Reviews are in: RIM's Playbook has a nice UI but is needy and incomplete

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The Independent Tech

Research In Motion (RIM) has released its baby into the hands of technology journalists and bloggers in the hope that they will come to love the tablet as much as the company does but so far it's not looking good.

RIM appears to have raced its iPad competitor to the market prematurely in fear of missing out on the tablet craze.

While the 7" BlackBerry Playbook tablet is light, portable and sports a user interface (UI) that is getting rave reviews, it is missing key features such as native email, calendar and messaging apps, a standalone 3G or 4G network connection and out-of-the-box support for additional applications.

In short, the tablet is co-dependent on its smaller BlackBerry smartphone sibling for features most deem integral to the tablet experience.

Despite the tablet's flaws, there's lots to love about the BlackBerry PlayBook's QNX-based user interface.

"Ultimately it's very intuitive to use and, even better, it feels really good," said Engadget after extensively testing the device.

"We have to give RIM credit for making its UI both familiar and original at the same time. The interface is easy to pick up, but it contains some of its own subtle touches that make it stand out," added Mashable.

While praising the tablet's speed and design, a slightly shocked New York Times commented, "No existing apps run on this all-new operating system, not even BlackBerry phone apps."

RIM insists that around 3,000 apps are hastily being finished and tweaked so they can appear in a new app store created for the PlayBook. The company is also preparing an emulator that will run both BlackBerry and Android apps, but these features are still missing with just a few days to go before the tablet arrives in stores. 

"The ability to run Android apps could totally change the game - or it could be a non-event," said Engadget. "We won't know until RIM flips the switch and lets us all try it out."

"The PlayBook does two impressive things that its rivals — the iPad and the Android tablets — can only dream about," said the NYT: wireless music syncing and a wireless Bluetooth connection feature called BlackBerry Bridge.

BlackBerry Bridge turns the tablet into a secondary viewing screen for your BlackBerry smartphone and provides secure access to the device's email, contacts, calendar, memo pad and BlackBerry Messenger.

BlackBerry Bridge is "aimed at pleasing security-concerned corporate customers," explains Walt Mossberg for All Things D, "[it] doesn’t work with other smartphones. So, in my view, even though Bridge is a neat technical feat, it makes the PlayBook a companion to a BlackBerry phone rather than a fully independent device. That may be fine for dedicated BlackBerry owners, but it isn't so great for people with other phones."

"I got the strong impression RIM is scrambling to get the product to market, and that it will be adding other features already offered on competing devices for months, through software patches," added Mossberg.

Mossberg's sentiment seems to be echoed across the web; the tablet might be a promising competitor in the future - but only after many updates and the addition of important features.

RIM's BlackBerry Tablet will arrive in stores in the US and Canada on April 19. The 16GB base model will sell for $499, the same price as Apple's larger-screened entry level 16GB iPad.