It’s been roughly a year since the Blackberry Playbook saw the light of day. At the time of release, the unit had top-notch hardware, a fancy new operating system, and an iPad mimicking $499 starting price. Fast forward a year, and the units can be had as low as $199 at the local bargain bin. But even at fire sale prices, should consumers care?
Hardware: Like most hardware at the Blackberry high-end, the Playbook has a premium feel that bests most of its direct competition. The unit packs a 7” IPS display, as well as cameras front and back. The screen has excellent color and viewing angles, while the rear camera at 5MP, records full 1080P video. Viewing the recorded video from a PC, or television, shows excellent color and detail on par with a mid range point-and-shoot.
Other hardware highlights include a 1Ghz dual core processor, 1GB of RAM, dual mics for stereo recording, stereo speakers, and micro-HDMI out. Engadget’s tests peg battery life on the device at 7 hrs. For those keeping score, these hardware specs, sans the lesser quality display, match pretty closely those of the New iPad.
Software: The Playbook runs it own “Playbook OS”, which is based on QNX. With a 2012 update to version 2 of the software, Blackberry added the ability to run Android apps on the device. Doing this however is not easy, and proves useless for a typical consumer.
Navigating the device is a pleasure using the devices card interface; the Playbook draws heavily from HP WebOS in that regard. Users can slide and swipe to toggle between and close out apps. Multitasking on the device was a dream and a much better experience than both iOS and Android.
Visiting the Playbook App Store unfortunately is where the experience begins to come apart. The store has a number of high quality applications and games, but only a fraction of those on competing platforms. Customers looking to use Instagram, Hulu+, or Kindle among hundreds of others, need not apply. Casual users and gamers should feel quite at home on the device. The game selection on the device was a bright spot – with searches for Angry Birds returning every possible iteration.
Verdict: Even a year later, the Blackberry Playbook has excellent hardware, an outstanding interface, and for the casual user, is an overall excellent value at $199. Unfortunately for Blackberry, it doesn’t matter much the quality of hardware, since it continues lack the breadth of applications that other platforms support. It is easiest to summarize the Playbook in saying that ‘it’s not an iPad’, or ‘it’s not the one my friends have’.
Score: 8 / 10