Monday, June 18, 2012

Take two on the BlackBerry PlayBook

Low price. The BlackBerry PlayBook retail price which started at US$499 long dropped to US$199. It is recently that the PlayBook's price was correspondingly reduced in the Philippines. The 16 GB PlayBook is now available for as low as Php10,500 with a manufacturer warranty with the 32 GB model selling for Php12,990. This places its price really close to the higher quality China tablets.

Good hardware. The BlackBerry PlayBook was originally designed to be tethered to a BlackBerry phone. Without being paired to a phone the tablet did not come with email, contacts of calender functionality. An update in the first quarter of this year, PlayBook OS 2.0, added those missing features, and with the new low price it is looking like a compelling option even for those who do not own a BlackBerry phone.

A year after its release, the BlackBerry PlayBook hardware is still pretty impressive. It has a vibrant 7-inch 1024 x 600 display and still has more than sufficient power to be useful for the next few years. Indie you have a dual-core 1GHz processor, 1 GB of RAM and PowerVR SGX540 graphics. It also sports a 5 MP primary camera, a secondary camera, the ability to capture 1080p video, and a mini HDMI port.

The operating system of the BlackBerry PlayBook, called QNX handles multitasking well and the built in web browser is excellent, being able to handle the latest HTML5 webpages as well as having support for Adobe Flash.

Limited apps. Documents-to-Go is bundled with the Playbook. The keyboard uses Swiftkey algorithms, so that its word prediction feature learns your writing patterns and improves over time. I use Swiftkey on my Android, so having this feature bundled free is very welcome.

The biggest problem with the PlayBook is that is does not run Apple's iOS or Google Android, so it does not have access to the large number of apps in both those companies app stores. While the PlayBook can run Android apps, with some being made available at BlackBerry's app store, while the others converted by third  parties. Still, there are more than 24,000 applications available for the PlayBook.

Checking on whether my most commonly used apps are available. I use two cloud service solutions, Dropbox and Box. Only Box has an official PlayBook app. Dropbox has a BlackBerry phone app, they do not have one for the PlayBook. There is a third party app for Dropbox, called BlueBox. My favorite note taking app, Evernote is also available for the Playbook.

Popular apps like the official Facebook and Twitter are available for the PlayBook. Other, like Amazon's Kindle app is not, although a Android version has been converted to run on the Playbook. For photo editing there is an excellent series of selections for the Playbook, both free and paid.

Well, you get the picture. There are enough productivity and social networking apps to get what you want done, but the choices are not as wide as those for iOS or Android. If you want a tablet for games, the selections for the PlayBook are much more limited. Still, at a bit of 10K, for the 16 GB version, and a tad over 13K for the 32 GB version, the PlayBook looks like a very good choice for a productivity tablet. 

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