BlackBerry PlayBook tablet: 10 key features and facts

Anxious to get your thumbs on Research In Motion’s (RIM) first BlackBerry tablet, the PlayBook?

Yeah. Me too. That’s why, over the past couple of weeks, I scrounged the Web for every single detail on the 7″, 1024×600 BlackBerry tablet that I could find, no matter how miniscule, so that I could highlight the 10 most relevant features and related PlayBook-facts into this one, simple post.

Unfortunately, two of the most important pieces of information regarding the BlackBerry PlayBook are still unknown: 1) When exactly the PlayBook will become available in North America and elsewhere; and 2) How much its various versions will cost. New rumors suggest a version of the PlayBook will sell for less than $500, and that it should arrive stateside in the first quarter of 2011. But that’s all unofficial for now.

Thankfully, there’s plenty we do currently know about the PlayBook. Check out what I’ve found to be the 10 most notable BlackBerry PlayBook features and facts.

1) PlayBook Storage: 16GB, 32GB and 64GB

RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook tablet will be available with at least three different storage-capacities: 16GB, 32GB and 64GBs, according to RIM Co-CEO Jim Balsillie. I’ve also heard some rumblings about an 8GB PlayBook, but I’ve seen nothing official on this from RIM.

Balsillie reportedly told Bloomberg recently that a sub-$500 version of the PlayBook will go on sale in the first quarter of 2011. That version will presumably be the PlayBook with the least storage capacity, be it 8GB or 16GB, but again, RIM hasn’t made any sort of official statement on storage capacities, release dates or prices.

2) PlayBook Colour Options

RIM officially announced the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet at its third annual BlackBerry Developer Conference in San Francisco last September, where event attendees were able to get a look at the tablet–though the display PlayBooks were encased in plastic and could not be touched. (Check out a video of the PlayBook demonstration rooms at DevCon here.)

One thing was clear from the PlayBooks on display at DevCon: RIM will offer the BlackBerry tablet in a handful of color options including the default black and a turquoise-blue. Those were the only two PlayBook colors at DevCon, but PlayBooks could be released in most of the colors of the rainbow before long.

3) No Stand-Alone PlayBook Cellular Connectivity…Yet

The initial versions of the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet will not have internal cellular radios. As such, you’ll need to wirelessly “tether” your PlayBook to a BlackBerry with a cellular data connection for cellular wireless connectivity.

This fact could be viewed as both a good- and a bad-thing; it’s good because you won’t need to pay any monthly service bills or sign any new wireless contracts for the PlayBook; but on the flipside, it’s not exactly ideal because you’ll have to tote both your BlackBerry and PlayBook whenever you desire cellular connectivity via tablet. And you’ll need to connect the two, via Bluetooth, to use cellular wireless.

Future versions of BlackBerry tablets are expected to have internal cellular radios.

4) BlackBerry PlayBook is a Processor Powerhouse

The BlackBerry PlayBook packs some serious processing power. The PlayBook’s 1GHz, dual-core processor is one of, if not the, most powerful processors available in a modern tablet. And that extra “ooomph”, if you will, should help provide the PlayBook with impressive multitasking and media-streaming experiences, as well as stand up to a variety of additional processor-intensive tasks.

5) BlackBerry PlayBook Wi-Fi

RIM’s PlayBook tablet may not pack an internal cellular radio, but it should have Wi-Fi locked down; the BlackBerry PlayBook supports not only the common Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g standards, but also the newer, more reliable 802.11n wireless. The 802.11n Wi-Fi supposedly offers better building and surface penetration for better “inside” wireless.

6) BlackBerry PlayBook is “Enterprise-Ready”

The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet is “CIO and enterprise-ready,” according to RIM’s website. What exactly that means is somewhat unclear, since RIM hasn’t detailed the process of connecting the PlayBook to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES)–if it does connect directly to BES; the tablet may only connect to BES via a BlackBerry smartphone.

Regardless, RIM promises “out-of-the-box compatibility” with BES; seamless and secure pairing with BlackBerry smartphones; corporate data access, and the PlayBook will be completely manageable by IT.

7) PlayBook Sports Two Cameras; HD Video Capture

The BlackBerry PlayBook’s front-facing 3.0-megapixel camera is meant for video conferencing, while the 5.0-megapixel digital shooter on its rear-side is better suited for everyday picture taking. Both cameras are capable of capturing HD-quality video. The tablet offers a variety of video-output formats, including H.264, MPEG4, WMV HDMI. And the PlayBook also has micro USB and micro HDMI ports for transferring media.

8) BlackBerry Tablet Supports Full Flash 10.1

Unlike one particularly popular tablet today (think: Apple), RIM’s PlayBook will fully support Adobe’s Flash 10.1, in addition to a variety of other Web technologies, including HTML 5, when it hits the market. That makes it “ideal for games, media, apps and everything the real Internet offers,” according to RIM.

More specifically, you’ll be able to view all those Flash YouTube videos you love so much via PlayBook without any sort of separate app.

9) PlayBook Will Run New “BlackBerry Tablet OS”

The BlackBerry PlayBook won’t run the same mobile OS that powers RIM’s current crop of smartphones; rather, the PlayBook will get its own, brand new RIM software called the “BlackBerry Tablet OS.”

BlackBerry Tablet OS is built on a foundation from QNX, a software company RIM acquired last spring, and it should provide a “fresh” new BlackBerry experience. Adobe is also contributed to the BlackBerry Tablet OS. And rumor suggests some version of this new RIM/QNX/Adobe software could eventually make it to BlackBerry smartphones.

10) PlayBook Tablet Packs 5300mAh Battery

The battery inside RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook is a rather generous, 5300mAh cell. That should translate into some impressive battery life, especially since RIM and BlackBerry smartphones have always been known for their better-than-average batteries.

More specifically, RIM’s most recent smartphone with the best battery life, the BlackBerry Bold 9700, ships with a 1550mAh battery. It’s difficult to compare power consumption of these two gadgets since they feature completely different hardware and software, but the fact that the PlayBook’s battery has more than three times the capacity of its longest-performing smartphone bodes well for BlackBerry tablet life. (The PlayBook is probably going to need all the battery-capacity it can get, as well, since Flash 10.1, mentioned above, is a notorious battery-hog.)

Unfortunately, that battery pack does not appear to be removable–a first on any BlackBerry device, at least that I know of.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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