RIM catches tech-lovers off guard with impressive BlackBerry PlayBook tablet

RIM has caught the technology world and BlackBerry fans off guard with the unveiling of its feature-rich touchscreen tablet, the PlayBook.

After Research in Motion (RIM) disappointed with its recently announced lackluster flagship smartphone, the BlackBerry Torch, the techworld seemed ho-hum about the company's much-rumored BlackBerry tablet.

Now outted, RIM's BlackBerry PlayBook is impressing technology-lovers with first-class features and a forward-thinking approach to mobile computing.

"RIM set out to engineer the best professional-grade tablet in the industry with cutting-edge hardware features and one of the world's most robust and flexible operating systems," said Mike Lazaridis, President and Co-CEO at Research In Motion.

"The BlackBerry PlayBook solidly hits the mark with industry leading power, true multitasking, uncompromised web browsing and high performance multimedia."

The tablet's nomenclature might be slightly misleading to business users shopping for a serious tablet for the workplace (even if RIM's Co-CEO says the PlayBook is the first "professional tablet" on the market). However, alongside the device's ability to support full web browsing (yes there is support for Adobe's Flash Player 10.1), true multitasking, advanced security features and out-of-the-box enterprise support, there is a myriad of features for users wanting some fun.

RIM's PlayBook has a 7 inch high-resolution 1024 x 600 display, measures in at 9.7mm thick and weighs 400g (which makes it smaller, thinner and lighter than Apple's 9.7 inch, 13.4mm thick, 730g iPad).

It has a 1 GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of ram and runs on RIM's brand new tablet operating system, BlackBerry Tablet OS.

Unlike the current edition of the iPad, the PlayBook ships with Dual HD cameras (a 3 MP front facing camera for video chats and 5 MP camera at the back for photos and 1080p HD video recording).

There are also microHDMI and microUSB outputs and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and WiFi connectivity for those who want to connect the tablet to their laptop or BlackBerry. In the future RIM will also offer both 3G and 4G models of the tablet for anywhere connectivity; for the moment users will have to pair their tablet with their BlackBerry's data connection while out of WiFi range.

Reactions to RIM's September 27 PlayBook announcement have been overwhelmingly positive.

Gizmodo: "the PlayBook is a lot more exciting than anybody expected a BlackBerry tablet to be, especially given how thoroughly mediocre their last major product, the BlackBerry Torch, was."

ZD Net: "Apple has the applications for the iPad and the user interface, but RIM looks to win in supporting their smartphone platform and in the web browsing experience."

All Things Digital: "Say what you will about RIM following the puck again, that's an impressive list. In spec, PlayBook looks quite promising, certainly more so than the other iPad rivals we've seen to date."

Information Week: "The Playbook is small and thin. RIM did a good job with the design. Because it has a 7-inch, 16:9 aspect ratio display, it is more rectangular than square. It looks sharp and professional - definitely more business-oriented than the recently announced Samsung Galaxy Tab, which has a decidedly more consumer feel to it."

The PlayBook tablet is expected to arrive in the US in early 2011 with worldwide launches taking place in the second quarter of next year. As yet there is no mention of battery life or pricing.

There is no doubting that the current list of features is impressive, however, RIM's PlayBook launch date appears to coincide with what many believe will be the unveiling of a second generation of iPad, a device that is sure to match, and may even exceed, the features found on RIM's PlayBook.

Gizmodo has put together an article that compares the iPad, PlayBook, Galaxy Tab and HP slate, a guide that might help if you are in the market for a new mobile computing device. The "Ultimate Tablet Showdown" can be found here: http://gizmodo.com/5649368/ultimate-tablet-showdown-ipad-vs-playbook-vs-galaxy-tab-vs-slate