I finally got a chance to sit down with my Playbook and get acquainted with it. My overall impression is that it is a solid piece of hardware, but awkward and ungainly in many places, but beautiful in others. Unfortunately, it also has some huge gaping holes.
The Good Stuff
The performance on the device is great so far. The touch screen is responsive, the OS is fast, and lag seems to be non-existent (with one exception, I'll touch on later). Video on the device is brilliant and beautiful, and the sound put out by the little speakers is listenable and strong. I can actually imagine myself using the Playbook to watch movies or podcasts while traveling.
The device itself is nice. It is smaller than I had expected, but it will be nice and portable. You can easily hold it in one hand and the backing of the tablet where your fingers will rest has a quite pleasing texture. The screen is nice and bright. The battery seems to have a very nice life to it as well.
Network connections are where I can see some lag. I can't tell if this is application specific or device specific. The browser speeds along at a respectable rate, but while watching some videos on the YouTube and National Film Board of Canada apps there were times of buffering making the media unwatchable. Other times I could watch just fine. It seems good most of the time, though.
There are some apps that are quite good. The weather app and the calculator are exceptionally good. The podcast app is also quite excellent.
Things That Make Me Go "Meh"
The cameras on the Playbook are a disappointment. There are two of them with 3MP in the front and 5MP in the back. Both take pretty disappointing pictures. Even with good light, there is a lot of speckling and noise as if I was shooting in low light. I haven't taken it out into bright daylight yet, but this is a tablet that is probably not going to be used in that setting often. For as vibrant as the video output is, it would be nice to have inputs that are even close to being worthy of being shown in the same venue. Also, pictures in the gallery view won't rotate with the orientation of the tablet. This means that pictures taken while holding the tablet in portrait mode are scrunched down to fit into landscape mode when viewed, regardless of whether you're holding the tablet in portrait or landscape mode.
The OS is a different experience in the aforementioned not-quite-Bizarro-world way. Coming from Android, I'm used to having a standard, ever present back button. On the Playbook, going back in an application or context is always a different way. Some places have an explicit back button. Some have a home button. Others lack a back button at all, requiring you to minimize the app. The same is true for submit buttons. Sometimes there will be a submit button in the app interface and other times its a button in the pop-up keyboard. That's a UI design that'll take some getting used too. Also, for a touch device, the Playbook has some really tiny interface buttons. Mainly here I'm thinking of the application close buttons. Often times I'll reenter an app while trying to close it.
More of the "different" feel of Playbook comes from the app selections. There's no Google maps, but instead, there's Bing maps. There's no Pandora, but instead there's Slacker Radio (which incidentally was a Steaming Pile of Fail when I used it). The browser also uses Bing to search, rather than Google.
Steaming Piles of Fail
There are no calendar or email apps. The Gmail app on the desktop is just a shortcut to the Gmail site. Same with the Yahoo! email app, which I couldn't get to work when I tried it. Facebook? Twitter? Both are links to the respective websites.
Manual sleep mode is broken. Supposedly you press the power button to put the device to sleep. It does not work at all for me. Plus that stinking power button is so tiny and close set to the surface that I have to use a pen to press it and be sure it registers.
One promise was that the Playbook would run Android apps. Well, not really. I thought that I could run to the Android Marketplace to fill in the gaping holes in the Playbook's app selection. I spent a good while trying to figure out how to install an Android app on the Playbook and couldn't get it. After some research, I found that the promise of running Android apps means that developers can take their Android apps, package them as Playbook apps and then put them in Blackberry App World. So this means no supplementing App World with the Android Marketplace. Which means the apps I have come to depend on are absent
I saw a recent figure saying there are just over 1,700 apps in App World, which is a surprisingly low number. This means that the field is open for developers to put out their apps. I have become dependent on certain apps on my phone that are not available for Playbook. Where is my TweetDeck? Where is Pandora? Where's Grooveshark? Where is my YouVersion Bible? (To be fair there are other Bible apps, but YouVersion rocks.) Where is my Astrid To-Do list? Where's GTalk? Skype? I guess I feel a bit guilty for beating up the Playbook because it's not Android. Still, I want these apps. Hopefully they will show up in time.
Overall, I guess I'm a bit disappointed with the Playbook. Hopefully the app selection will grow and my expectations will change. I'm not sure what I should expect from a tablet. I think I'm coming in thinking it should be like my phone, but with more options. After playing with the Playbook, mainly I expect to use this for travel entertainment and online recipes in the kitchen. I don't foresee me laying down my phone to use the Playbook unless I want to watch a movie or read an eBook. But that's all right. I got this for "free".