When Blackberry asked me to come to Milan with them during Salone di Mobile, the annual furniture & design fair in Milan, to get an early sneak peek at their new tablet offering, the PlayBook, I was intrigued.
I do love a gadget, am a ridiculously early adopter of most new tech and, if it wasn’t for the fact that I have been a PC user all my working life, would have jumped on the Apple bandwagon a long time ago.
As it is, I get asked pretty much daily if I have an iPad. Certainly there’s an assumption that I have one, as I am now the proud possessor of four gifted iPad cases, including a gloriously over the top python Dolce & Gabbana number and a ravishing Stella McCartney Falabella.
But I don’t. I’ve had the loan of one twice for a month or so courtesy of Vodafone (thank you!) at London Fashion Week, but I haven’t, so far, been tempted to take the plunge. To be honest I’ve found it quite heavy, and I certainly didn’t enjoy reading books on it – my Kindle trumps it in that regard.
And, of course, I replaced my about-as-useful-as-a-sodding-brick Dell 13” with a Mac Air last November, so now have a supremely lightweight laptop, which fits in most of my handbags.
The PlayBook on the other hand is, I discovered in Milan, smaller and lighter than the iPad, (.9lb compares to 1.5lb), a distinct advantage from the outset for someone like me who already travels with a laptop, netbook, iPhone, Blackberry Torch and a modem. (There have been one too many tech fails on assignments abroad to ever travel without backup on different networks and devices.)
The PlayBook has a seven-inch screen, compared with 9.7 inches for Apple’s iPad2, and is about the size of those trade paperbacks you see in airport bookshops, and would just about fit in an overcoat pocket.
Some reviewers have decided that this is too small for presentations , but if I wanted a bigger screen for that purpose then I’d be using a laptop in the first place.
But for me the single significant advantage of the PlayBook is that it tethers to a BlackBerry. Confused? Don’t be: it’s an idea of staggering brilliance. What this means is that BlackBerry bridges to your PlayBook over Bluetooth, replicating your email, contacts and whatever else you wish from your Blackberry to your tablet.
This means you don’t need a dedicated email client on the PlayBook, you don’t need two service contracts and best of all, there are no security issues, as once the BlackBerry is untethered, your email and contacts no longer appear on the PlayBook. If you lose your possessions as often as I do this is hugely appealing.
The PlayBook doesn’t have 3G capability, just wi-fi – but as it’s rare for anyone to be without their BlackBerry, you can just tether the PlayBook and use your phone’s 3G capabilties instead. Bloody genius, if you ask me.
I found the touch screen with its pinch and expand movement incredibly responsive, and easy to navigate intuitively.What else? Well it sticks two fingers up at Apple by running Flash, it has HDMI (so no need to use a separate connector), a microUSB slot, and a 3MP camera in front, a 5MP in back, and 1GB of RAM.
So, no, it’s not an iPad – and from the reviews I’ve read in America, that seems to be pretty much all they have to say. Well, no one ever said it was. It doesn’t have access to the extraordinary range of Apple apps, but for me the glory of this tablet is that it’s a brilliant work tool that integrates seamlessly with my BlackBerry Torch – which I love, love, love. I really like the idea of a lightweight tablet I can slip in a small bag and use on the road. Frankly, I can’t wait to get my hands on one.
The BlackBerry PlayBook launches in the UK tomorrow.