On the same day that the BlackBerry PlayBook has been unleashed in the US, RIM invited the CNET team to their offices to get up close and personal with the 7-inch tablet for ourselves. We have seen the PlayBook a few times before, but this was the first time we could actually use the tablet without a RIM rep controlling the experience.

This hands-on time reaffirmed what we have thought about the PlayBook all along. Its combination of size, weight and performance is extremely impressive, and the button-less gesture-controlled interface is far better designed for tablet-use than iOS navigation on iPad and Google's Honeycomb tablet OS (though we do love Android's widgets). Curiously, some US reviewers have called the navigation confusing, but we completely disagree. As you can see in the video, the entire user-experience is driven by swiping gesture, beginning on the tablet's bezel and continuing over the screen, so swiping from the bottom up takes you to the homescreen, swiping from right to left activates multitasking and swiping from the top down shows a context-sensitive menu for the app you're using.

We had been hoping to see RIM's Android app emulator in action during this visit, but this is still a work in progress. Word on the street is that RIM will unveil this incredibly important tool for PlayBook during BlackBerry World in Florida next month.

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