BlackBerry PlayBook

Hey everyone,

It’s been a while since I posted on here.

I’ve just got back from DroidCon UK 2011 and had a thoroughly good time. I will probably do a separate post later about the conference itself, but I was lucky enough to win a BlackBerry PlayBook while I was there and this post is about my impression of using my new toy. Basically BlackBerry had a stand there promoting their PlayBook, giving away two devices to those who dropped their business card in a pot. Now you may be wondering why BlackBerry was at an Android developers conference, well they’re releasing an Android ‘Player’ in the next PlayBook update which will mean that it can to run Android apps downloaded through it’s App World. Incidentally, the guy on the stand said that the update will be mid-November-ish.

Anyway, on with my impressions.

If I’m totally honest, when I got the email from the woman saying I’d won the PlayBook, I first thought it was spam, and then when realised it was real I then thought, how much are they fetching on eBay? Since then I’ve had a good play with it and can honestly say I’ve opinion has changed.

QNX (OS)

First off, QNX is not perfect and I’m not claiming it is, but neither is Honeycomb. So I’ll start with a list of things which I think are good:

  • Proper App Task Management. I know Android’s has its inbuilt automatic Task Manager, and the improved of the ‘Recent App’ List in Honeycomb 3.1 has helped things, but PlayBook allows you easily switch running apps. Think of how Windows Mobile used to work with the task list. Running apps are also shown in a nice carousel on the Home screen which finding them easy.
  • There are just two control gestures you need to know when using QNX: drag down from the top of the device to show the menu (context specific to whatever app you’re running), and drag up from the bottom to show the Home screen. That’s it.
  • It’s very fluid and feels quick.
  • The browser is quick. The one thing I’ve always disliked about Android is its browser rendering speed, especially when compared to iOS. Samsung seems to have fixed that in its devices through its proprietary BitmapWebView, but stock Android’s WebKit is fairly slow. The PlayBook’s rendering speed is closer to that of iOS than Android’s.

Here’s a list of things that niggle me:

  • No portrait mode for most Apps (including the Home screen).
  • Lack of apps. Which will hopefully be ’fixed’ with the coming Android Player.
  • No email client (even a simple IMAP one would do).
  • No calendar.

Hardware

BlackBerry has always excelled with its hardware, just look at its phones and the ergonomics it puts into its keyboards, so I expected the PlayBook to feel solid and it certainly feels it. I’m not going to talk much about this, but it’s definitely a good quality Tab in terms of build quality.

Final words

It has it’s short-comings, the main ones being lack of apps, both 3rd party apps and ones which should have been bundled with the device, but I do feel QNX is nice to use. Will I be ditching my Honeycomb tab anytime soon? No. The PlayBook is a good device, and QNX is a nice OS but it’s simplistic and feels rushed overall.