BlackBerry PlayBook review

RIM is taking on the tablet market with its enterprise-focused PlayBook, but just how could it transform your business? We take a look in our extensive review.

If you're an existing BlackBerry Torch/Blackberry 6 OS user, the UI will seem familiar. There are tabs along the bottom of the home screen including All apps, Favorites, Media and Bridge. You just tap on any of these to bring up a fuller app listing.

What's more unusual is the incorporation of the touch sensitive bezel into the multitouch gestures. If you're in an app, swipe upwards from the bottom bezel to launch your other apps from a tray along the bottom of the screen. Along the top of the screen, you'll find minimised windows for all your currently open apps to close one tap the close button or swipe the app window upwards.

Swipe in from either the left or right bezel to switch to another open app directly. Swipe down the top bezel to see either the system-wide settings menu or the settings for your current app, if applicable. It can take a little while to get used to these gestures, but you soon become very accustomed to them. We never found ourselves accidentally activating the gestures.

The big disadvantage of not having a physical home button is that there's no easy way to quit an app if it freezes and the touch sensitive bezel becomes unresponsive. Aside from rebooting the entire tablet using the small, fiddly power button, that is.

True multitasking?

Multitasking is managed through the home screen. When you head to the home screen from any application, the page you're in will minimise and line up with any other open apps. Each of these is a live view, so if you're watching a video, it will continue to play even if the app isn't filling the whole screen. Swiping between them is speedy, but does slow down if the apps you have open are memory intensive.

Apart from this hiccup, the PlayBook feels smooth and fast thanks to its 1GB of RAM, a 1GHz dual-core processor and 16GB of storage for apps, media and files. That should be plenty for the average user.

Multitasking

We found apps ran much faster than on similar-specced tablets. We did have a couple of blank screen moments, however, but these were easily rectified by returning to the home screen and closing the offending app.

At the time of review, we found third-party application availability to be a little scarce.

The preinstalled browser on the PlayBook is one of the best we've used on a tablet. Although the small screen can make some text appear small, it's easy to pinch to zoom in and the rest of the experience itself is seamless.

For starters, everything renders as it does on a desktop and it's fast. You can add any number of tabs, which all have a live view, just like the multitasking live tiles. The tabs are all ordered underneath the top toolbar just swipe down from the top bezel or tap the toolbar button to see them all.

The presence of Adobe Flash Player means the PlayBook's browser can access many websites that are off-limits to the iPad. Unfortunately, while some Flash videos played back smoothly, others dropped so many frames that they became unwatchable slide shows, including some of the videos on IT PRO. The online Flash-based apps we tried ran more smoothly, but some were still very sluggish.

At the time of review, we found third-party application availability to be a little scarce. App World has been revamped to fit on the Playbook's larger screen, allowing you to quickly find the app you're looking for, but there are noticeably fewer apps in this store in comparison to the iPad App Store.

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