has happened three times so far, which leads me to suspect it is not an isolated issue. It may simply be an issue with my unit. Any other PlayBook owners are welcome to respond in the comments with their own experiences.

5. RIM has the best UI...but Apple has ALL the Apps:

I love the PlayBook's edge-to-edge touch interface and gesture-based control scheme. This is how I want to communicate with EVERY touchscreen device. Even iOS seems clunky by comparison, with its menu boxes and 'back' buttons.

That said, my early opinion is that the PlayBook is a beautiful girl, all dressed up for the prom with no date or transportation. Sure, she's lovely. But unless she finds someone to drive her to the dance, no one can appreciate that.

The PlayBook needs a much, much more developed app ecosystem. And it also needs a better suite of pre-installed applications. The iPad 2 had FaceTime to capture our imaginations and delight prospective buyers playing around in the Apple Store. The PlayBook doesn't have much of a 'wow' factor right now, unless you're a hardware geek.

6. 1 GB of RAM on a Mobile Device is Freaking Glorious:

What more needs to be said here? I can run my browser, my notes, a game, an HD movie and also email photos to my Gmail account without noticing any slow-down. RIM did multitasking right.


First Conclusions: The PlayBook is a device with extraordinary promise, hobbled by a host of flaws. Some of those will go away with the next software update, but others (the App Situation) will prove more difficult for RIM to overcome. I hope they do though, because the PlayBook deserves a real shot. It's an impressive device, and the first thing in two years that's made me think RIM may have some inkling of what customers want these days.

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