The BlackBerry PlayBook’s screen is excellent. With a resolution of 1,024 x 600 pixels it doesn’t have quite as many dots as an iPad but thanks to its smaller size it looks much sharper. Colours are also punchy, there’s a decent depth to dark colours and, key for a tablet, viewing angles are excellent. Videos and pictures in particular look superb. We sometimes found text scaling to be a bit iffy, making some text a bit blurry, but this is very much dependent upon which apps we were using.
Also impressive, in fact downright flabbergasting, are the speakers. Unlike most tablets, RIM has equipped the PlayBook with stereo speakers that fire from two thin grilles on either side of the screen. These add a huge amount of enjoyment to videos, games and music simply because you actually have the absorbing affect of stereo (rather than mono). But what’s more, the quality of the speakers is exceptional. Clarity is a cut above, you actually get some semblance of bass, and max volume is incredible.
The headphone jack also provides noise-free audio quality. It even pauses your music or video when you remove your headphones, which is a trick we’re always pleased to see. Oddly, though, upon re-inserting your headphones, the audio player will commence playing at the start of the next track. Who knows why? Not us.
Thus far performance has been impressive but when it comes to interface, the PlayBook has a bit of a wobble. Inside the tablet is a dual-core 1GHz Texas Instruments OMAP4 chipset, which in terms of capability is roughly the same as that used on most of the current crop of dual-core tablets (It has two Cortex A9 CPUs and a hefty PowerVR SGX540 GPU). With a decent 1GB of RAM to back it up, it certainly seems to tick all the performance boxes. However, while in some ways it does, on other fronts it simply doesn’t cut it.
General navigation is swift with menu elements smoothly gliding around and basic apps and system properties loading rapidly. Graphically impressive games are also handled with ease as is high quality HD video. However, a few things cause it to come a cropper. The worst is the web browser where simply scrolling around and zooming in and out is a clunky, stuttering process. This is very much the fault of the web browser rather than the system overall but it is a trait shared by several other apps, including the Facebook one, for instance. You can certainly cope with these moments but precisely the smooth, effortless motion that catapulted the iPad to such popularity is what’s missing.
This said, one of the key abilities of the PlayBook is its multitasking and being able to play an HD video running while playing a 3D game, browsing the web and checking your tweets, effortlessly flicking between them all, is very impressive. Because, of course, we all like to do that many tasks at once…