Blackberry is not a name most people associate with a tablet when it comes up in conversation. Why, I’m not sure. That’s just the way it is. Clearly, it’s time to change that.

The Playbook is marvelous. Ten minutes with it and I forgot about the hording crowds of CES, the shuffle of feet and the overbearing attitudes. It was impressive. So much so that it’s safe to say that if Apple doesn’t bring some significant upgrades to the iPad, it could have it’s first serious competition.The Blackberry Playbook uses a 1GHz dual-core processor and 1GB of RAM, which is quite powerful, but undoubtedly going to be the norm for this year’s tablets. I have no reservations that Apple will outline a similar model next month when they show off the updated iPad, and most tablets shown at CES thus far are similarly powered. The Playbook, however, does it with incredible finesse. It’s light at just under a pound, and the 7″ 1024×600 display is sharp and resolute.

It’s performance that was most interesting. I took the Playbook and just started opening applications, one after another, and they all continued to run simultaneously. After the fifth, the 720p video stopped running altogether, but up until then all of the applications continued running. Not just remaining on in a static way like iOS or Android applications, but actually running. One touch gesture allows quick swapping between currently-open Playbook applications, and the all continued working without fuss.

The OS is fluid and, from just 10 minutes, appears very capable. 3D applications run smoothly, video playback is fast, web-browsing works well and gesture controls are intuitive. It’s all quite impressive. The main screen isn’t, however, instead of a list of apps or a live background, it’s simply a background and an option to view apps, or have a partial view, as seen above.

I’m impressed with the Playbook tablet. Blackberry took Apple’s phone-to-tablet integration a step further by going outside the bounds of current devices and making a new UI, but one that isn’t so different that it requires the user to learn. The iPad may feel like a big iPhone, but the Playbook in no way feels like a big Blackberry. It feels like a tablet, and perhaps it’s the first genuinely so.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.