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4/14/2011
09:36 AM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
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BlackBerry PlayBook Panned By Critics

Research In Motion's first tablet device gets raked over the coals for its lack of native email support, lack of applications, and buggy software.

Research in Motion's PlayBook tablet has gotten its first round of reviews from the tech world's major pundits, and they aren't very favorable. RIM has bet its future on a tablet device that uses a brand new operating system and is a complete departure from anything it has ever done before. The conclusion reached by many of those who've reviewed is: Don't buy it.

The hardware earns some well-deserved praise. Jonathan Gellar, from BGR.com, says, "The BlackBerry PlayBook's hardware is very well put together. The 7-inch tablet features a smaller screen size for those not interested in the 9 or 10-inch alternatives, and this makes the PlayBook much more portable. It has a great weight to it; not too heavy and not too light--it feels like a substantial and quality product when you hold it."

In the short time I've spent with the PlayBook, I reached the same conclusion. RIM did an excellent job with the hardware. Save the odd power button, which many of the reviewers complained about, the PlayBook is an excellent piece of hardware. I really like the soft-touch paint job that gives it a grippy feeling.

The user interface also garners appreciation, although not without a few caveats. Walter Mossberg, of the Wall Street Journal, says, "I really liked the user interface of the new operating system, which is based on software RIM bought called QNX. It's smooth and fast, and makes excellent use of multitouch gestures. An area at the bottom of the screen holds the icons, which are divided into sections like 'All,' 'Media,' 'Games,' and 'Favorites.' When you have multiple apps open, large images of them appear at the top of the screen, and you can scroll though them. It's a very clean, attractive approach."

David Pogue, from the New York Times, however, argues that RIM didn't add enough original elements to the user interface. "The PlayBook software is crawling with borrowed ideas. For example, to remove or rearrange apps, you hold your finger down on one app icon until all icons begin to pulse (hello, iPad!). And to close a program, you swipe your finger upward from the bottom bezel to turn all app windows into 'cards,' and then flick one upward off the screen (hello, Palm Pre!)."

Pogue is 100% right. The PlayBook operating system plucks many of its features and user interface elements from its competitors.

Though the hardware and basic user interface get good marks, things sour quickly when it comes down to the nitty gritty details of the PlayBook and its features. All the reviewers, including Gellar, Mossberg, Pogue, and others, say that the lack of native email, contacts, and calendar support is a serious problem.

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