When it comes to the Mac computing, it has almost become a fashion statement to stay linear with your devices. You own a Macbook? Youre likely to own an iPhone. But is Apples Thunderbolt display any different? В Coming at a thousand dollars, people question whether or not this display is worth it or if they should go with another. Especially considering the Thunderbolt display is vastly similar to their predecessor the Apple Cinema Display. I have used the Thunderbolt display for about a week and I have a ton of positive thoughts, as well as some negative ones. Lets get to it!
RIM is no stranger to bad press. When the whole blogosphere is counting down the days until they die, you know something is wrong. Ive been using BlackBerry for a few years now. As much as I love the phone, there are lots of things about it that I cant stand. A brief history. my first real smart phone was an Android and I decided to try out BlackBerry. Ive used it for the past few years and although things have gone relatively smooth, there are still issue about this phone that bugs me. The browser sucks, the phone is slow to boot, I need to reboot after every app I install or remove, the app world sucks, and watching that spinning clock makes me want to throw the phone at my wall. Enough rambling, lets get this down on a nice list.
1. The Browser sucks!
2. Long Reboots
I dread seeing app updates available for my phone. You would think this is very convenient that you get a message in your inbox reminding you of app updates but what this really means is enduring another long reboot. My computer takes less than a minute to boot up, why does my phone take 11 minutes to boot up? Yes, Ive timed it. Even then, I still have to wait for the phone to become usable as the system hangs and verify security. Sometimes, I would wait for a bunch of updates to build up and install them all at once. Then I would reboot the device once instead of doing it each and every time I update an app. The long reboots are required for app updates, installations, and removals. The process reminds me of those long anti-virus/malware scans I used to endure when I was using Windows. I didnt miss it when I went to Linux and I wouldnt miss it if this hassle went away. On Android, when you install apps, you can use it right away without rebooting. Same for removing them. BB10 is supposed to unify the smart phone with the QNX PlayBook OS and you dont have to reboot after installing apps so until then, this is something that sucks about BlackBerry.
3. App World and App Selection
Lets face it. The App World sucks. Android and iOS have a larger library of apps compare to BlackBerry App World. They always seem to be talking about a milestone which is currently over 70k apps but I dont see them. Most of the apps on the App World are garbage. I came from Android and they are not immune to trash either but where are the good apps? Honestly, it doesnt matter to me how many apps are in xyz store. What I am looking for is quality apps. Im looking for Skype, Netflix, HuluPlus. You know, the big names. Too often I hear about a cool new app and they offer a mobile app. Download for iPhone or Android. Wheres BlackBerry? Is this necessarily a fault of RIM? Yes and no. While its not technically RIMs fault that people dont develop apps for the platform, us end users dont really care. We just want the apps. When we open the App World and cant find Skype, we dont think, Man, Skype should make an app for BlackBerry or the PlayBook. No. We think, Why isnt there any apps on BlackBerry App World? What is RIM doing about it? I hate the App World. If I hear about a cool new app, I can count that it wont be available on BlackBerry.
4. Stale Phones
Pretty much all BlackBerry smart phones aside from the Storm/Torch/Style are the same. Thats not necessarily a bad thing. RIM found a formula that works for them and the keyboard is iconic to the BlackBerry image. The problem with that is people are getting bored. They want something different. I believe what RIM is suffering from is happening to Apple. After years of the same thing, same style, and same phone, people will look for something new. It happened(is happening) to RIM and its happening to Apple. Just look at what people are saying about the iPhone, 3G, 3GS, 4, and 4S. I will say Apple is executing things a bit better than RIM. All their phones are good when they come out. RIM tends to spread themselves thin with lots of variations especially cheaper entry-level phones like the Curve. Dont get me wrong. I have the Curve and its a decent phone but I always have Bold envy when I see it. iPhone users enjoy having a great product because they know their phones were top of the line at one time. They are never treated as second class. Cheaper phones are good for market penetration in developing countries but I live in the US. I dont care about marketing strategies in India and Africa. Most iPhone users have a sense of pride when owning their phones. Once upon a time, BlackBerry users had this feeling too. Not anymore.
5. 1 Convenience Key?
It appears when they are moving in the right direction, you catch them taking one step backwards. One of those nice little perks about owning a BlackBerry was the convenience keys. On older BlackBerry phones, you had two, one on each side. One is usually automatically set up for the camera and the other is set up for voice commands(that sucks). You could set these convenience keys to quickly open up your favorite apps or in my case, turn on the flashlight for those time when I needed some light. Quick, convenient and cool. Tell me why in their infinite wisdom that they decided to remove 1 convenience key? Why? What was the point? Did people have too many keys to press? I can tell you from my experience that 1 in not enough. Its little things like these that piss off your users.
6. Poor Media
From my understanding, BlackBerry smart phones, in general, are not very good phones for media consumption. Now, I say from my understanding because when it comes to music, my Curve rocks. Maybe because my Curve has these sweet media keys at the top of the phone. I can play/pause, and seek tracks easily without having to open the music interface. These keys even work for Pandora radio. Every other BlackBerry do not have these media keys and navigating the media player can be a hassle. Not to mention if you want to view videos, youll have to settle with the usually small screens. This makes consuming any rich video media a pain like watching YouTube.
7. Small Screens
While Android and iPhone users get to enjoy their large touchscreens, BlackBerry users are still stuck using screens about half their size. There are some exceptions like the Torch line and the now dead Storm but for the most part, a small screen over a full QWERTY keyboard is what we get. Today, multimedia, web browsing, and gaming are big parts of what most use their smart phones for. Doing that on a screen half as large is twice as inconvenient. Its a general trend that most people prefer using a phone with a full size screen rather than a full size keyboard. The convenience of a larger screen outweighs the lack of a physical keyboard for the average consumer. This is especially true with the growing popularity of HD media. Smart phone trends say, small screens are out, large screens are in.
Android has gotten better over the years but there are still many things I dont like about it. To put it bluntly, I hate Android. I tried to support it and I actually liked it for a while. Over the years, I got tired of nearly everything about it. I have used Linux for a few years since Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon and fell in love with the open source movement. Ive come to realize that all the hype about being open and portraying Apple and RIM as the evil closed platform was all a deception. Google Play(formerly Android Market) adds movie rentals, books, and music all in one convenient shop. The new market is not open source but a tightly controlled shop that Google aims to make big bucks with. No longer is it a simple library of applications but more like a Barnes and Nobles pushing its own products along with the usual selection. Its not just the changes to the market that I dont like. Theres a list(I love lists). Lets go through them.
If you are in the market for a new computer, you may be considering a tablet PC over a traditional laptop. Many tech analysts predicted that tablets would phase out netbooks and that seems to be the case. A bigger question now is, would it kill off laptops? As an owner of a smartphone, tablet, laptop, and desktop computer, this is a legitimate scenario. What are the roles of these devices, where do tablets fit in, and which is better? To better aswer these questions, lets go though the basics of these 2 and their pros and cons.
Filling the gap
Most people already have a smartphone in their pockets. With all major carriers pushing them over the past 10 years, its almost rare to find someone with a dumb phone. Even prepaid carriers like Virgin Mobile offer smartphones at an affordable price. Smartphones are filling the communications gap not just with calling, but with email and social networking. You can do a lot with a smartphone but the primary role is still communications whether its call or text messages.
Desktop PCs have been the workhorse for consumers and professionals since the invention of the personal computer. That title isnt likely to change any time soon. A desktop computer can do nearly everything you can imagine from editing videos, browsing the web, or simply chatting with friends. A desktop is best suited for graphic designers, musicians, or gamers. Theres one disadvantage of desktops that will likely remain. Portability. While you have production power with a desktop, you cant take it with you on the road. Laptops and tablets fill this gap but which is best?
Are laptops dying?
Laptops solved this problem by offering portability without sacrificing much power. Over the years, laptops evolved and specialized into different niches from gaming laptops, ultraportables, to the very small netbook. For the average consumer, a laptop could fulfill about 95% of their needs. Some of the best laptops on the market areВ advertised as desktop replacements. Laptops can connect to most hardware devices from all-in-one printers, portable hard drives, PMP(Portable Music Players), smartphones, and third-party peripherals such as keyboards/mice.
Pros: Portable yet still relatively powerful. Cheap. Price has drop considerably. Hardware keyboard. Full desktop OS. Connectivity
Cons: Not portable enough to take everywhere. Heat.
Tablet PCs are newcomers to the game but theyve proven over the years that they are not just a fad. These touchscreen computers have been criticized for being no more than oversized smartphones yet theyve proven to be capable consumer devices that are more portable than laptops, and in some cases, more practical. An unavoidable example is Apple and the iPad.
All play and no work?
The iPad is more portable than a laptop and can be used to consume media easier as well. There have been internal reports from Apple that the iPad is cannibalizing their laptops(macbooks). This points us to a trend that most consumers are more aimed at consuming media rather than being productive. The iPad has gone through 3 generations(so far) and has shown staying power. Other tablets(Android and RIM) have entered the market to claim their piece of the pie. I use my tablet to listen to internet radio, read magazines, books, and do quick web browsing. All of which seems easier compared toВ a laptop while taking up less space. One inherent flaw of tablets is the proprietary nature. They dont have to be compatible with all printers, keyboards/mice, etc like their laptop rivals. This initial flaw looks like it will be phased out with time as newer printers and accessories adopt standard technologies like WiFi printing and Bluetooth 4.
Pros: More portable than laptops. Great for consuming media. Easier to pick up and use.
Cons: No hardware keyboard. Poor for production work. Hardware connectivity.
Needs and preferences
One of the biggest factor in determining which is better is recognizing your needs. Do you need a tablet or a laptop? Do you already have a Desktop? If so, then a laptop wouldnt be a good choice. A tablet would be a better choice that fills a larger gap. In that scenario, a laptop would just be a less powerful, slightly more portable desktop replacement. The next question you should ask yourself is what do you plan to use it for? If you just want a new gadget and dont critically need it, then a tablet is the likely choice. On the other hand, if you were starting university and had a choice between a laptop or a tablet, get a laptop without question. That would fit your needs better.
Another factor is portability. When you are out, do you find yourself hunting for a computer? Is your smartphone not cutting it for extending web browsing? Laptops revolutionized computing because they offered mobility. Tablets take it a step further. Laptops, although portable, are still too big. Tablets take up the same footprint as a textbook and are relatively lighter in comparison. Now, trendy hipsters can pretend to do work in coffee shops instead of being cooped up in homes. I kid. рџ?›
If you are debating between a laptop and a tablet, considerВ portability. If you find yourself in need to do quick tasks like checking your bank account online or just killing time, then a tablet would be a better choice. If you find yourself trying to edit office documents or doing more critical tasks on the go, then a laptop would be a better choice.
If you look at the size of these devices, there seems to be a correlation between size and function. The smaller touchscreen devices tend to be more popular for media consumption and leisure gaming while the larger laptops and desktops are more geared towards work, production, and serious gaming. This doesnt equal causation but its interesting to point out.
So which is better? A tablet or a laptop? The final answer is, it depends. For pure capability and power, a tablet cannot match aВ laptop. Theres just no comparison. A laptop with a true desktop OS can do more than a tablet which is highly dependant on apps. For most consumers, this isnt a major issue. Most people spend their computing time browsing the web, not editing images/video. The trend for a more capable mobile PC is growing and the tablet does a noble job fulfilling this role. Though not nearly as capable as laptops(yet), tablets definitely wins in terms of portability. The touchscreen interface not only adds novelty to the experience, but it also opens the door to some interesting and refreshing UI changes. Some professionals are critical of tablets calling them toys and distractions. Is the tablet craze a result of marketing or is it a practical tool in todays tech world? Personally, I have to agree with the critics. You can use tablets for work but every time I see someone using them, 99% of the time, theyre using it to consume media or playing games. Not saying thats a bad thing, it just doesnt seem useful. I already own a desktop and I love my tablet. If I didnt have a main computer, I wouldnt buy a tablet. Id probably opt for a laptop instead. Most people do own a main computer so buying a tablet as a supplementary device may make sense but to say that theyre better than laptops is a stretch. Are they portable? Yes. Are they powerful? Yes. Are they useful? Productive? Meh. But it has a touchscreen and thats cool right?!
It will be interesting to see how tablets evolve. As it stands, tablets are luxury electronics and laptops are tools. When technology became status symbols, keeping up with the Joneses means spending half a grand on an electronic slate that runs Angry Birds. Theyll sell regardless.
Its been a little over a month since I got my PlayBook and instead of waiting for OS version 2.0 to come out, I think Ill just do a review now and a second look later. As of this review, the current version I have on my PlayBook is OS version 1.0.8.XXXX. These last few digits dont really mean much. The main point is its not OS 2.0 which will be schedule for release February of 12. Those of you lucky enough to have gotten a PlayBook this holiday season may be wondering what others think about this tablet and what you may expect while using it. Sometimes, it takes experience to find gremlins in electronics. Ive found this is usually the case when using new software. After a month, Ive put the PlayBook to work and give you my honest take. Just how good is the PlayBook experience? Lets take a look at how well it performs, its usability, portability, features, and apps. There are also some things I dont like about this tablet. Lets go over them too.
Lots of people talk about processor specs and I think that gives users a false impression of the device. I dont dwell on technical specs except storage. The PlayBook is not an Android tablet nor is it an iPad. It is the first of its kind(QNX tablet) so we really dont know how the 1GHz dual-core processor will perform in the real world. The PlayBook ships with Need For Speed Undercover which is a graphically intensive game that showcases its processing power. Performance on the PlayBook is not consistent, however. More on this later. For the most part, the PlayBooks performance is great. You hardly notice any lag on the main screen and multi-tasking is also very good. It will only start to slow down when you have lots of apps running at the same time. One important thing I noticed about the PlayBook is how smooth the OS is. Swiping and using the bezel gestures is fast and consistent. The app menu is liquid smooth. Its funny, because RIM uses the term liquid graphics to market how smooth the UI feels. This little tablet really surprised me. It is better than a netbook for browsing the web. Using the browser app to surf the web is silky smooth and fast. Flash works well and the PlayBook renders the web very accurately, simulating the desktop experience. In comparison, my netbook was always slow to load pages and Flash would crawl at a snails pace. Multi-tasking takes about 30 minutes to get use to, then it becomes so intuitive to raise the Browser by swiping from the bottom bezel, open the Calculator app, then go back to the browser. All of this can be done in a few seconds with no fuss. As far as hardware, Ive been reading a few complaints about the power and volume buttons being hard to press. Ive never had any problems with it. As long as youre not a nailbiter, its a non-issue. About the volume buttons, same thing. No issue. I actually like having physical volume buttons instead of waking up the phone in order to use a software volume slider. That way, I can leave my PlayBook in its case and turn down the volume without having to wake up the screen.
The BlackBerry PlayBook is small compared to other tablets. Its dimension is 5.1 by 7.6 by 0.4. The form factor is about the size of a small notebook and that description is fitting. Its funny because a notebook is another marketing name for a laptop. To put it into perspective, the iPad and other full-size tablets are huge in comparison. If I had an iPad, I would probably leave it at home simply because its too big. The PlayBook is big enough to use comfortable for web-browsing but small enough to take out with you. I take the PlayBook in my hoodie or coat pocket every night to work. I dont need a bag for it, just my Journal Case. Ive heard people make a case for larger tablets and I suppose you do get more screen real-estate but you lose portability. Most tablet owners or people who are in the market for one probably already have computers. I still dont think my PlayBook can replace my desktop but its a great compliment to it.
The PlayBook can do your usual tablet stuff. You can play videos, listen to music, and browse the web. All of things are important so what features does the PlayBook bring? Besides the standard tablet features, the PlayBook can output via HDMI and be used in presentation mode. I havent had a chance to try this out, but this feature is supposed to work well and cater towards businessmen who frequent meetings. Similar to the iPad, the PlayBook also has a Video Chat app which works like Facetime. This app allows you to chat, web-cam style, to other PlayBook users. Probably the coolest feature on the PlayBook is BlackBerry Bridge. Bridge allows you to connect to your BlackBerry smart phone and sync with its features. With BlackBerry Bridge, you can use BBM, MemoPad, Contacts, Messages, and Tasks on your PlayBook. Out of all the Bridge features, the coolest feature is Bridge Browser. Bridge Browser allows you to surf the Internet on you PlayBook. How is this different from the standard browser? Well, if you are not in a wifi hotspot, you can have web access on your PlayBook by using the data on your BlackBerry smart phone. This is like tethering. Carriers hate this feature because you do not need an additional tetheriing plan to use Bridge Browser. Bridge Browser effectively mirrors the browser on your phone and sends it to the PlayBook. Pretty cool feature that works surprisingly well. One thing that I hope will be fixed in OS 2 is BBM. BBM on the PlayBook works but it seems to lag quite a bit. Im not sure if its the app itself or the phones bluetooth lagging when trying to communicate with the PlayBook. Either way, sometimes you can get a BBM message and not see it on the PlayBook. You need to close and reopen it in order for the message to refresh. Besides BlackBerry Bridge, the PlayBook is one of a few tablets that makes great use of multi-tasking. Multi-tasking is something lacking in first generation tablets but this looks to change as tablets mature. В Features are pretty standard with the notable exception of the BlackBerry Bridge. This isnt to say that the PlayBook lacks in features but rather it has all the things you need in a tablet.
This is where the PlayBook starts to lag behind compared to iOS and Android. The App World on the PlayBook is not as popular as the competitors. There isnt as much choice. Some of the stock apps that come on the PlayBook are actually links to the browser. The browser is very good but a dedicate and official Twitter app would be nice. The stock YouTube app isnt as rich as the web version. You can search for and watch YouTube videos but its missing key features like being able to log in, rate, comments, favorite, and subscribe to channels. A good treat I found was the Podcasts app. I used this app on my BlackBerry phone and I thought this was basically the same thing. With this app, you can download audio podcasts as well as video podcasts. This was a nice little upgrade from the radio-style podcasts I was use to. I found lots of the TAT(The Astonishing Tribe) inspired apps well polished like Pictures, Calculator, and Scrapbook but other third-party apps not nearly as good. Vevo is annoying as hell to use. Sure you can watch music videos but I found it much more convenient(and faster) to watch them on YouTube. The PlayBook gives you Slacker RadioВ stock but Pandora is missing in the App World. I think the App World needs more time to mature. There isnt even a decent instant messaging app. One of the big changes in OS 2.0 is the ability to load Android apps via an emulator. This will certainly help the PlayBook in the quantity department but the App World ecosystem needs improvements. Probably the best app in the PlayBooks ecosystem so far is the Browser. A good browser is often overlooked when talking about apps, but RIM really hit a home run with this one. The browser has standard features like history, tab browsing, and private browsing. Flash works which is obviously not available on its main competitor, the iPad. Pinch to zoom works well, with slight checkerboarding. A third-party browser like Opera would be nice though. Especially on a mobile oriented tablet like the PlayBook. Ive heard lots of complaints about the PlayBook not having a dedicated email app. To me, this is a non-issue. I already get my email on my phone and desktop. I can even read and compose emails on my PlayBook with BlackBerry Bridge. Yes, I know not everyone with a PlayBook has a BlackBerry but if you are knocking the PlayBook for not having an email app, just wait for OS 2.0 in February. A few apps that I would like to see on the PlayBook are Netflix, Pandora, and a turn-by-turn GPS app like Garmin.
After using the PlayBook for a month, Ive found a few things that annoy me. For one, Ive always found it irritating that the App World is laggy compared to the home screen. Scrolling through the app list on the PlayBook is buttery smooth but scrolling through the apps on the App World is jittery. Another thing that bothers me, and Ive thought about this for a while, is a lack of a universal menu. What I loved about my BlackBerry smart phone is the ability to press the menu button and do everything from there. Theres a menu system on the PlayBook but it varies from app to app(reminds me of Android). The menus are accessed by gesture swiping from the top bezel. You are then limited to what you can do depending on what app you use. For example, on my phone, if I open a picture, I can hit menu, then send it via email, delete, copy, move, etc. On the Pictures app on the PlayBook, I can only access the camera, browse through other pics, delete, and set as wallpaper. Wheres the option to send it via email, BBM, post on Twitter, or Facebook? Same thing goes with their News app. They have Edit, Update, and Options which isnt even a real Options setting. Its just an about page. How that got pass RIMs quality control is beyond me. And all the settings menu look different. Another thing that annoys me is the orientation lock bug. There are a few apps that only work in landscape mode. As you may know, you can lock the orientation of the PlayBook either in portrait or landscape mode. When you lock the PlayBook in portrait mode and then open an app that only works in landscape mode, it will revert to landscape mode. Once in a while, it will mess up the screen, cutting off an edge or locking up a section only to show a black bar. Im guessing this is due to conflicting access. You want portrait mode locked but the app youre trying to open requests landscape mode. When this happens, I would have to do a hard reboot. Another hangnail is the keyboard. The software keyboard is not bad, its just okay. It only seems to pop up randomly. Usually, you would tap on a text field and the keyboard would pop up. Sometimes, it wouldnt. Youd think you mistapped or it didnt register but you see the cursor in the text field. Then you have to use the bottom-left corner gesture to bring up the keyboard. This is a hangnail, a somewhat minor problem, and its just one of those rough edges that needs to be addressed. The tablet experience is refreshing but the BlackBerry polish still need buffering.
Overall, the BlackBerry PlayBook is a great tablet. All it really needs is more apps. This will come in time and especially after the 2.0 release. The hardware is good to last a few years which is a lifetime in the tech world. I love QNX even though I have some complaints. The OS is fast and multi-tasking is amazing. The PlayBook is just another example why the netbook is dying. A few things I think the PlayBook needs is a global menu which I dont think they will actually implement. Along with that, I think the PlayBook needs autotext/predictive text. Typing on the PlayBook, as with other tablets, is painfully slow. I type faster on my desktop and my phone compared to my PlayBook. I have lots of autotext shortcuts on my phone that I wish were also on my PlayBook. Typing would still be slow, but not unbearable. Watching YouTube videos is very convenient when Im on my bed and the browser is a joy. Having such a nice browser offsets some of the app-hunger since I can use the browser version of certain apps but you can only wait so long. I mainly leave the PlayBook on all the time. Waking it up takes a second and opening the browser takes another. In comparison to my netbook, my desktop, and even my phone, the PlayBook is much faster when it comes to waking up and opening a browser. Flash support doesnt hurt either. Sometime you only need to search for something simple like a phone number or street address. Lots of times, I shut off my desktop forgetting to do one simple thing and the PlayBook comes to the rescue. Overall, I think OS 1.0.8 is good but it needs more polishing. I dont expect third-party apps to be in sync with one another but I do expect official RIM apps to have a certain level of synergy. As a BlackBerry phone user, you get spoiled with the global menu and you wonder why its missing on the PlayBook. As far as the PlayBook overall, its a great tablet @ the holiday deal of $200. Besides a few annoyances, the tablet is fast and multi-tasking is great. Now that the Kindle Fire is out, I expect the MSRP will dropВ permanentlyВ in the near future. Stay tuned for a second look when 2.0 comes out.
*Update* OS2 is out. Check out my review here!
RIMs first tablet comes with great hardware and so-so software. The tablets shows great potential but is hindered by a lack of apps. The native e-mail problem is over-hyped as many tablet owners will already have smartphones but that has been fixed with OS2. The Browser is excellent. Paired with a BlackBerry smartphone, this tablet is killer combo with BlackBerry Bridge. All it needs is more developers. The PlayBook is an underrated tablet.