I’ve spent the last couple of weeks using RIM’s seemingly ill-fated PlayBook, to see just how ill-fated it actually is. At just £169, with new software, a raft of new apps and all the right accessories, can it finally be seen as a viable tablet alternative to the new iPad? I’m at the end of the journey now, so I need to make a decision…
In case you’ve missed the journey so far, here’s how I’ve broken up my time with the PlayBook:
Now, ‘soul searching’ is a very hyperbolic phrase for what is essentially a very first world problem, but that’s kind of what I’ve been doing. You see, as much as this has been about assessing the PlayBook from a journalistic point of view, it’s also been very personal: I’ve got a PlayBook which I was given during the time that RIM was initially promoting it, but I’m incredibly tempted by the new iPad.
So when I ask if it can be a viable iPad alternative, I mean it: can it stop me from spending £399 on Apple’s Retina Display-ed wunderkind? To answer that, I’ve thrown everything at RIM’s tab, and used it more than I naturally would do anyway, to try and get into a cycle of habitual PlayBooking.
I installed the second iteration of RIM’s PlayBook OS, which has some nice new additions and cleans up various corners of the UI. I’ve been using it to take notes at work, backing them up to the cloud. I’ve been trying to read on it during my commutes. I’ve been playing games on the thing, and even tried using it as a laptop.
And the verdict?
It’s one of those things where it’s impossible for me, with my personal needs to lay down the law on whether the PlayBook is better or worse than the iPad for everyone, but I do think I’ve reached a conclusion: as much as I’ve enjoyed my time with the PlayBook, I’m still going to buy Apple’s new iPad.
Why? Well, there are a few defining factors here. One is the battery life, which I’ve discovered to be, to put it mildly, drainy. I’ve used an iPad enough to know that the 10-hour battery on that is exactly that – 10 hours, if not more.
I’ve seen plenty of people in the comments of the previous posts in the series say that they’re fine with the PlayBook’s battery. That it lasts. I don’t think I’m doing anything wrong, but with medium amount of use my PlayBook isn’t making it much past home time.
So that’s that. What else? There are two other points that kind of merge together. One is apps. I concede that RIM’s done a fine job of drumming up developer interest of late, that the App World is now far more stocked than it used to be and that even Angry Birds Space has made it on, but it’s still not enough compared to the iPad – and to my mind any app worth having still always drops on iOS first.
Oh, and I’ve purposefully not talked about breaking in and side-loading Android apps. Why? Because you plain shouldn’t have to. End of.
The premium app deficit sort of bleeds into my last problem. On the one hand, I’m a big fan of the PlayBook’s size. Aside form the fact that the bezel could do with being a few millimetres thinner, 7-inches is a great form factor for holding the device in one hand.
It’s fine for watching movies (in widescreen, no less), reading and gaming, but the major downside that comes with it is that a 7-inch screen is really only of any use for content consumption.
And I need a tablet for content creation, too. I like to draw and write in my spare time, and I’d like (perhaps with the addition of a stylus and keyboard) to be able to do that on the move, as and when I like. I tried the official Keyboard for the PlayBook and found it to be cramped. Likewise, using the SplashTop app to throw my Mac’s screen onto it was all but useless thanks to the size of the display.
In the end…
Basically, I’ll put it to your this way: if you want a tablet to consume books, magazines, (some) games and video on, I can wholeheartedly recommend a PlayBook. At £169 it really is a bargain. But, and here’s why I’ll be buying an iPad as soon as I’ve cobbled the money together, it’s not up to much more than note-taking in terms of content creation.
That’s a big dividing point among tablet buyers, I know, but it’s the side of the fence I’ve found myself. Is the PlayBook dead? Far from it, but I’m afraid that mine is going to back to its previous post as a big clock and bedside TV. Albeit one I’m a lot more fond of.
Agree or disagree? Let me know below.