BlackBerry PlayBook Reviews: Good Hardware, Needs More Software

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Early reviews of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet are trickling in, with a generally positive reception of the hardware and dings against the lack of not only commonly built-in apps—there’s no native e-mail app, for instance—but a lack of apps in general.

The software seems to be a bit buggy in some areas as well, but RIM’s been pushing out updates relatively frequently. As such, several of the reviewers have taken a wait-and-see approach, in the hopes that many of the PlayBook’s kinks will get worked out by its April 19th availability date.

Here are some quick snippets of the PlayBook’s early reviews:


“We have hardware that looks and feels great but isn’t being fully served by the software. And, ultimately, we have a tablet that’s trying really hard to please the enterprise set but, in doing so, seems to be alienating casual users who might just want a really great seven-inch tablet…

Right now, the BlackBerry PlayBook is a tablet that will come close to satisfying those users who gravitate toward the first word in its name: BlackBerry. Those who were more excited about the ‘play’ part would be well advised to look elsewhere, at least until Android compatibility joins the party. Then, well, anything could happen.”

CNET – 3.5 out of 5

“It’s a welcome addition to a tablet landscape that has been devoid of professionally-oriented products (outside of Windows 7 slates). And it’s an important competitive gesture to both Apple and Google that a third way is possible and that there are still interesting and innovative things to be done in this space.

Is the PlayBook going to take a big bite out of the tablet market? Probably not, but then, few have. We feel confident saying that it is a much more enticing product than any of the 7-inch tablets we’ve seen so far (Samsung Tab, Dell Streak 7, Archos 70). It’s a sure hit for the BlackBerry loyal, and a tempting option for those who prefer an uncompromising Web experience to the allure of apps and games.” – 2.5 out of 5

“The good news is that the user interface for the new BlackBerry Tablet OS is beautiful, graceful, and operates with a simplicity that rivals that of the Apple iPad 2 and bests the Motorola Xoom’s oft-cluttered screens. The bad news is that, at launch, there’s a lot missing. First, there’s no native e-mail support. (Didn’t the RIM usher in the era of mobile e-mail with the BlackBerry?) The PlayBook also suffers from a dearth of compelling—or smooth-functioning—apps. Then there’s the absence of should-be-standard features—why include a front-facing camera, but no video-chat app? Updates, RIM promises, will bring much of what’s missing to the PlayBook in the near future. Throw in some better app selection, too, and the PlayBook may be worth revisiting down the road, but right now, it’s unfinished.”

New York Times

You should also know that even now, only days before the PlayBook goes on sale April 19, the software is buggy and still undergoing feverish daily revision. And the all-important BlackBerry Bridge feature is still in beta testing. It’s missing important features, like the ability to view e-mail file attachments or click a link in an e-mail.

If all of this gets fixed, the apps arrive, and the PlayBook can survive this year’s onslaught of rival tablets, then it may one day wind up in the pantheon of greats. For now, there are too many features that live only in R.I.M.’s playbook — and not enough in its PlayBook.”


“The BlackBerry PlayBook gets a lot right, but it also feels very much like a work in progress. It could shine in the future, but for now it’s constrained by its limited app selection, software glitches, and choices in functionality or design that should limit the PlayBook’s popularity among consumers. Businesspeople who already depend on BlackBerry phones should value both the way those phones will interact with the Playbook and the built-in security of the platform–and for that audience, those capabilities will override many of the PlayBook’s other weaknesses.

Note: Since the Playbook’s software is still being updated in advance of its launch, PCWorld is holding its rating until April 19.”


“In a lot of ways, the PlayBook is more polished and usable in its beta state than the Motorola Xoom, and it’s straight-up the best seven-inch tablet out there (though in the tango between between portability and size, I think 10 inches is still the best). At the same time, I don’t think anyone should buy it right now—BlackBerry user or otherwise—for at least a few months, to see if the platform has enough legs to carry itself to where it needs to be. If the apps do arrive to fill in the gaps, then the PlayBook is totally going to be a tablet to check out. The foundation is solid—I can’t wait to see the first phones running this software—it just needs some stuff built on top of it before you can decide whether or not you should move in.”

Wired – 6 out of 10

“The bottom line: It’s a well-constructed device with great media-viewing capabilities, solid hardware specs and a price on par with the current tablet market. But with serious gaps in key areas like app selection and Flash stability, you may want to think twice before picking one up.”

Boy Genius Report

“I can’t help but feel like the PlayBook, as it stands now, is an unfinished product. The hardware is there but the software is buggy at times, and the apps are severely lacking and almost non-existent in terms of quality. While the Web browser is extremely solid, with no native email or calendar or contact apps, the PlayBook isn’t a very good standalone product. This should all change in the coming months thanks to the free software update, and what’s even better is RIM no longer has to go through carriers to push updates out since this model doesn’t have a carrier partner — we should see software updates fast and often RIM told me. I just don’t see a killer app on the PlayBook, and that’s the real problem. It does a lot of things, but it doesn’t do 90% of things better than an iPad 2 or a XOOM.”


“Android tablets have a worthy rival in the PlayBook. It lacks the overall polish of the iPad 2, but give it a little time and RIM could get the hardware and experience right. Even with this first release, it is among my top three tablets picks. I am glad they are in the market and will prove to be a worthy competitor.

Disappointed as I am in the limited number of apps, the deal-breaker for me is the lack of independent communication tools. I understand that RIM wants to sell more BlackBerry devices (just as Apple wants the halo effect for its other gadgets), but to leave out a standalone email client makes little or no sense.”


“The PlayBook is a reasonable experiment for RIM, but I need to see more to really recommend the tablet. We’ve been burned one too many times by companies serious about this market that have just fallen short on promises to keep things updated (ahem, Microsoft, Palm). RIM is hinting at something new every 6 – 8 weeks, and if that’s truly the cadence then we very well might see the PlayBook turn into a significant player by the end of the year.”


“As a whole, I’d say that RIM’s first attempt at an entirely new product is a valiant effort. The problem they face is the same one that everyone in the space faces: Apple.

Is the PlayBook comparable to the iPad? No. Between the (lack of) app support and the wonky web browsing, there’s just no way around that fact. But RIM was smart to make the PlayBook a completely different form factor and give it BlackBerry Bridge to appeal to corporate users. So in that regard, there could be significant interest in this device.”


“So did 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. But you never know. With some hustle in the form of software updates adding more features like native email, PIM and Video Chat, it might be able to round third. And if RIM can get some more momentum going for the PlayBook on the app front, be it from native BlackBerry app developers or its support for Android apps, it might even have a shot at sliding into home plate.”

All Things Digital

“[U]nless you are constantly glued to a BlackBerry phone, or do all your email, contacts and calendar tasks via a browser, I recommend waiting on the PlayBook until more independently usable versions with the promised additions are available.”

More on

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