The BlackBerry PlayBook is the best low-cost tablet, so says the iOS guru

BlackBerry PlayBook.. Cheaper and Better
By Kevin Michaluk on 2 Nov 2012 01:31 am EDT

The iPad mini goes on sale today. While the hype doesn't seem to be as feverish as we have seen in the past for iPhone and iPad launches, there are some people lining up for it, including iMore's illustrious EiC and Apple guru, Rene Ritchie.

Rene has been doing a fantastic job covering the iPad mini from every possible angle since Apple officially announced the smallish 7.9" tablet that is accompanied by a biggish $329 starting price. It's a product introduction into Apple's portfolio that raises a lot of questions. iPod Touch or iPad mini? iPad mini or iPad 2/3/4? iPad mini or another 7" tablet? 

As tablets like the Nexus 7 and Kindle Fire demonstrate at a $200 price point, 7" tablets these days are associated with being low cost. At $329, the iPad mini isn't exactly low cost. For some people, low cost matters more than anything else, and today Rene decided that if you are looking for the best low cost tablet, the one to go for isn't the Nexus 7 or Kindle Fire, but rather the BlackBerry PlayBook which can be found on sale these days for $150.

Rene writes:

Sure, the BlackBerry PlayBook isn't the latest hardware anymore -- it's closer to the original Kindle Fire in specs than the Nexus 7 or any of this year's Kindle Fires -- but it's scheduled to be updated to BB10 in 2013 and that looks to be a much more functional tablet experience than what Amazon offers, and something that could rival Android for not-Apple in not-Apple lovers' hearts. Even the PlayBook as it stands today is arguably a better pure tablet experience than either the more-properly-defined-as-a-media-appliance Kindle Fire, or the "blown up smartphone" interface elements that still plague the Nexus 7. 

As a person who actually owns the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire and several BlackBerry PlayBooks, I don't disagree here. A PlayBook at $150 is cheap. Of course the BlackBerry PlayBook wasn't positioned as a low cost tablet when it came to market -- the starting MSRP was $499 -- but as RIM has continued to discount it and release software updates, the value proposition for it keeps getting better. Though it's not a new tablet, the hardware specs and more important, performance, are still really solid. And web browser is great and runs flash well - which opens up your content ecosystem.

But I'm a BlackBerry guy. Of course I think the PlayBook at $150 is the best low cost tablet out there. What I really like is that in this case, the iOS guy thinks so too. Hit the link below to read the rest of Rene's thoughts on it. Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.

If you're competing with the iPad mini based on price, you're telling people to buy the BlackBerry PlayBook 

Reader comments

The BlackBerry PlayBook is the best low-cost tablet, so says the iOS guru


I still think the price points were too high when it was released. I didn't get one until the 64 gb sold for 299. I'm looking forward to the bb10 upgrade though. Overall, I am content with the purchase. No way I was going to be an early adopter at the original prices. Things are looking up for RIM. I've said this before...but buy RIM stock now. I wish word with friends didn't lock up so much, but that's a different thread for another day.

When Playbook came out on April 19, 2011 at $499 it was rediculously priced, considering it didn't even come with QNX 2.0. However I got my 32GB Playbook with a charging dock, leather carrying case and an 8 foot HDMI cable in a package deal from the Canadian Shopping Channel in December 2011 for $299. That's a major deal when you consider the charging dock at that time almost a year ago was selling for $99 alone. I hope they have a fire sale on the new 3G Playbooks as I'd love to pick up one of those bad boys at a discount. I am very happy with my purchase and love the new 2.1 and all the new apps that are coming up. I really love how you can have an almost unlimited amount of apps open at once. I had 15 open at once with no slow down which is insanely fast.
I’d rather be a Black Sheep than an iSheep any day.

Let me edit that for you. The BlackBerry PlayBook is the best tablet. The fact that it was inexpensive is irrelevant. (It was obviously rushed to market and hobbled at launch by running a previously non-consumer OS generally used in embedded systems.) For my use case (and many others) it is already an exceptional device. When that underlying OS is updated to what essentially will be the same OS running on next generation BB handset hardware then the device will really shine. Competition is good. I could have bought any tablet, I chose PlayBook.

/Device agnosticism or bust!

I don't like the words "low-cost".

I'd rather read "best tablet" only!
It's a great device - that's a fact!

8700 -> 8900 -> 9900 -> 9790 + 8310

Its ridiculous that in order for an opinion to be validated about something positive regarding blackberry it seems that the person must have an iOS device as well.

"My blackberry Playbook is a really good device" »» not good enough.

"I have a playbook, and an ipad and I must say the playbook is a really good device" »» seemingly accepted by society.

It seems like once you have an iOS device as well, then OH he knows what he's talking about!! Otherwise no. Its shameful

To be quite frank i dont give two shits if some one else doesnt like my tablet. Who the hell is someone else to say the device doesnt meet MY needs. Why is everyone so concerned about my needs and how i get things done??? Stop looking at mine and mind your own business. Are these people so concerned about my life that they just have to ask why i STILL have a 9900? Bud i got it the minute it came out in the rogers store closest to rim headquarters who the fuck are you??? You dont think i know how old it is???? (not directed at u guy above me)

He/she needs to manage that anger a little better. I think the point has been missed, all that was being said was, Apples products are so popular that they have been placed as a benchmark, and unless compared to the Apple standard, your rating is worthless. And in Apple's fairness, they make a good product - good for them.

I was referring to "todays world" not the article. And if someone is in my business i am not going to sit there silent. Nothing is an anger issue there. Sorry that my view wasnt a good fit for you.

Totally agree with this. I tend to try to stay out of my phone is better than your phone cometitions because I'm happy with my phone, so I really don't care if anyone else approves of it. BUT, when approached by someone demanding I explain why I chose the device I did, I find myself highly irritated. What does it matter? It's mine not theirs. I don't care why they bought their phone so why should they care why I bought mine?

+1. I remember your hockey change room incident.that kind of thing is ridiculous. It was like she just completed initiation for the cult and she successsfully completed it.

To you sir, i say: Thank you for taking the words out of my mouth and i raise my glass to you!


I think the Blackberry should collaborate with the Amazon. It means that they should make the tablets for the Amazon.

- Rezaur Rahman

Brought the Playbook when it first came and returned because at the time I could not get it to connect to my work WiFi. Then brought it again six months later the 16gb since it had dropped in price. Gave that one to my niece when I was able to get the 64gb on the cheap side from Amazon since I use it most for videos and was able to load the Kindle app. I do have IOS and Android devices but will hang on to the Playbook and see how BB10 works on it.

Interesting that the guy somehow figures that a software update to BB10 means a hardware upgrade. It appears that there is still a great deal of ignorance about what QNX actually is.

FWIW, I've owned my PlayBook since release and it's been excellent. The bridge feature is pure goodness.

The reason people are ignorant or clueless about the PlayBook is because RIM isn't advertising it. If they advertised more often abt it people would know.

PlayBook is CHEAP, and based on the Hardware it appears to be a good value.

But value really depends on what you wanted to use your tablet for... and for the average consumer their are a LOT of holes in the PlayBook ecosystem! What would get people really excited would be if you could load a different OS on the PlayBook...

All that said... don't expect the PlayBook2 (if there is one) to be $150 or $200 dollars - the only reason it is cheap right now is because if was a flop and RIM wrote off all the stock they had. They aren't giving away the 4G version that they had to produce - wonder how small a run they ordered?

For that I'm disappointed - great OS finally a year+ later but still a lack of good apps hurts.

People getting in now for $150 are getting a decent deal but if I bought today I would get an N7 and a BB10 to replace my Torch 9810. Will still get the BB10.

I knew Rene was smart! Great job by the Mobile Nations team for factual reporting! Every one always asks what I'm using when I have my PlayBook, people are always surprised when it's not Apple! No disrespect to anyone using any other OS but QNX is the next level, I hope enough consumers support BB to keep this show on the road.

Totally agree! I'm actually going out to grab a sweet deal this evening at Best Buy Canada - $199 for 32 GB PB with BB keyboard and case. This will be the 2nd PB in this house - although I'm debating on whether they'll discount the 64 GB bundle later...such a dilemma.

~I am BlackBerry by choice~

I like this article and the banter around it. I was at Gartner's Symposium ITxpo last week in Orlando. I have a PlayBook and was asked by every stranger that I sat down next to, "What tablet is that?". It's amazing how ignorant the general tech population is to the PlayBook - even those that attend a conference geared towards IT executives and CIOs. There were 12,000 attendees to this conference and I didn't see another PlayBook the whole week.

One gent asked me, as he unfolded his iPad with keyboard attachment, "Why did you choose it?" I applauded its ability to bridge to my BlackBerry handset without the need for another cellular data contract in addition to its portability and ease of use.

Sadly, Gartner is not very upbeat on RIM's future which was sad to hear over and over again during the week. That underscores the uphill climb the company has and the message that still needs to get out. It perpetuates negativity in the hands of decision makers.

The playbook absolutely seems like the best choice for me as I am looking for a 7 inch tablet. Great price and I love that you can bridge with my BB 9800 but.... I live in Grand Rapids MI and no stores carry the playbook here! Ive checked best buy, staples, walmart and the list goes on. I cant even find the playbook on their websites. Where am i supposed to buy a playbook? Amazon is way overpriced. It is so frustrating that I can not go into best buy and test the playbook os before i try to buy. It seems pretty clear that major retailers in the US are not at all interested in selling the playbook.

I'm awfully anxious to get BB10 on my PlayBook. As it stands, it just isn't functional. I still can't get Exchange sync to work properly and sync my folders. That totally kills it for me. It's sitting on my desk in the charging dock. I haven't looked at it weeks.

As the Apple representative for Mobile Nations I feel that Renee works hard to be unbiased when he can be and this post further enforces that in my mind. However, as Android fans have learned over the years, you cannot assume that an unreleased OS update will be available for a device that is already out. Perhaps I've become jaded like Jerry or Derek, but I won't believe BB10 will be on the Playbook until I see it. Even then I have performance concerns.

The "Blown up phone apps on a tablet" argument is also getting to be a bit long in the tooth. If I didn't know better, I'd think he didn't use the Nexus 7 much and completely ignores any iOS app with the x2 icon to make the "phone app" full screen on an iPad. There are poorly designed apps in all of the ecosystems. At least with iOS and Android you likely have many alternatives that meet the same need.

The above is yet another example of someone being almost wholly clueless as to what QNX is.

If it has a multicore processor, QNX will run on it. BB10 is a process that will be run by the QNX RTOS. PB OS 2.1 is a process running on QNX. BB10 is, if you will, a more refined PB OS. The QNX micro kernel assigns resources to processes be it PB 2.1 or BB10.

Thanks, I appreciate being called ignorant.

I never indicated that the Playbook wouldn't be able to run BB10. We are still reliant on RIM providing the update. If they don't provide it, it doesn't happen for 95% of Playbook owners.

Maybe I'm wrong and RIM doesn't have to provide the update. If that's the case, maybe I should pick up a Nook Tablet. With the release of the HD line, it will become even more affordable than the Playbook.

Though the LTE devices may seem like an interesting and convenient idea - I just tether my Wi-Fi one to my 9810 using the HotSpot feature. Works just fine and both devices play nicely together. Using bridge, I get to remotely control the PlayBook from the phone and use the phone's Wi-Fi. No other tablet does this...

I am sure looking forward to BB OS 10 for the PlayBook. If it's as good as it looks then my future phone will be OS 10 powered also.

For the price ($149.99 for 32GB), the Wi-Fi PlayBook is definitely the best tablet out there without doubt.

I totally agree with you, the bridge feature has more than made this buy of my BlackBerry phone and table a thousand times! I love that my T-Mobile phone has UMA and I can connect to make calls thru wifi even when I was deployed to Afghanistan for free to the states. Also, whenever traveling I love I can use my phones data to use apps or to surf the net for free using my bridge. Then u got the ability to use the phone as the keyboard or remote to control the apps, type view media etc... There is no other tablet/phone combo as useful or versatile as these two. My only gripe is how sluggish both of these are and how I have to keep rebooting my phone every once in a while.

Honestly, it is the most underrated and one of the most powerful Tablet there has ever been, but because RIM made it, it automatically becomes "troll bait"

MEH, I love mine :)

Commercially the playbook was not a success and that mostly comes down to being overpriced from the outset and poorly targeted marketing, but in the long run if bb10 becomes a success then the playbook will have done its part due to the amount of bb10-compatible apps there will be in appworld at launch.

It is just a shame that they hadn't taken a longer term view that recognised the tablet market wasn't going to be that crucial to them for a long time if at all and just launched the playbook just over cost in order to build momentum towards bb10 and at the same time they should have marketed it more specifically at the start because a blackberry user had the bridge and little need for an email app unlike a more generic tablet owner and 10-20% of bb users getting one would have resulted in a more popular total audience for developers.

Another thing that would have helped them greatly is if they had tied up a single integrated content deal with somebody like Amazon who at the time didn't have their own tablet range after all.

Love my Playbook. I bought four.
Gave one to my dad, sister, and wife.
I think I'll be getting a couple for the kids this Christmas.

Great article, I am quite impressed and I am going to recommend the playbook to anybody who is looking for a tablet.

I own both iPhones and Blackberrys, iPads and Playbook. Even with IOS 6 on my iPhone 5, I am constantly drawn back to my Blackberry Bold as the preferred daily phone. Cannot wait to try out Blackberry 10. Especially the N-series.

But with regard to tablets, I honestly think RIM should kill the product ASAP and take it as their own "new Coke" learnings experience. Why ? Because :
1) The tablet consumes vast amounts of resources and lose money hand over fist
2) The product - unless one is a complete Apple hater or one-eyed Blackberry fan is truly inferior. Compared to iPads, the usability is laughable, the boot up time about half a day, battery life nothing exceptional, ergonomics not impressive (very hard to find a comfortable way to hold it with one hand).

Instead, RIM should focus its efforts on "opening the Blackberry 10 to the internet of of things". By this I mean improving our ability to consume the content of our Blackberry on other things than the Blackberry itself. They should license Airplay from Apple if that is what it takes. Because IMHO, the really big difference between iPhone and Blackberry with regard to Apps (on the core communication stuff BB wins hands down already) is not the amount of Apps or quality of Apps, but that iPhone allow you to enjoy the content of the Apps on other devices - way more suited to the content - than the iPhone itself.

I think you are mistaken about the tablet consuming vast amounts of resources, while it may have been true in the past, I would doubt if there is more than a skeleton staff still working specifically on it, albeit there will be some stuff that will be common to both playbook and bb10 where they will benefit from other resources.

As far as losing money, that money is already lost as far as their official numbers, so all they are doing at this point would be trying to mitigate their losses or in the case of the 4g model, using it as a testbed for lte on a qnx device.

The boot up time is poor, but then again who actually boots either of those devices regularly, the battery life is fine and certainly in the same ballpark as all the other tablets.

As far as ergonomics, I personally find my playbook with the soft plastic finish and lighter weight to be far more comfortable to hold in one hand than the much heavier ipad with its smooth metal back.

Going after airplay is a waste of time, there are far more tv's or monitors that have a hdmi port if you want to output it onto something else and if they were to pursue any particular kind of wireless option it would make far more sense to go with something along the lines of WiDi where the manufacturer of the technology would actually want other companies using it.

Personally, I find that I use my ipad and playbook for similar things, consuming content such as books, comics, magazines, music and video with the only real difference being where I use the device with the bigger and heavier ipad being mostly used at home and the playbook being more portable and small enough to slip into a jacket pocket ends up being used when I go out.

I think it's abt time we get an upgraded PlayBook. I heard they were making a 10" version, if that's the case I really hope they make a 7" version as well coz I love the size! In addition I must say I am very disappointed they STILL haven't made a dock with built in HDMI out. The one dock they made only charges and doesn't have any other functions so to me it's worthless. Specially if you're using it for professional presentations, it just looks unprofessional and clumsy laying it down. I personally would have thought RIM would have remedied this ASAP with a full sized SD card slot and a couple of full sized USB ports, like the one I had seen leaked with an RJ45 port.

We've bought several Playbooks as gifts for family members.
Our family is scattered over Canada and the U.K. and we use the video chat feature to talk with them on a daily basis.
We also use skype, but prefer the convenient size of the playbook, plus the fact that you can reverse the camera so that what the user sees is available for you to see.
This year I've seen parts of Venice and had coffee in a quaint cafe in France with my sister, and had a tour of my sons new home in Halifax Nova Scotia whilst drinking coffee in a coffee shop in Cambridge Ontario.
We sent one to my wifes Mother in the U.K. who had never used a computer in her life. After two weeks not only does she talk to us regularly on "Video Chat", but she's taking photos and attaching them to emails to send to us. She absolutely loves the thing, we can't believe how at 75 years old she's picked it up, and uses all it's features.
Buying these playbooks has been amongst the best investments we've made, and we're looking forward to the new Blackberry 10.