Can You See Yourself Buying the BlackBerry Playbook?

We just got done writing about whether or not Blackberry’s brand can be saved in a shifting mobile tech world, and there was a lot of talk about the BlackBerry Playbook. We didn’t go in depth on the subject, and we definitely want to correct that. We can’t just assume that you know everything about the Playbook when a lot of people still are in other cell phone arenas right now. It’s a great time to be Apple or Google in the cell phone world, but what about the lonely Playbook?

First and foremost, there’s a lot to like when it comes to the Playbook. For those of you out of the loop, we’re talking tablets here. It’s a nice tablet, similar to the iPad but going beyond the iPad at the same time.

Let’s start with the hardware on the device, shall we? The Playbook is a stylish black, with sharp edges and a little chrome on the back. It’s a solid device with no real rubberized “give”, which can be a plus or a minus depending on how you feel about the perfect form factor of a tablet.

The device weights about .9 pounds, which means that you aren’t going to have to worry about its weight taking up too much space in your bag. It’s .4 inches thick, which is a bit thicker than the iPad 2. Still, we don’t think these measurements alone are enough to say that the Playbook is a bad thing.

The Playbook sports dual cameras, which isn’t really newsworthy as much as it used to be. There are plenty of cell phones that now have dual camera setups, such as the HTC Incredible, or even the Galaxy S lineup.

You do get some neat input ports on the Playbook, such as micro-HDMI, micro-USB, and another hole for a charging dock. There is a 3.5mm headphone jack up top if you really want to use headphones, but the Playbook also has some speakers on the sides of the tablet.

Digging into the internals of the device we find a wicked dual-core 1 GHz processor. What’s even better is that the operating system is QNX, and it’s been tweaked to really take advantage of such an awesome proc. Most of the time the mobile hardware fails at really using the processor to full potential. This is an area where it’s clear Research in Motion has thought ahead to try to please finicky advanced techies.

You have your choice when it comes to space on the tablet — you can get 16, 32, or even 64GB of storage space. If you go for the 16GB version, you can expect to pay $499, with the maxed-out version being at $699. Definitely a weighty purchase, but you’d still have money to consider if you went towards the iPad 2.

The Playbook’s hardware allows it to decode and display 1080p video over HDMI without losing application quality — another positive.

So, what are the negatives of the Playbook? Well, for starters the device doesn’t give you simple USB mass storage support. You have to mount it as a drive over USB, but that doesn’t let you really take advantage of all of those gigabytes.  You have to install a driver and the Playbook suddenly becomes a network drive. Now, if you have a Mac or a Windows-flavored PC, then you’re in business. However, if you’re over on the UNIX side, expect some troubles getting your device to tether — it’s just not happening. Simple USB mass storage mode means easy drag and drop file manipulations and even device mounting under Ubuntu Linux, but without that you’re in for some tough times.

The biggest point of failure when it comes to the Playbook has to be in the implementation of BlackBerry Bridge. This is what allows you to get the usual productivity suite that BlackBerry has become famous for. You have to have a BlackBerry phone running at least BB OS5 in order to use this feature, and that phone too has to also be running Bridge. The connectivity magic happens over Bluetooth, which is a plus. However, as we mentioned in our previous article, this is a tough pill to swallow for people that are new to the platform. Research in Motion would have done a lot better not crippling the Playbook and actually letting people decide whether or not they wanted to get a BlackBerry phone. In its current implementation, it almost feels like RIM is forcing people into the platform while they’re kicking and screaming, which isn’t a good look for them at all. Not when there are other options. Yes, we’ve been more than aware that Apple pulls these tricks all the time, but this is a great time for Apple — Research in Motion cannot say the same for themselves.

The Playbook does have Flash support, and that definitely is a win. However, the device at this current time lacks 3G support, which is a deal breaker for a lot of techies as well.

There are plenty of great points to the Playbook, but for every good point there seems to be two or three negatives to go with it. At $699 for the maxed-out version, this might be a device that techies have to say no to — at least until Research in Motion comes out with some more compromises, updates, and patches to address issues that early adopters have already been screaming about at the top of their lungs.

If you want a tablet, you might have to look elsewhere. Of course, if you’re already into Cloud Blackberry, then it really doesn’t matter whether or not you need the BB phone in order to really bring the Playbook to life.

Our thoughts? Let the early adopters and Those With Discretionary Income For Days ™ play with the Playbook some more. RIM is sure to release a second generation version where a lot of the bugs have been fixed — get that, not the first round. Unless you just happen to take your tech like your steak — a little bloody and quite a bit tender.