RIM BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet: 10 Factors to Remember Before You Buy

By Don Reisinger  |  Posted 2011-04-14 Print this article Print

News Analysis: RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook is launching on April 19. But before customers buy it, they should know a thing or two about the upcoming tablet.

The Research In Motion BlackBerry PlayBook is scheduled to hit store shelves April 19 for $499 to $699, depending on the storage capacity customers are after. The device comes with a 7-inch display, full touch functionality, and a new operating system, called BlackBerry Tablet OS. Like the rest of its mobile product line, RIM designed this tablet for corporate customers.

As the PlayBook's launch nears, folks around the U.S. are wondering whether the device is the best tablet option for them. Even though the iPad 2 is continuing to sell well, there are still a growing number of consumers and enterprise customers that want to consider all their options before they plunk down hundreds of dollars for a device.

The following items will help walk those folks through all the factors that they must keep in mind before they either opt for the BlackBerry PlayBook or go with another device. Some elements of the BlackBerry PlayBook are outstanding, while others are not. There are some major market factors that customers must keep in mind.

Read on to learn more.

1. It's best with a BlackBerry smartphone

One of the most controversial features of the BlackBerry PlayBook is the company's BlackBerry Bridge. With the help of that option, tablet owners can link the device to a BlackBerry smartphone and access Messenger, email, contacts and a calendar, among other things. However, Playbook users can't access any of those applications without a BlackBerry smartphone. Furthermore, the BlackBerry Bridge doesn't work with non-BlackBerry smartphones.

2. The display is small.

RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook ships with a 7-inch display. At that size, RIM has said that the device is far more mobile than larger counterparts, like the Motorola Xoom, which has a 10.1-inch display. However, 7 inches is somewhat small in relation to the rest of the tablet market. Considering the leader in the market, the iPad 2, comes with a 9.7-inch screen, those looking for extra display real estate might not like what they find in the BlackBerry PlayBook.

3. Don't expect 4G.

RIM plans to launch a 4G-compatible version of the BlackBerry PlayBook later this year. Until then, customers will only be able to connect to the Web from the tablet via WiFi or by tethering it to a 3G-capable smartphone. If neither is available, the tablet can't connect to the Internet.

4. App selection isn't great.

Initial reviews of the BlackBerry PlayBook cite the relatively small number of available applications as a major issue with the tablet. According to the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg, the device will ship with 3,000 tablet applications. Apple's iPad, on the other hand, has 65,000 applications available to it. That's a major discrepancy that customers might want to keep in mind.

Don Reisinger is a freelance technology columnist. He started writing about technology for Ziff-Davis' Gearlog.com. Since then, he has written extremely popular columns for CNET.com, Computerworld, InformationWeek, and others. He has appeared numerous times on national television to share his expertise with viewers. You can follow his every move at http://twitter.com/donreisinger.

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