A few weeks ago I had the chance to attend the BlackBerry Playbook launch party at Center 548 in Chelsea. I had been to the location before for various Fashion Shows and other events but after press check-in this was the first time I got to ride in the giant elevator I first noticed at Sally LaPointe's debut NYFW show. It was as big as a large bedroom and it led the way to a giant party arena where editors, bloggers and IT people were mingling over delicious Passion Fruit flavored BlackBerry inspired cocktails and tasty little appetizers. I was excited for a chance to finally get my hands on a Playbook as a couple months ago I wasn’t able to attend the first introduction of the product to the media and sent my cousin as a substitute.
At first I didn't spot any of the usual suspects – my fellow fashion bloggers – and I feel a little off my game as I soon discover folks from Goldman Sachs and Glamour magazine amongst the party people. My guess from the looks of the crowd most of the attendees are IT people. Finally I ran into a couple familiar faces including YM of Liquid Rice and my friend Debie, who works with Jennine at IFB.
I navigated my way through the crowds to reach one of the few display bars set up complete with BlackBerry representative was on hand to walk you through how to use the product and key features.
One of the first things I noticed about the BlackBerry PlayBook was the sturdy feel of it in my hand. The back of the device has a matte rubber cover to give it a good hand feel, avoid fingerprints and increase grip. The Playbook doesn't feel like it will slip out of my fingers the way an iPad might. The shape is a completely flat rectangle that feels comfortable in my hand. The other thin I notice is the size. It’s about 1/2 the size of an iPad with a 7” screen and weighing in at less than 1 lb. I’d definitely be more likely to tote this around in the city as it easily slides into about every purse that I own.
While at first the PlayBook wasn't completely intuitive like the iPad after a quick demo I was well on my way. One of the key differences is that the frame around the screen was also touch sensitive and you can use your fingers to glide through the menu or to drag away open programs when you are done with them.
Some of the unique features like the ability to run programs simultaneously without pausing or shutting anything down. This is useful if you ever want to simultaneously listen to a podcast while browsing the web or listen to music while writing an email or using any of the Microsoft Office To Go programs that come pre-installed.
The 2-way camera that is able to take pictures and videos of not only of things around you but of yourself as well. The 5 megapixel rear-facing camera that you can
use to capture great pictures is pretty handy, although personally I’d probably still use a cell phone camera. However I am excited about the 3 megapixel front-facing camera, although I think that the quality is almost too good for close up shots as you can see all your pores and shine on your face! Eek! I just think that this is great if you ever want to take self photos or video and hopefully eventually be able to Skype people from your PlayBook (I just checked the App Store and Skype isn’t developed yet for the PlayBook).
Important to note is that you get a full web browsing experience as the Playbook comes equipped with Adobe Flash. This is great because for social networking applications like Facebook, you can do things like use FB Chat, post photos or play games like you would from a full computer. You can also watch YouTube without a hitch.
Also if you’re a BlackBerry user already, you can use BlackBerry Bridge to wirelessly connect to your BlackBerry PlayBook using secure Bluetooth
technology. You can have real-time access to email, calendars, BBM, files, and
other data on your smartphone, displayed on the large HD display of your tablet!
The rep was quick to show me that the Playbook comes pre-loaded with Need for Speed the car game that I know my brother was addicted to growing up and although I am by no means the ideal person to be impressed by that feature, I thought that if I was a game-playing kind of guy I would find it very cool as you get to steer by holding the entire device and tilting it like a steering wheel. I later found Tetris and although I’m not a gamer, I love to play puzzle games while I wait on the subway platform or while commuting as a happy distraction. Tetris is an old school fave and it was fun to try playing it using a touch screen.
While the BlackBerry PlayBook, comes with a Neoprene Sleeve, I also got a chance to check out some of the BlackBerry accessories like the Soft Shell, Leather Sleeve and Zip Sleeve that are optional for a more colorful or polished professional look. While these are super flashy or designer they are very practical!
After my PlayBook education was complete, I had another cocktail before heading home for the evening. The most happy surprise of all? I was given my very own PlayBook for further exploration. So far I’m digging the pre-installed program Kobo Books and the NFB app to watch Canadian National Film Board documentaries and animations!