19/12/2011 12:33 | By David Phelan, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

BlackBerry PlayBook tablet review

RIM's first tablet ticks a lot of boxes and a recent software upgrade now makes it a tablet to be reckoned with.

BlackBerry PlayBook (© RIM)

What is it?
RIM, maker of BlackBerry smartphones, has entered the tablet fray with a stylish seven-inch screen model.

What's great
Spiffy-looking hardware that's super-fast, with an appealing operating system and good battery life.

What's not
Still not enough apps.

The bottom line
This is a sumptuous tablet that ticks a lot of boxes. A recent update adds email and calendar capabilities that means this is now a force to be reckoned with.

If you've used a BlackBerry, you'll know that it's unbeaten for its fast, reliable email delivery and exceptional levels of security. So the arrival of a tablet from BlackBerry's maker, RIM, was cause for delight.

When the machine arrived, it was greeted with praise for its slim, beautiful hardware, magnificent high-resolution screen and deeply cool interface. But at launch it had one big downside, and it was an important one.

To use some features on the PlayBook, you needed a BlackBerry phone. So determined was RIM to maintain its unimpeachable security record, it set up some functions like email, contacts, calendar and more so the data would be kept on the phone and 'bridge' software would allow the user to access it from there.

So if you were in the same room as your BlackBerry, there was no problem. If someone walked off with your PlayBook, they didn't take any of your personal or business data with them. RIM's theory is that while your phone is likely to be in your pocket, it's tablets and PCs that get left behind on trains or swiped. The advantage is that you don't have to have a tablet with 3G access, the BlackBerry phone provides that.

All very well, but it was a baffling decision from a company known for providing such great email capabilities.
So things recently changed and now, thanks to an OS update, the PlayBook has its own client for email, calendar and so on.

BlackBerry PlayBook (© RIM)

Now, suddenly, this is a great piece of hardware. The power button was slightly too recessed on the early models, though this has been addressed. And realistically, you rarely need to press that button as you can wake the screen by stroking it, which is very cool. The display is very high resolution, managing more pixels per inch than any of its rivals apart from the HTC Flyer, which matches it. One glance and you can see it's impressive with a colourful, rich, detailed display that makes video look glorious.

The rubberised back makes the PlayBook comfortable to hold and the rectangular flat shape helps too. The camera, like the Sony Tablet S, manages 5MP and the smaller size means it's easier to hold for shooting video and still shots, too. There's a micro-HDMI socket so it's easy to play back video on a bigger TV, even if the TV isn't wi-fi enabled.

Then there's the interface. It uses a system that's very different from BlackBerry's quirky phone OS, called QNX. It's a tasteful and straightforward system that's fun to use. Touch an icon to launch it, then, when you're done, swipe your finger up the screen to minimise it. Leave it running in the background or swipe again to close it. It's very similar to the excellent system the HP TouchPad used and is both intuitive and enjoyable.

Apps are not BlackBerry's strongest card. The PlayBook started from scratch - none of the company's phone apps work on the tablet - so the existence of more than 10,000 or so of them now is still quite an achievement. Like on the phones, the apps aren't cheap. This situation will change soon, too, as BlackBerry has announced that Android apps will become compatible. For now, though, the range is unexceptional, though at least the PlayBook comes with decent word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software on board.

The PlayBook is a sensational piece of kit. It is a great tablet with lots going for it from its stylish looks to its amazing screen. The number of apps, at 10,000 and counting, is a big improvement but still not enough, though you're likely to find at least one app to do what you need. The compatibility of some Android apps, as they arrive, will make a big difference. It's compact and powerful and now, thanks to a series of price drops in the past few months, tremendously good value

4 stars

Essential info
Camera: 5MP
Video: 1080p
Display: TFT capacitive LCD touchscreen, 600 x 1024 pixels, seven-inches
Dimensions: 194 x 130 x 10mm
Internal Memory: 16/32/64GB storage, 1GB RAM
Card Slot: no
Colour: Black
Weight: 425g
Audio playback: 3.5mm Ear Jack & Speaker
Processor: 1GHz dual-core processor
Operating System: BlackBerry Tablet OS
Battery Life: Eight hours

What you said:
"The PlayBook is a really good, powerful and portable device... but do not expect to be downloading tons of cool apps like on the iPad" - 7daycashsystem

Compare prices for the BlackBerry PlayBook on Ciao

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