The BlackBerry PlayBook is awesome. I’ve said this since it launched in 2011. It has the best user interface of all tablets I’ve tested, incorporating an ingenuous touch-sensitive bezel. It has a blazingly fast processor, good battery life and used to have the best screen on the market until Apple unveiled the new iPad with Retina Display. But despite the PlayBook being a rocking piece of hardware, it had major flaws that prevented me from recommending it to people.
Until recently, when asked what I thought of the PlayBook I would say, “It’s rad. But don’t buy one.”
It had no native email or calendar client. Its app store was like a ghost town. It might’ve had a bitching interface and hardware, but it sucked in every other regard.
That’s changed. A recent update and general improvement in logic at Research In Motion have stacked up to make the PlayBook one of the best tablets on the market. Here are five reasons why I think you should consider buying one.
- PlayBook OS 2.0
The PlayBook has always been awesome from a hardware perspective, but its original operating system left a lot to be desired. You had to connect to a BlackBerry smartphone to do email that and other basic things like calendaring – unless you were happy with web interfaces. The new OS, however, mends all of these problems. It has a kick-ass email client, nice calendar app and no longer makes the PlayBook feel like a smartphone accessory. It also has one of the best user interfaces I’ve ever seen. Much better. Thanks RIM.
After a troubled launch, the PlayBook is now one of the cheapest tablets on the market. In my home country of South Africa you can pick it up for less than R3000 and in the USA prices go as low as $200. For that you get some of the beefiest hardware available on a really well-built tablet that has just had fresh life blown into it with OS 2.0. At prices these low it’s worth buying even if all you use it for is an espresso tray.
File management on the PlayBook is near-perfect; you simply access shared folders on the device over your WiFi network. It makes it really quick and easy to drop a movie file, for example, onto the PlayBook for viewing on the go, without even having to take the tablet out of your bag. It also supports Adobe Flash better than any other tablet platform I’ve tried. While I still find tablets to be a very limited computing environment, and prefer just carrying around my laptop, the PlayBook is less limited than most. The form factor and light weight also make it easier to transport and less cumbersome to use than bigger tablets.
This might not sound like a big deal, but bear with me. Remember, it’s the small things that matter with tablets. The PlayBook uses an industry-standard, micro-USB connection for charging. This means that not only can you use any other BlackBerry smartphone charger with it – but any other phone charger too, from Samsung, Motorola, Nokia, or whoever. One of the things that drives me crazy about other tablet brands is that they each have a proprietary charger than can’t be shared with my phone – except the iPad. And since Apple has its own connector for iOS devices, the PlayBook is the most universally compatible by far. For someone who travels weekly as I do, being able to carry a single charger is a killer feature.
The single biggest problem with the PlayBook at launch was a lack of apps. There was no Evernote, Dropbox, Angry Birds or any of the apps that people had learned to love on iOS and Android. But that has changed. BlackBerry App World is now full of awesome apps for the PlayBook including an official Evernote client and, yes, Angry Birds. Twitter was also conspicuously missing from the original PlayBook OS, but it is now incorporated in the universal messaging platform of PlayBook OS 2.0. While the PlayBook still trails way behind Android and iOS and in the apps department it is now way, way better than it was and can actually be used for stuff now.
I own a small menagerie of tablets – an iPad, Motorola Xoom, several other Android tablets and the PlayBook. Out of all of them I find myself using the iPad most, but it has recently started taking a backseat to my PlayBook, especially when traveling. Watching movies on the PlayBook is second-to-none, and that’s mostly what I want to do with a tablet while flying.
If the iPhone was the Jesus phone then the PlayBook is the Lazarus tablet. It was dead and gone, but now lives again – kicking ass and scaring disciples.