It’s pretty crazy to think that only a little over one year ago Apple introduced the iPad. Previous attempts at best tablet computing by numerous companies had been complete failures. But Apple seemed to “get it” with the iPad and took the consumer electronics industry by storm, almost as they had done with the iPhone in 2007.
Just as Google responded to the iPhone with Android and more recently Honeycomb on the Motorola Xoom to battle the iPad, RIM wants a piece of the exploding tablet market as well. With mind share rapidly declining for their BlackBerry smartphones, RIM needs to reinvent themselves to take on the likes of Apple and Google – not only in the tablet space, but the smartphone space as well.
With the introduction of the PlayBook, RIM is hoping to start their comeback while at the same time introduce consumers to their next-gen smartphone OS – the QNX OS.
The PlayBook is packaged in a really nice box, just as with RIM’s unbranded BlackBerrys. You also get a nice sleeve case for the PlayBook along with a dedicated micro-USB charger (which we really appreciate), and a micro-USB cable.
The front of the PlayBook is very clean, with the BlackBerry logo and name visible. A speaker sits on either side of the display, creating a nice symmetric look to the device. There’s also a small LED (as customary for a BlackBerry) and a front facing camera atop the display. Oddly, the LED only lights up while the PlayBook is first booting – it is not used as a notification light throughout the OS as with BlackBerry smartphones. This is pretty disappointing, and we hope RIM goes back to using the LED notification light properly in a future OS update.
Around back is the rear-facing shooter along with a chrome BlackBerry logo. The back is coated with a soft-touch material, which is really quite nice. Up top there are two holes for mics, the 3.5mm headphone jack, and the only physical buttons to the whole tablet right in the middle. RIM includes dedicated volume up/down buttons, as well as a play/pause button in the middle. These buttons work quite nicely and are easy to toggle while using the PlayBook. We did find ourselves hitting the the buttons at times when picking up the PlayBook, but that wasn’t a big deal.
The fourth and final physical button sits right next to the aforementioned media buttons – the absolutely horrendous power button. Not only is the power button entirely too small to be of any real use, it’s also flush with the device making it extremely hard to use. An entirely too large amount of force is required when trying to active the power button since it’s too small, flush (almost recessed even), and gives hardly any tactile feedback. It would’ve been nice if RIM had included a paperclip in the box for us to push the power button with.
Along the bottom are three ports. One is a dedicated fast-charge port for use with the fast charger or charging dock. Another is a standard micro-USB port for standard charging and syncing with a computer. The third and final is a standard micro-HDMI port for connecting the PlayBook to a TV for movie watching or presentation giving (the PlayBook’s display is mirrored over HDMI by default).