Dialaphone recently sent me a 16gb Blackberry PlayBook to review. As I have been busy with new baby Sydney, DaddyGeek has adopted the new gadget, and he has reviewed it. Here’s what he thought:

As an iPad user from day 0, it is inevitable that any tablet I use will be compared to that.  Generally speaking, they usually fall short in my opinion.  The Blackberry Playbook however has one major advantage over the iPad – Price.  At an RRP of £169, it’s less than half the price of an iPad.

Upon taking delivery, I excitedly opened the box to find something unusual for an non-Apple product.  The packaging is very simplistic, even ‘Classy’.  The same theme continues inside the box – there’s no huge manuals featuring every language under the sun, nor any disks to be installed.  A few neatly packed cables (charger etc) and the Playbook itself – which comes inside a trendy (and useful!) pouch.

The Playbook itself feels solid, a 7 inch screen housed in a metal housing with rubberised back makes it feel comfortable to hold.  When you hold and feel it, it has a feeling akin to a much more expensive device.

The screen itself displays a 1024×600 resolution, and colours are vibrant.  The viewing angle is also impressive, and important feature if you ever decide to watch videos with it.  I was surprised to find the touchscreen was very responsive – my previous encounters with non-Apple tablets had left me frustrated, but the Playbook is on-par with the iPad.  An impressive feature is the touch sensitive bezel, allowing you to swipe up or down from the screen edge – an innovative way of maximising screen space, and reducing the need for buttons on the front.

Battery life was ok, though not exceptional.  Even on standby, it didn’t last more than a few days (compared to the 25-30 I get with an iPad). For most people, this is unlikely to cause an issue though.  Battery life with continuous use was sufficient to last throughout a working day, which again is fine for most people.

The rear camera claims to record in full 1080p HD, and whilst the quality is sufficient, it’s not remarkable. The front camera, at 3MP, fairs worse – adequate for video calling, but not much more.

The Playbook does not have a 3G option, which means you’ll need WiFi or a Blackberry Smartphone to access online apps such as email or the web browser.

The operating system itself is actually quite good, the aforementioned swipe navigation being the most innovative aspect in my opinion.  The initial boot-up appears extremely slow, with little in the way of user feedback to let you know it’s still working – my initial impression was that I had a ‘dud’.  Once up and running though, applications and menus all display quickly and fluidly.

There are some odd limitations, such as not being able specify between IMAP and POP email accounts, and no support for copy and paste.  If you’re used to the Blackberry way of managing email and contacts, you’ll feel at home using the Playbook, whereas anyone else may have a slight learning curve.

I found the in-built web browser to be, quite frankly, shocking.  It does support Adobe Flash, for now at least (Adobe are discontinuing it after the current version), but there appears to be some major rendering issues with a lot of websites. The browser identifies itself as a desktop browser too, so unless you manually visit a mobile-optimised version of a website, you’re likely to be stuck with the full version – which can be a problem on a 7 inch screen.  In my own tests, the browser identified itself as Safari (Apple’s Browser), which I found odd and made it harder to debug issues with my own site showing on the Playbook.

The biggest problem with the Playbook is the lack of Apps. You won’t find an official Twitter App or Skype for example. There are apps for document creation, such as word processing and spreadsheets, but none (that I could find) that support cloud-based file sharing such as Dropbox.  It won’t take you long to browse the entire App store here, and chances are you’re not going to fill much of the 16GB space on the Playbook with Apps.

In summary, the Blackberry Playbook is solid from a hardware perspective.  The user interface is pleasant to use, and were it not for the appalling browser, I could see it as a good option for bloggers on the move. Fortunately, the shortcomings with the Playbook are all software based – so these are issues that could be rectified with future updates.

When the Playbook originally launched last year, the RRP was on par with the likes of the iPad 2.  Had pricing remained at that level, I’d be telling you to run for the hills, and don’t look back!  But, at £169, it’s good value despite it’s shortcomings.  One would hope that with such aggressive pricing, RIM will sell these by the truckload, which should convince more developers to release apps – which, in turn will no doubt address the issues I found with it.

If you can afford an iPad, I’d still recommend one over anything else available at present.  But, if you want something even more portable, and on a budget – the Playbook is probably the next best option right now.

Overall, I give the playbook 3/5

This is not a sponsored post. I was sent the PlayBook to review, but all words and opinions are my own, and I was not paid to feature this post.

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