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BlackBerry PlayBook review



Our Score


User Score


  • Smaller size is easier to handle
  • Elegant design
  • Feature packed
  • Theoretically fast hardware


  • Performance too variable
  • Unstable
  • Limited app support
  • Requires BlackBerry phone for email

Review Price to be confirmed

Key Features: 7in, 1,024x600 pixel, capacitive touchscreen; 1GHz dual-core processor; QNX based custom operating system; Connects to BlackBerry Phones

Manufacturer: Research In Motion

Update: We've taken a second look at the BlackBerry PlayBook now that its price has dropped and its significant new firmware has been released. So before making your decision make sure to check that out.

The BlackBerry PlayBook is a schizophrenic tablet that will bring great joy to some users but utterly baffle others. For some tasks it outclasses almost all other tablets yet it lacks some of the most basic functions offered by every other alternative. Certainly if you're a BlackBerry phone owner it's going to be tempting but for the rest of us it may not be the best choice, until it gets updated.

Style isn't something the PlayBook struggles with. The bezel round its screen may be a tad chunky but otherwise the plain black glass covered front - with its subtle BlackBerry logo – is pure minimalist class. Likewise the matt black back is a lesson in muted elegance. Yes, it's all a bit staid but black has, and always will be, the "new black".

It's also a lovely device to handle. Where the iPad 2, with its 9.7in screen, feels too heavy and large for comfortable one-handed use the PlayBook's 7in form factor is much more manageable. This is also helped by the soft-touch finish of the back, which lives up to its description perfectly.

Talking specifics, the PlayBook has dimensions of 194 x 130 x 10 mm (HxWxD) and weighs in at 425g. In contrast the iPad 2 is 241.2 x 185.7 x 8.8 mm and 601g, and the Motorola Xoom – the flagship Android 3.0 tablet – is 249.1 x 167.8 x 12.9 mm and 730g. Clearly different people have different requirements for a tablet but to our minds the size of this device (shared with devices like the HTC Flyer and Samsung Galaxy Tab) has always been more desirable both for its out-and-about portability and its general round the house ease of use.

BlackBerry PlayBook 10

Connectivity is also decent. Along the bottom – the PlayBook is designed to be held in landscape mode – are sockets for miniHDMI, microUSB and a docking port. Pleasingly, RIM includes in the box cables for both the HDMI and microUSB sockets, which is still something of a rarity. You also get a rather nifty neoprene sleeve to keep the tablet protected.

BlackBerry PlayBook 11

Up top, along with the volume and power buttons, is a headphone jack. The only missing piece is a microSD slot for expanding the tablet's storage. This means, for instance, that you can't use a microSD to SD adapter like the OCZ Trifecta to take photos straight from your camera and load them onto the tablet.

What you get instead is a choice of 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of inbuilt storage. Sadly, while the 16GB version is competitively priced, at £357, the 32GB is set to cost £479 and the 64GB rises all the way to £559. There's no two ways about it; those prices are crazy! We'll talk more on price a little later, though.

BlackBerry PlayBook 8

Getting back to the physical controls, the volume buttons are nice and responsive – though given the tablet's landscape leanings, it would've been more sensible to have them on the sides, where your hands rest. Likewise, the tiny power button is a bit inconveniently placed, given it's used to lock and unlock the screen – something you do every time you pick the tablet up and put it down. More positive is the addition of a play/pause button nestled between the volume controls, which gives you quick access to halting and commencing your tunes – it would be particularly nice to see a double-tap of this opening the music player.

BlackBerry PlayBook 9

Above the screen is a 3-megapixel front facing camera along with an oddly prominent hole for the ambient light sensor that optionally controls the screen brightness. Meanwhile round the back is a 5-megapixel camera. Both will shoot 1080p video and all told they far outclass those of the iPad 2, though are about on-par with other premium tablets. Regardless, nice to have though they are, we're yet to be convinced of the use for cameras (particularly the rear facing one) on a tablet. Only with the application of some particularly clever apps may they come into their own, and we're yet to encounter any.

Of course video chat is one option for the cameras and this is available on the PlayBook. However, it only works from PlayBook to PlayBook.

Next page


May 20, 2011, 11:36 pm

Interesting review, I think the Playbook offers a different approach than that set out by the market leading Ipad.

I feel the playbook is horses for courses, it offers full flash support and allows the user to capitalise on the rich web experience offered without a dedicated app. Possibly being a blackberry user, I have a dislike for the clutter of many apps.

It's great to see a viable option instead of the ipad, since not all of us wish to be confined to the garden of propriety (and undenyable ingenuity) offered by the Cuppertino outfit!

It does interest me on the general attitude of the technology advance TR readers, are apps or a full web experience favoured??


May 21, 2011, 3:19 am

full web totally! Barely use the Facebook or YouTube apps on my Streak and prefer using the full website... or would do if Facebook hadn't recently broken their website in a recent update!


May 21, 2011, 4:04 am

How is this less proprietary than Apple? Because it has Flash? Well Flash is proprietary last time I checked...

As for the web vs apps, the web will never match the flexibility of apps, for example it's just not possible to create something like Garageband for the Web or heavy 3D games like Infinity Blade.

Even doing something simple like having different presenter and projector displays for a slideshow is impossible for web apps, as they don't control that part of the hardware.

As for clutter, if you have many web apps you also get the clutter of bookmarks. Don't see how that's any different.


May 21, 2011, 3:37 pm

Seriously - the 32GB costs £122 more than the 16GB?

When 16GB of flash memory has an end-user price < £16?

Tablet pricing continues to represent very poor value for the consumer and a license to print money for the manufacturers.

Given, though, the wafer-thin margins on commodity PCs (which nevertheless are seeing declining sales), maybe we should view tablet purchases as charitable donations to struggling manufacturers.

Wonder whether HMRC will allow us to claim Gift Aid?

Nav Garayal

May 21, 2011, 5:38 pm

Why has TR given this a 6, when applying an equal weighting of the scoring components would make it an average 7 at least?
In any case, the Playbook is magnificent. I can tether my blackberry with it and get on the go internet access with full 3G anywhere in the world which is something the ipad cant do as the ipad needs its own data plan which isnt cheap. I can drag and drop files effortlessly which you cant do with the ipdad. I can link it to my pioneer kuro and watch movies in HD straight out of the box - but with an ipad I need the expensive hdmi connector. I can watch TR video reviews and BBC news on the PLaybook but alas I cant on an ipad. I can play music from the playbook speakers with no distortion in stereo unlike the ipad. I am not too hung up about apps - I only have around 40 on my iphone and a lot of them crash especially when there is an OS update.A full web experience is better than an app - try using facebook,ebay,amazon,british airways, hilton hotels and compare the 2 platforms! Not bothered about games on the tablet - I have an XBOX 360 for that and playing games on my tablet on a business class flight just isnt the done thing. SO overall, based on screen size, build quality, screen quality, true multitasking, sound quality, video replay, tethering and syncing with my blackberry this is just magnificent. One last point, you can get a free blackberry with 1GB data usage for as little as £12 a month. This is a compelling reason in itself for a playbook especially when compared to the cost of an iphone.


May 22, 2011, 1:50 am

I think the playbook is actually a very forward looking device. Especially in a corporate environment to be an alternative to a typical IP Telephone. Lets hope the dock supports PoE (power over ethernet).


May 22, 2011, 2:07 am

@Nav Garyal
What are you talking about? Of course you can tether an Wifi iPad to any mobile which supports wifi hotspot mode, like the iPhone 4 or many Androids.

There's an fantastic app for BBC News too, yes it shows all the videos there. It's really good on the iPad and miles better than the website.

Also I completely disagree with the web being better for Facebook, Ebay and Amazon. They all work much better via apps, it's quite clear you've never tried them.

I'm sorry you can't play games when flying business class, I certainly can, not sure what's your problem. Do you just pretend to be working the entire flight? Nothing like a complimentary glass of champagne while playing World of Goo.

As for the £12 tariff, AFAIK that's a 24 month contract on Virgin with 50 minutes of calls and no BIS service (so you can't even have push email) and includes the Curve 8520, a 2 year old phone. Great deal that is LOL


May 22, 2011, 11:02 pm

I'd rather not have to be tied into a Blackberry to get proper use out of a Playbook. Major fail there.


May 22, 2011, 11:18 pm

Will Tr be updating this review as and when software updates to improve performance are released and tested? Or do you need to return this back to BlackBerry?

Nav Garayal

May 23, 2011, 4:19 pm

@GK, you have to PAY to use iphone tethering which you dont have to do with the blackberry.
Kindly, show me how you can use amazon seller on the amazon app or set up facebook groups on the iphone app?
I find it amusing how apple fan boys take huge offence to any criticism of apple devices and belittle the competition.
And for your information, I was given a free ipad 1 by a client and passed it on as it wasn't fit for my purpose.
Enjoy your ipad and I will enjoy my playbook.


May 23, 2011, 6:07 pm

@Nav Garyal

I echo GK.pm's comments. You'll pay for your roaming data whatever you tether it too. As for your pretence about Business Class, what a load of nonsense. People in business are just lucky they have companies that still have that policy or individuals with too many miles (like me) or a lot of money (not me)

Apps are clearly better that the web-site particularly in the cases you cite of Facebook, Ebay and in particular BA. They offer functionality you cannot get via a web browser.

The Playbook is flawed in concept. I wish RIM well in trying to make a success of it but I doubt they will.

Ala Miah

May 23, 2011, 6:43 pm

It look's so crap so for that reason alone I won't be buying it.

HP TouchPad is the tablet to wait for! looks like the best option so far!

p.s DevTeam - you need an option to go back to the review while editing, currently you have to click on review>review or homepage and then to the review.


May 24, 2011, 2:22 am

@Nav: I find it amusing how apple fan boys take huge offence to any criticism of apple devices and belittle the competition.

I don't beleive @Gk.pm was belittling anything, he was correcting you.
Also your comments seem odd, you make out your some sort of high flyer, and then complain about a £28 hdmi cable. Also seems odd you talking about App's crashing on the iPhone (a device somebody gave you was it?), from what I can gather the Playbook is a bit of a crash monster. So as Dell Boy would say, "Can you smell that?.."


May 24, 2011, 4:14 pm

@ Gk.PM

The BBC app on the ipad is better than the website? On the iPad maybe, because it's so limited with regards to video etc. If I am reading an interview or article and there is flash, I don;t want to have to leave the page to go and watch it in an app. That's a nonsensical statement, it really is.

Anyone who has used an ipad at length will agree that the web experience is limited, it doesn't matter how many apps you have in that regard.

How is the eBay app better? I run a business through eBay and you want me to use the listing tool that they have? The listings posted with eBay Mobile stand out a mile because they look terrible and amateurish. Be serious.

Apps are great, but they came about due to the limitations of the browser in a mobile device. They have moved on since then, but they are still inferior to the desktop experience for most users and most working scenarios.

I own two Macs, my business sells them, I've had every iphone, ipad and Apple device released since about 2004, so I do like their products. Your argument makes no sense to me.

I also have a Playbook, and as a huge webOS fan, I actually think it's the best tablet on the market. I don't use it for apps, I use it instead of a laptop to help run my business, and then in the evenings to read and surf the net. I could only do one of those two with an ipad. (Or even the iphone to be honest, as you still can't even flag a mail for follow up.)

And both of you, stop spouting rubbish about flying business class, it's silly and vulgar. My guess is that if either of you are even telling the truth, which I doubt as your comments and fanboyism make you sound too young, then neither of you are actually footing the bill for the flights.


May 24, 2011, 6:35 pm

>> Apps are great, but they came about due to the limitations of the browser

I'd have to disagree with that statement.

You could already create websites optimized for the iPhone, Apps gave you more than just a website, like offline editing, or even barcode scanner built (eg like the eBay App), instant alerts (no need to refresh pages), upload photos directly from phone. So I'd say the eBay App is far better than the website version. Also what you on about with eBay Mobile, the normal eBay even works on my iPhone so I assume the iPad should be fine.

btw. If you use eBay for selling a lot, are you doing this all via the website. Yuck!!, there are third party "APP"lication's that do this better, eg. Turbolister.


May 24, 2011, 10:23 pm

As it's been pointed out a well made app can do so much more than a website. If the Ebay Seller app is not up to your needs, I'm sure someone else will come along and create one using Ebay's APIs, or why not write one yourself and make some money?

Can't flag messages for follow up? Why not have a follow up mailbox, and just move the messages there? That's what I do. Maybe you just need to adapt a little?

I also don't get your problem with Business class, it's only vulgar to those who don't use it and the only silly thing were Nav's comments that you can't play games on it. I do a lot of long distance flying and am happy to top up the allowance my company gives me, be it with money or miles to make sure I get it.

On long flights it's a big difference, last time I got a whole 8 hours of work done in-flight thanks to in-seat power and general comfort. Paid for itself right there and I still arrived fresh as a lettuce. Plus you get lounge access, which is great when you have a 5 hours hold in Dubai for example, it's no fun waiting around in that airport, it's almost impossible to find a seat anywhere else.

As I only own one mac, and don't buy everything Apple released since 2004 maybe I can use all that saved money to making my travel more comfortable - hopefully without offending your sensibility?


May 24, 2011, 11:25 pm


Why would I go to the trouble of having a separate mailbox for flagged mail when I could just flag it? You solution is a workaround for a feature that should be present but isn't. I get about 500 mails a day, I being able to flag one in a few seconds and move on is much simpler.

I also fly business class, but I don't feel the need to mention it when I'm posting online. I also drive an expensive car, but that's totally irrelevant and no-one's business but mine, as I have worked hard for it.

Each to their own, but I've seen a lot of Apple apologists appear since the iphone arrived, and you sound just like one.


May 25, 2011, 2:00 am

Well because unlike flags mailboxes are actually a standard in Internet mail, so while I can swap over to just about any e-mail service you'll have to find one that caters to your flags.

On your second point you seem to have enjoyed - as it was unnecessary to support your argument - posting about your Apple purchases and expensive car so far. Is it just business class you don't like to mention? I, on the other hand, was just commenting on Nav's own bizarre assumption that one couldn't play games when flying that.

On your third point I find it funny how people's defence to technical arguments these days is to go and label the other as a *boi as if that somehow makes their own argument superior. It's a very convenient, I have to admit.

But you're completely wrong in the timing, I was using Macs since OS 9 (which I hated compared to Linux), only started liking them with OSX 10.1. As you seem to know that's still well before the iPhone.

ps: Oh, don't bother stating you have an expensive house in the next reply, by the way this was going I can already sense you do.


May 25, 2011, 2:09 am

Did you not think to look for an alternative Email Client if Apple's built in one is not good enough? eg. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/emailganizer-pro-intelligent/id405732706?mt=8

ps: It was @Nav Garayal not @GK who started the fly business class debate, just in case you missed that bit.

Nav Garayal

May 25, 2011, 1:32 pm

Its a worrying for humanity how people acquire material items in a futile attempt to make themselves feel better about themselves.This is the problem with apple fan boys. Because apple products look good, then any criticism is taken as criticism of the fanboy and explains their wild and irrational reactions.Can I suggest yoga as a great way to counter this state of mind. Now, my first experience of apple products was the early 80s when my father used to bring his Mac home during the holidays and i loved spending hours on macpaint and macdraw. For nostalgia, I have every right to be a fan boy.However, I also recognise the weaknesses in their products and have every right to comment accordingly. I own an iphone, used an ipad1 but ultimately ended up with a playbook and i love it. end of. to claim that apps are superior to a web experience overall is nonsense. And yes, I use business class and maintain that a fellow passenger holding their ipad like a steering wheel looks quite daft. deal with it and move on.


May 25, 2011, 1:52 pm

I do find some of these cultural norms a bit odd. Playing Angry Birds (or whatever) on an iPad is perfectly acceptable behaviour in economy class and in first class, but not in between the two in business class. Weird.

In any event what the review made quite clear to me - and what the comments above have made even clearer - is that the Playbook is actually trying to appeal to an entirely different market from the iPad rather than going head-to-head with it, and that it seems to be making a decent job of it. Which would mean the sort of factors that've led tech sites to mark it down may not matter so much to its sales. It strikes me that that's a very sensible strategy. The tablet market will be all the better for having different tablets trying to appeal to different sections of the market, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach.


May 25, 2011, 2:59 pm

@Nav Garayal: Its a worrying for humanity how people acquire material items in a futile attempt to make themselves feel better about themselves.

And yet it was you who started that trend -> playing games on my tablet on a business class flight just isnt the done thing. Oh really, wot wot.

@Nav Garayal: To claim that apps are superior to a web experience overall is nonsense.

Now your just making a fool of yourself. Claiming that HTML/Javascript/CSS gives a superior user experience to an APP that has more direct access to the device's hardware is just plain stupid. And this doesn't just go for iOS, Android is the same, even PC's Application's give better user experience, eg. Ebay/Turbolister.

Maybe your not tech savvy for App's, and moving away from websites takes you out of your comfort zone.


May 25, 2011, 5:45 pm

All that talk about material items and then you have an iPhone, Blackberry and Playbook? I'm confused now, is it you who is looking to feel good about yourself?

I already do Yoga - but thanks for the suggestion - mainly because I have to spend so much of my time with people like you. I have to say I already look forward to this week's class.

I'm all for people having the devices they like, so wish you all the best with your Playbook.

You also have every right to comment on whatever you want just as others have a right to comment when you're essentially spouting off lies (like tethering) or stating personal opinions as universal truth such as saying the web is a better experience than apps.

By the way have you found a good web replacement for that MacPaint? That's 27 years old, should be easy right?

Nav Garayal

May 26, 2011, 4:16 pm

@GK- yoga is a daily activity not weekly.and it clearly has not been beneficial for you based on your shoot from the hip comments. i urge you to do it everyday - preferably first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
Secondly, read my comments again - you can tether for free with a blackberry and playbook but if you have an iphone linked to an ipad there is a charge for tethering - is this a lie? NO.
furthermore, i stated that BA, Hilton, Facebook and Amazon apps are limited and the web experience is better. Is this untrue? NO because you cannot book flights/hotel/change flights/set up facebook groups/sell items on the app but CAN through the web experience.
@Keithe6e - you dont need to be tech savvy to see the limitations of apps. and yes I am a high flyer as I do around 40 flights a year. I have a blackberry from my employer for call quality/email. I have a personal phone with music player (in this case iphone) and I was given the playbook as a gift and love it for the reasons given in my original comment.


May 26, 2011, 8:18 pm

@Nav Nav Garayal: You do know that a web browser is in fact an App, because designers of App's don't implement a feature has nothing to do with the difference between App's & Websites, and like I pointed out a few times already App's can often give you more features, like been able to upload directly from built in camera say to facebook, push notifications etc. Remember designers of an App can make them as feature rich as they choose, IOW: compared to Websites there are no limitations apart from what the App designer implements. So -> "A full web experience is better than an app," is totally incorrect. So if BA/Ebay etc are missing features, blame the developer, not the technology. Oh, re-read @GK comments again on tethering, I think the bit about Wi-Fi you missed, technically he shouldn't be calling it tethering though so I suppose that's were some confusion has come in.

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