First Look: RIM BlackBerry PlayBook
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First Look: RIM BlackBerry PlayBook

2:31 /

The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet ably showcases RIM's powerful new mobile operating system, but its middling size diminishes many of its best features.

Hey, I'm Donald Bell and today we're taking a first look at the BlackBerry Playbook from RIM. This is a 7-inch tablet priced at $499 for a 16-gigabyte version, $599 for 32 gigabytes, and $699 for 64 gigabytes. This version here only connects to the internet over Wi-Fi or a tethered connection to your smartphone, but a 4G model is coming out later this year. The screen quality is nice. There's a pair of stereo speakers on the sides here, a 3-megapixel camera up top, and a 5-megapixel camera on the back that can also record video at 1080p. On the bottom, you got connections for an optional charging dock, a micro USB port for charging and syncing, and an HDMI port that can also crank out smooth 1080p video. The top of the Playbook is a sour note for me. There's a headphone jack and a pair of stereo mics, that's fine, but the power button, if you can see it, is this little tinny, tiny thing made for baby fingers. It's also the button you'll need to use for waking the screen out of sleep mode so you'll have to contend with it everyday. We thought a case might help, but for us it actually made the situation worse. As for the tiny volume and play/pause controls next to it, they do work, but I'm not sure why they're even up here or why a dedicated play/pause button is even necessary. If you can get past the tedious little button, the real centerpiece of this whole thing is the OS. This is a brand new piece of software built by RIM from the ground up. It's fast, it's fluid, it can multitask and juggle apps like a maniac, and if Apple and Google aren't scared yet, they probably should be. My favorite part of the whole system is the web browser, which fully supports Adobe Flash and presents web pages just as they would look on your desktop. That means Flash video, Flash games, and for better or for worse, Flash ads. But as great as it is, the browser is trapped inside a tablet that is half the size of the iPad, not to mention the 10-inch Honeycomb tablets that are due out this year. Some may find the small size an advantage, but when it comes to full scale web pages and document editing, those tasks really deserve a larger screen. So that's the BlackBerry Playbook from RIM, a powerful tablet at a good price and one of the best 7-inch tablets we've seen, even though I wish it were bigger. For CNET.com, I'm Donald Bell.

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