updated 10:00 pm EDT, Wed April 13, 2011
BlackBerry PlayBook reviews show rushed launch
The first wave of BlackBerry PlayBook reviews has emerged and suggested that RIM's first tablet had been rushed to market too soon. Its already known missing (though coming) onboard e-mail and messaging clients were seen as glaring omissions, but it was clear RIM had numerous major apps that were promised later, including video chat, photo sharing, and emulators for BlackBerry phone apps plus Android. David Pogue in his review for the New York Times found that RIM was in a "feverish daily revision" even days before launch and would have a hard time convincing early buyers.
"For now, the PlayBook’s motto might be, 'There’s no app for that,'" he wrote. "Remember, the primary competition is an iPad -- the same price, but much thinner, much bigger screen and a library of 300,000 apps. In that light, does it make sense to buy a fledgling tablet with no built-in e-mail or calendar, no cellular connection, no videochat, Skype, no Notes app, no GPS app, no videochat, no Pandora radio and no Angry Birds?"
In a more specific breakdown of individual apps, Engadget noted that there were specific repeatable crash bugs that suggested the device simply hadn't been tested properly at RIM. The browser would often close without warning if there were a significant number of apps. BlackBerry Bridge worked for seeing e-mail and messaging, but a browser feature to tether the connection would always crash on start.
Both that site's tests and extra benchmarks from the WSJ also revealed that RIM's claims of iPad-level battery life were false. Battery life ranged between five to seven hours, significantly short of the real-world 10 hours of the iPad and iPad 2. It wasn't evident if this was part of an inherent design trait or due to the lack of optimization.
Praise was still common in key areas. The browser, while seen as much slower by CNET, was not only accurate but one of the few capable of properly handling Flash. Walt Mossberg of the WSJ noted that he "couldn't find a Flash video the PlayBook couldn't handle" and that even Flash-only pages, normally torture tests for Android devices, worked smoothly.
All were usually complimentary of the PlayBook's hardware design, noting its slick construction, the "beautiful" screen, and the ease of holding it in the hand compared to the larger iPad or Xoom. The bezel-based gesture navigation was essentially pilfered from HP's webOS but was relatively intuitive. Media syncing is initially drag-and-drop but, in a rarity on any other platform, can sync content wirelessly. Multitasking is its strong point, and both the interface and the responsiveness are usually ideal.
The reaction was nonetheless such that it led even the verdict from a BlackBerry fan site such as CrackBerry to offer a mixed impression. The good hardware execution was hurt by software that "doesn't fully reflect the potential" of what RIM can do.
"Sid 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... As a BlackBerry fan and somebody who wants to see RIM hit nothing but pure homeruns, I'm of course a little choked up over the PlayBook's first at bat performance. There's no doubt it has some raw talent and killer moves that are going to attract some fans and loud cheers from the crowd..., but to be a real superstar it's going to have to mature a little more and roundout [sic] its skill set."