Tales from the RIMPIRE: How a BlackBerry PlayBook replaced a laptop

Laptop replacement
By Alicia Erlich on 8 Oct 2011 05:15 pm EDT

As it was just a little over a year ago the PlayBook was announced, I thought it fitting to tell a tale of why I'm a proud member of the RIMPIRE. In the past few months I've had the opportunity to go completely PC-less. One case wasn't by choice while the other was. Now the million dollar question is can a person survive with limited access to a PC (not counting work) and use nothing but their PlayBook? You'll find out after the break. 

Case #1 - Broken Laptop  

Back in May I woke one morning to find my laptop's display dead. Now the truth was I needed to find another way to get my work done before I drove everyone around me crazy. While waiting for a replacement, I decided to rely on my PlayBook and BlackBerry during those couple of weeks hoping they would fill the shoes of my dearly departed desktop. Up until this point I'd only used the PlayBook for games and browsing the internet because of my own personal problems with the keyboard. Now I faced my demons and realized it wasn't so bad afterall.

My immediate challenge: writing posts. I couldn't just stop because my laptop had a boo boo. My solution? Documents to Go. Using the premium version on the PlayBook and the standard one on my device I wrote posts everywhere I could for just about every article posted in May: on the train, on the bus, in the lunchroom at work, and even on my comfy couch while watching TV.

I would start the post on my BlackBerry, snap a screen shot, and then use BlackBerry Bridge or File Browser to transfer or open the files on the PlayBook (or vice versa) to edit and post. After awhile, I realized how heavy my laptop was and having that burden lifted was a relief. Plus the added bonus of not dragging around power cords or burning my lap from the heat helped too.

Now I'm not going to bore you with the day-to-day tasks that followed. Using tablets is all about what you use it for. Since I'm the type of person who checks my emails, edits documents and spreadsheets, accesses chat rooms, plays games, and connects fo friends via social networking sites, the PlayBook fit nicely into my daily routine. Plus I loaded it up with TV Shows, Movies, and Books to take with me while commuting. I once debated over buying a netbook, well as you can tell, not anymore.

Case # 2 - Travelling

I decided to take it with me during my corporate training in Chicago and wouldn't you know it I didn't miss a beat. As a co-worker quietly read her magazine during the flight (laptop was packed away), I watched a movie, played a few different games, and read a few chapters of a book. At the hotel, I used Wi-Fi to connect to my company's outlook website and responded to messages. 

What I loved most was bringing it to the training facility. The building had no cell service whatsoever but complimentary Wi-Fi. So while they lectured I tweeted (with Blaq), checked email, and caught up with the latest CrackBerry news all at the same time. Needless to say I was very happy that it lasted the entire trip without requiring a charge.

Now this was no easy feat mind you. I admit there were a couple of times I cheated and fired up the ol' laptop and plugged it into the TV to work. My hands were tied because one of the apps I reviewed that month required a PC and I needed to Photoshop out some personal information on another. 

Since the BlackBerry PlayBook came on the scene, the question of whether they can truly replace a laptop has always been out there one way or the other. In my case it did. It's lighter with a longer battery life that also let me get work done, view YouTube videos, check my email, and BBM my friends while my device charged in another room. That's why I've been carrying it around instead of my laptop. I'm not kidding, I sat playing Dead Space in the doctor's office and almost missed my appointment. Now that is how my PlayBook replaced a laptop :). 

So folks anyone out there have a similar experience (without the dead laptop of course). Sound off in the comments below.

Discuss more in the CrackBerry forums 

Reader comments

Tales from the RIMPIRE: How a BlackBerry PlayBook replaced a laptop


My favorite feature of my playbook is the portability. It isn't awkward to carry around like the ipad or other larger-screened device.

I carry my PlayBook around in my hand, just like my BlackBerry...only now, my BlackBerry goes in my pocket.(as does my PlayBook sometimes;)
Portability, yes!
My PlayBook takes place of a laptop or even desktop, mainly because I don't own either of the two. Nevertheless, it will remain my main computing device.

with OS2 with expected ActiveSync - native email, calendar etc it definately will! iPAD cant because no file system, no possibility to send attachments in replies to messages,.

My netbook broke this summer, and I've used my PlayBook for all of my university work on campus - taking notes, browsing, email (through Bridge for now), etc. I bought a keyboard so that I didn't have to use the on-screen one, and now it does the job quite well. I still have a desktop for writing the papers but my PlayBook has effectively replaced all of my portable needs.

I personally don't own any tablets at all. I really considered the Playbook, but really couldn't figure out what I would really use it for. So my question is do you think that if you were able to use a blackberry for typing would it be able replace a laptop for good?

One of my first thoughts after I got my PlayBook was that it would be nice to be able to use my Berry as a wireless keyboard/mouse for my PlayBook. Until (hopefully) that happens, do you have a suggestion on what wireless keyboard to get?

I remember that post, good idea. I just want to be able to answer my phone over the bluetooth pairing. Not sure what would prevent this feature from becoming available.

wife uses a pretty old laptop and i use my playbook, i asked if she wanted a playbook instead, she insisted she would never use it so no need to buy her one. one night, i told her let's switch and you use the playbook. Stupid me, now i need to buy another playbook. the nerve, she said accused me of holding out on her with playbook. no good deed goes unpunished :) ipad no bueno tried to use it sold it to a friend.

I'ts all very well creating/reading documents. My laptop just broke too, waiting for a new display panel to arrive. Some of us would like to use these things in a practical sense, like reprogramming PIC and AVR microcontrollers in the field with the common toolchains. No tablet other than the clunky windows ones offers us this functionality- and I'd prefer my laptop to those any day.
That's why I'm buying a new laptop display panel.
I f the PlayBook could do that I'd already have one. It can't (or more accurately won't) so it's a new Dell panel for now.

That's great, but what you use a laptop for any tablet could replace. If you actually do heavy work on a laptop the Playbook (or any other tablet) won't come close.

I initially purchased my PB to replace laptop usage. My niece took her laptop and I wanted a replacement to play MafiaWars on FaceBook. That's all I did at first and then I actually had to type a document. used my Word2Go with no problem. My only suggestion is that on the new bluetooth keyboard slated to come out for the PB that there is some kind of trackpad soni can have a mouse. My PB life would be perfect then. As mentioned in another post, my PB is an extension of my person and I love the portable size.

Yeah . That's what i wish . . . Is that the PlayBook would have come with the ever loving trackpad ! . . A mouse ! and a left click ! in one button ! We didn't have to go completely touchless , to prove a point !

I love my Playbook so hopefully someone here can help me out. I can use it for most things but when I'm working on my laptop, I often need to work on files that are generated from a website and then I use the downloaded files to via a macro on excel spreadsheets. This is the kind of thing that I still have not figured out how to do.
Honestly, it is not something I do every day but does anyone know if any of the file apps allow us to download files and then allows excel to find and use them?

I have had my PB since day one! I can't beleve how useful it is. I only use my Macbook pro to do my bookeeping! now (I used to lug it around everywhere) I now use dropbox/bluebox on my PB to access all my necessary files. Can't tell you how much I feel sorry for all the ipad users that need to pay for word,excel and powerpoint! I especially feel bad for all the money that the ipad/3G users have to shell out every month. I have free access through my BB 9900. Can't wai to 2.0 to even love this device even more. Only thing RIM messed up was on how they marketed the PB! Users need to get there hands on it, use it and will certainly fall in love with it!! My PB is awesome! Thank you RIM!

I have only has my playbook for a week, but that was long enough to realize that it really cannot replace my laptop for what I do. Sure it can do many things that a laptop can do, just much much slower and less efficient. I guess if I had a bluetooth keyboard it might be a little different, but I cannot get over how slooow the bridge browser is. It is sooo much slower than dial up. I got so frustrated yesterday with it I turned to by new Bold to surf the web.

So...the playbook is packed nicely into its box waiting to be returned to Bestbuy.

If your bridge is that slow it sounds like you have a problem with you hardware or cell data connection. Using bridge right now with my BB 9850 on Verizon and I typically see speeds close to tether when browsing and very fast access to the BB PIM functions. I've started using bridge as the default connection unless I need to stream something. Have a friend with a newer BB that you can test the bridge connection?

thanks for your reply. I am currently using the 9930 Bold to bridge the playbook. I also have verizon and have tried the bridge in good service areas. I was surprised how slow things were. I think another member started a thread about the same problem today also. I think it was mostly with this website also.

Believe me I hate that I have experienced this problem. I love the BB/RIM product line!

Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

at the current state, i dont think PB can replace any Laptop or compete against ipad/android tablet. the current OS lack lots of things. lets see what OS2 brings.

I have been living exclusively on mine now since I bought it. As I stated in another post, my son hijacked my laptop now 3 weeks ago, and I only found out last week. The only time I have used anything other than the PB is when I'm charging it.

I agree with everything you have said here Alicia. i no longer take my laptop on road trips.

i think there are four key elements to the playbook replacing a laptop though. ( Hey, I think RIM needs to target this market much more aggressively. For the large majority of users, the Playbook could replace a desktop as well, but we need all 4 things in place.)

1. Robust OS with a file system--check.
2. Video out for that larger display--check.
3. Keyboard and mouse--check, but a little finnicky on the mouse with the compatibility issues.
4. RDP client--for all those windows based apps that you need that could run on a windows server. No check here that i am aware of.

We need a good RDP client to fill in the app gap!

i have used my pb for primary computing from its release date. the only thing i need my girls laptop for is torrenting. rarely i do jump on to watch hulu or porn, but thats about it.

despite looking forward to tablets as powerful as laptops i have no problem trading a little power and speed for the portability of the playbook. hspa+ has been adequate for browsing and even most streaming i do.

all said and done i cant wait for octacore 5ghz 2160hd screens 24gigs of ram and as thin as paper( oh you dreamers) on gigabit wireless connections, but i like my pb, 9810 for the time being and will wait patiently for a 2nd gen pb and a qnx lte bb.

I dont leave the house without my playbook. I take it to the park with my grand daughter, doctor appointments, road trips, even sailing. The only plsce it doesnt go with me all the time is church. There are way better religious apps for the handsets than there are for the pb.

Don't know which type of shurch you attend, but if you'd like a good Bible app, I use emmanual. Gets updates, runs well, lots of versions, parallel option. Been very happy with it.

Drecar... need your help.. I cant record voice notes unless I connect my headset to the PB.. I would reckon there is something wrong with the headset pin socket unless you tell me you have to plug in a headset as well.
Thanks in advance.

I have had my PlayBook since April and it has been to New York City, Myrtle Beach, Toronto and Ottawa. We never take our Laptop with us on trips any more. What a great way to keep track of emails from home and from work. We love the PlayBook so much that I had to buy a second one for my wife when they were $200 off last week because she is going to Myrtle Beach again with the girls next week and I was not going to let her take MY PlayBook with her. LOL. I just couldn't see myself going a week without my own PlayBook. I would be lost without it.

That would be a good poll question.....Could you go a week without your PlayBook?

I'm on an around the world 10 month trip with my family. We brought 2 PlayBooks, a netbook and a Kindle. The PlayBooks get the most use by far. Most of the blog posts get done using them. The only time we bother firing up the netbook is to configure our Apple Airport Express router to extend the local hotspot. Apple requires you to configure it using a Windows/Mac program rather than through HTML like every other router. They don't have quite the reception of a laptop but having a device be able to go for 3-4 days without charging is priceless. Its a hell of a lot easier to hide as well as generally put one in my cargo shorts and one in a hidden pocket of my backpack. The netbook has a big charger and weighs 3 times as much and is a FAR worse browsing experience. Its not for everyone but this is far better than an iPad/iPad2 for our use case. Plus hooking it up to my unlocked Torch to get local 3G at dirt cheap prices when we can't get free wifi is the cat's meow.

I got my Playbook last month, right before a 10 day vacation to California (when Best Buy knocked $200 off the 64gb one). I thought it'd be nice to watch some movies on during the 5 hour flight, and also instead of my usual buying of several books at the airport book store, I could download a few ebooks. I took my laptop too, as I would still have to keep in touch with the office and answer emails and what not.

However, I kept the pb bridged to my 9930 most of the time, and I found myself just reaching over and grabbing the pb to answer emails and read news/browse the web instead of hauling my large laptop out of its bag and burning my legs with it. Yes, the pb isn't ideal for typing long emails (still baffled that spellcheck and auto cap wasn't included from the off), but it did the trick.

While in CA we were doing a lot of travelling around, and booking hotels on the fly. I did it all on the playbook. It also saved paying $10-15/night for wifi in the hotels, there was no need with the pb bridged to my Bold.

On day 2 of the trip, I went to take a video with my Samsung camera, which has an all touch screen interface, no buttons. However, the bottom half of the touchscreen stopped working and so I couldn't switch it to video mode. Ah well, I pulled out the playbook and used that instead, and continued to for the rest of the trip.

My favourite moment came when I was sat outside a hotel one morning in the 'smoking bit', and tapping away on my pb responding to an email and looking for the next hotel. There was a guy sat on the other end of the bench, with an iPad. He was trying to type something, and had it awkwardly balanced on his lap while he was writing away. Didn't look at all comfortable, compared to me sat leaning back on the bench, pb in portrait mode, typing with my thumbs. He looked over at me and my pb several times, and I could have been mistaken, but it seemed to me to be rather an envious look :)

Basically, I pulled my laptop out and used it once, when i had to mark up a pdf that I had been emailed, and email back the changes. That was all. I love my pb, and can't wait for the improvements that SHOULD be coming soon!

My laptop screen died roughly 6 months ago and I have been using my Ipad as a replacement. I was saving up to have the screen replaced but now have decided to invest in a playbook (iPad was a gift really wanted a playbook :( ) most of my friends and fiancé have all told me that i will still need a laptop but this post has given me hope to prove them wrong. Tablets are more convient and to me the future of mobile computing.

I had high hopes when I bought the PB, but recently (sadly) had to get a used IPad.

I was hoping to use this for work - so don't care about music apps & games which other tablets have the lead on.

I like the PB size, and email and browser work as good as any other tablet or smartphone - so no issue there.

For something marketed as an Enterprise tablet - PB's VPN does not work, No file manager, No Remote Desktop, No Skype Video, No SIP, No support for the most common collab tools/apps used by employees (Skype, MSN, Yahoo) etc.

IPad and other do this today - so once Blackberry gets its act together we can say they are in the same league and compare. Until then PB is more like a easy to hold internet browser.

My laptop broke recently and i have to send it for repairs, which may take some time soo ive been thinking about getting a playbook until then. problem is that the 16gb version are SOLDOUT EVERYWHERE! Ive check 4 stores now and they keep selling out! I cant dish out the extra hundred bucks but i may have to for the 32gb version.

just recently my wife kidnapped my laptop and I asked myself this same question. I don't do too much as of yet which requires me to use a laptop or playbook. I'm just starting a small business and was pretty sure that i would need a new laptop. Ever since I've been digging deeper into the playbook I've noticed that I have everything I need. Now the only device I'm looking to get is the playbook with 64 gig.

I just came back from a trip to Europe. I have the 16 GB PlayBook. I kept all my friends up to date using eMail and a bridge connection to my BlackBerry Bold 9900. The size makes it a pleasure to use. My only regret is that I didn't opt for a 64 GB version. I had to delete some programs to make room for the pictures that I was taking. I would like to see the next PlayBook come out with a SD Card slot for video storage.

i would love to replacw my laptop with my playbook but god damnit, it needs some tol,s to use it for sirious works. I'm not able to open password protected pdfs, nor add notes or even search within a pdf doxument. I love the browsing and multimedia on my pb, but I csnt friggin use it for business purposes. no serious way to handle pdfs, no way to unrar a file.. i hope the android player gives some solutions for this.

I feel no matter the present day limitations tablets are the future. In the coming upgrades power, applications will all be souped up and we will all ask why should we be chained to a desk or be burdened by any 10lbs plus of laptop? A 7inch tablet fits in my backpocket or the inside coat pocket dammit! That is truly mobile computing. I love my playbook!

i cannot consider the playbook for work if i can't even insert/adjust pictures in a document (and possibly edit the picture directly, for instance opening a photo editor just clicking on the picture).... other tablets do that,
and i'm missing usb for external mass storage, skype (or equivalent to call land and mobiles as well), gps navigation with resident maps, an ubuntu blackberry manager would help as well as considering open format.. pb sales would increase x4 or x10

Until I can store stuff externally on a usb/external drive then it's just not good enough for me to replace my netbook.

Needs a better organiser and maybe an 8 inch version too :P

I had problems recently at a hotel with my PB staying connected and my tablet PC had no problems. Never did figure out what was the problem.

was recently on a flight that got delayed on the runway. the toddler beside me started to get restless. i pulled out my pb and put on some children's movies i keep in it for my niece. the toddler was instantly entertained, and i had a very relaxing 3 hour flight.

ps. i hate touch screen keyboards

I use my laptop maybe 1 hour a week. The rest of the time its on the Playbook!! Love this little device! Does so much!

I can't say that my PlayBook can completely replace my work laptop because there is a few things the laptop still does that the PlayBook doesn't but it comes close. When they finally release the case with the built in keyboard and mouse I dont think there will be any need for my laptop anymore.

My PB is very close to replacing my vaio, it's just not there yet. I use my PB + 9900 98% of the time as my main computing devices at home.

playbook is garbage and when bbm goes to android and ios this site is going to be taken down sadly cuz bbm is all the rim has left

Since i got my PlayBook, i have almost entirely stopped using my laptop. Every once and awhile, i will turn it on, hook up my Zune HD and iPod Touch (you can almost feel the tension between them...), and close the lid. The only thing keeping me from getting rid of my computer is my music, and my Minecraft ;)

I have a laptop and PB readily available. I find myself splitting use pretty evenly. There is no question the experience on the PB doesn't measure up to a full computer (and I didn't expect it to). It's just a let down, with the few seemingly simple everyday tasks I would like to use it for, it doesn't do them well.

Twitter crashes periodically and has a flawed tweeting system (copy and pastes rarely work, virtual keyboard sometimes doesn't show up, URLs sometime don't shorten). It also likes to display a few dozen tweets then I scroll down to load more it will load tweets from yesterday, completely neglecting hundreds of more recent tweets. Even a refresh doesn't fix this error.

Facebook likes to report errors sometimes when I try to view pictures or comments. Occasionally it does this messed up thing where the time line is written vertically down the page.

This is extremely annoying and odd.

I had a full freeze the other day while browsing where I had to force restart.

The apps need a lot of work as the few games there are are poorly ported from other platforms or obviously hastily slapped together. I've yet to find a game that shows off the power I'm continually told the PB has. The exception to this is Need For Speed that I beat in the first day and Deadspace that is $10. I've downloaded dozens of games, always disappointed. They don't have the usability and fun factor that would cause me to not delete them after 90 seconds. PB NEEDS DECENT GAMES!

It needs auto-correct reminiscent of Blackberry phones as it's a pain to have to fumble through the virtual keyboards to find capitals and apostrophe's. I'm also a horrible speller and miss the underline and spell check on my phone. This makes typing things too frustrating to not just pull out a laptop. For typing anything over a few sentences (like this comment) I need a laptop or it would take forever.

I sometimes feel like I use the PB just to get use of it, trying my hardest to convince myself it's awesome and I need it. I'd love nothing more than to pack my laptop into a closet but as of right now it's just not an option for me.

I push it on my girlfriend because I would love her to get into as well. She has trouble and the sites she likes to use don't load properly. The maps in realtor.com don't work at all, for example. It is a disaster trying to pinch and move usually resulting in a complete zoom out of the map and page itself getting pushed all over the screen. It's obvious the PB doesn't have a clue how to comprehend there's a map built into the web page. She got frustrated and never used the PB again. Not worth the hassle with a perfectly good lap top 2 feet away.

I also have an issue with web browsing where, maybe 25% of the time, the page doesn't load. That blue page load indicator stops a third of the way and never progresses further. I have to close it and try again and it works. Not the end of the world, but again weighing on the overall experience.

I don't want to just tear it down though. Drag and drop of files off a computer is smooth. Battery life is good. QNX is intuitive. Movies and videos are awesome. Screen is crisp. It's great for portability, although I don't see it coming with me everywhere until the Android App player arrives. I anxiously await Tablet OS 2.0. It was this promise that pushed me that extra amount required to buy a PB in the first place.

In conclusion I would love to love my PB but it has too many bugs and shortfalls to overlook. I need 2.0 desperately and need it to be as good as it's rumored to be in order to save the relationship. If anyone has any tips on how to fix the issues I am experiencing, I am all ears. I anyone out there having the same problems?

I use the playbook with a bluetooth keyboard and words to go for uni lectures. Whilst I'm taking notes, i angle the camera of the playbook at the lecturer's presentation and record it in 720p (at 1080p my storage space is rendered nil in three lectures). It is absolutely perfect.

For all things my laptop won't do is the reason I have a blackberry 9700. I've looked at the Playbooks and while a very attractive product, I just cannot justify spending that kind of money on it.

I do still use my laptop for some things just because of the large screen and physical keyboard, but more often than not I reach for my PlayBook instead these days. I have had it since launch day and my Netbook has become almost never used any more. I use to sit by my bed and I would use it nightly for web browsing and what not before bed...now it is the PlayBook and I couldn't be happier!

Wonder why no one mentioned hand writing recognition... Its what will make my Playbook x1000 useful. Of course apart from BlackBerry enabling software purchases on AppWorld from India; this is a real bummer right now.

With ActiveSync .. yes .. huge chance it will replace my laptop.

I still carry my laptop with me. Mostly due to needing Photoshop for my photography business, and a development platform for programming mobile apps.If there was a powerful enough tablet-based image editing program, and the ability to actually develop BB and Playbook apps directly on a Playbook, then there would be no need for me to bring the laptop anymore.

at the top of the posting he mentioned that transferred movies on the PB. Does anyone know of a good (inexpensive) program I can use to transfer my DVDs to the PB. This will be a great thing since I watch movies on the laptop while I travel which adds weight to my bag.

Well Yes and no :) i could not find a printer during my wedding day to print my speech so i bridged my BB to my playbook save the file on the PB and read it from there ;)

The only hasel when its connected by Blue tooth keyboard and mouse, the mouse can not scroll and the arrows of the keyboar work per click and not through constant pressing otherwise mostly acceptable.

only downer is very few apps :(