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BlackBerry PlayBook Hands-On

The first aspect to this is its dual-core CPU that makes it really speed along. Of course, with the just announced LG Optimus 2X and Motorola Atrix smartphones also sporting dual core chips, the PlayBook's lustre has been tarnished a little but nonetheless its an impressively nippy device. You can watch RIM's presentation in the video below.
While playing with it we were able to load multiple webpages with Flash video, a Quake II 3D game demo, a 1080p video, and a number of other less demanding apps all at the same time. And when we say same time, we really mean it as the interface allows you to see your open apps running in the background through the card based multi-tasking interface. Even with all this lot running the interface itself still remained responsive.

The other potential big sell for the PlayBook could also prove its largest downfall. RIM has chosen to use a proprietary operating system, rather than Android (or some other established alternative), which is going to limit availability of apps in the short term and probably the long term too.

BlackBerry's answer to this issue is to point out that you get a full browsing experience on the PlayBook so you don't need apps, which is a statement that has some truth in it, but for certain things a neat dedicated app is much more preferable, at least until website designers more readily embrace tablet/touch friendly interfaces.

The software itself isn't fully finished yet, either, so while it mostly presented an easy to use and responsive interface, the devices we played with had a few screen calibration issues and we did manage to crash one as well. Nonetheless, what we did see was impressive.

The overall look and feel is a cross between HP's WebOS and Android with the top two thirds of the desktop being blank by default, ready to accommodate app cards but along the bottom are shortcuts to apps. These shortcuts are arranged into types with All, Internet, Media and Gaming options on offer and a maximum of six apps being available per category. Swipe upwards from these shortcuts and you get the full list of apps within that category.

The app cards will stack from left to right and can be scrolled through by simple flicks. Swipe an app card upwards and it closes the app while tapping it makes it full screen. Swipe in from the right bezel and you take an app from fullscreen to a card.

It all works rather well though, like the Galaxy Tab, it doesn't quite have the smoothness of the iPad.

The onscreen keyboard seemed very easy to use, with a good layout and style. However, the screen calibration issues meant it was a bit temperamental. Likewise navigating the web through up some issues as you couldn't manage to tap a link accurately.

All the core apps seem to be slickly presented and actually have quite a classy style to them. However, there are a few omissions with GoogleMaps being an obvious one for the time being.

Overall though, if BlackBerry can iron out the few glitches we encountered it looks at the very least to to have created a very competent device. If it can then get developers on board creating lots of apps for it, and the company can tap into its corporate smartphone market, it could have a real winner on its hand. If not, it does seem likely that android based competition will make things difficult for the PlayBook. Available some time in Q1 2011 we hopefully shouldn't have too long to find out which way things have swung.

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