CES 2011 Hands-on: BlackBerry PlayBook

Sections: CES, Communications, Mobile, Trade Shows

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RIM BlackBerry PlayBook

It’s been a while since the PlayBook was announced, and at CES we’re finally able to get out hands on it. After a few short minutes I remain impressed by the device. It may actually convince me that seven inches is a good size for tablets.

Unfortunately RIM had the PlayBook locked down onto a stand so I wasn’t able to get a true feel for the device’s weight. The experience seemed fantastic, however. Running multiple apps was very smooth, even multiple graphics-based apps. It worked just like WebOS, to close an app simply swipe it up off the screen, or there’s a tiny “x” under the app that you can press to close it. That seems to be a theme of the PlayBook: there’s multiple ways to do everything. There’s two ways to close apps, two ways to look through open apps.

Also taking a note from WebOS, the bezel of the PlayBook is touch sensitive, with swiping towards the screen from any direction bringing up something. From left or right brings the apps into the card-like view for switching, up from the bottom brings you to the home screen, and down from the top is a menu. Even the corners have actions: bottom left brings up keyboard from anywhere, even if you’re watching a video; top left brings up the time, battery, WiFi and setting top bar; I couldn’t figure out what top and bottom right did. If that seems like a lot to memorize, that’s because it is. In practice over time it might become second nature but for the few minutes I had, I was fumbling a bit.

Despite the controls being a bit convoluted, I enjoyed just about everything else. The screen was bright and clear, with a fairly high resolution, I wasn’t playing spot the pixels like I do on my iPad all the time. The graphics on the apps were impressive, even if the most exciting one was essentially a video of Quake III. Typing was a bit awkward, but I could just as easily blame that on the angle RIM had the device set at. The dual HD cameras seemed pretty good, with some interesting options including close-up and whiteboard.

After finally getting some hands-on time with the PlayBook I am still excited about it. Not sure if I’d consider buying it at this point, we’ll have to wait for a price point announcement.

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