RIM BlackBerry Playbook Review

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Design

When we first picked up the BlackBerry PlayBook, we were struck by how small it felt in comparison to some other tablets we've recently reviewed, including the Motorola Xoom. Indeed, one would expect a tablet with a significantly smaller screen (7-inches versus the Xoom's 10.1-inch display) to be quite a bit smaller and weigh quite a bit less, but the difference is more noticeable in person than in examining specs alone.

The BlackBerry PlayBook measures 5.1x7.6x0.4 inches, giving it a footprint that's roughly equivalent to a paperback book. Additionally, it weighs less than a pound (about 0.9 pounds to be more specific). The majority of the front of the tablet is consumed by the PlayBook's 7-inch display that supports a resolution of 1024 x 600.

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Although the screen did attract some fingerprints during the course of our review, they never appeared to affect performance. Viewing angles on the PlayBook's display were excellent. In fact, we were still able to read the PlayBook's display at nearly a 90 degree angle to the screen.

In terms of design, RIM has taken a "less is more" approach, which gives the PlayBook a nice clean look and feel. In fact, there are no buttons on the front, sides, or back of the PlayBook. Instead, RIM has placed the Power button, volume rocker, a multimedia Play button, and headset jack on the top edge of the PlayBook. One note about these buttons: they're small. In particular, the Power button is especially small. Also, because the Power button is nearly flush with the edge of the tablet, we had a very difficult time pressing the button. On a somewhat better note, you can wake the tablet by swiping your finger upward from the bottom bezel to the screen. Without this functionality, we often found ourselves frustrated while trying to wake the tablet.

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On the bottom edge of the Playbook, you'll find a microHDMI port, microUSB port, and charging contacts. Above the display, you'll find a notification LED as well as the front-facing 3 megapixel camera. On both edges of the tablet, you'll see speakers. When you flip the tablet over, you'll see the rear-facing 5 megapixel camera. There's also a metallic BlackBerry logo on the back of the PlayBook. We should also note that the back of the PlayBook has a soft, rubbery feel.

You can use the BlackBerry PlayBook in either portrait or landscape modes, but the native orientation is landscape mode. Most, but not all, apps will automatically rotate when you change the orientation of the tablet.

Currently, there are 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB versions of the PlayBook available. Since the PlayBook lacks any form of memory card expansion slot, you'll be forever limited to the amount of storage available on the tablet you choose to purchase.

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