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Playbook exam

We have been waiting (well not me per se, but other BlackBerry fans) patiently over a year for RIM’s promise of a 3G PlayBook. And with nothing but bad news and pushed back release dates, it’s about time some good news came along. The 3G PlayBook popped up on RIM’s UK website and the wait was worth it because there’s a LTE version as well.

The road to this point has been difficult, to say the least, when the company signalled its intentions to release a cellular-equipped version last February fans worldwide were on top of the world, only to watch as carriers backed off — partly as RIM focused its attention on LTE, and partly after carriers grew worried about the poor sales with the WiFi version.

However, now it’s here and don’t think that it’s the same PlayBook just with a GSM radio, no sir. Although there hasn’t been a full overhaul, at least RIM has ponied up and given the “new” PlayBook a faster 1.5GHz processor. But do 4G data and a processor bump make all that difference? Will this new PlayBook stand a better chance than its predecessor?

We’ll start with pricing. At around 420 (BDS $1,342), that’s only $134 shy of Apple’s 32GB WiFi and Cellular iPad mini (at UK Prices) and a whopping BDS $314 more than 8.9″ Kindle Fire HD, which also has WiFi and 4G LTE. So on price alone I don’t think it’s much of a score for the bargain hunters.

So what about performance? It seems the 1.5GHz processor does make a difference, but it’s not what you would call spectacular. RIM’s interface is just a little bit more fluid, apps are ready just a little bit sooner, but it’s really with higher powered games that you see the improvements.

The HSPA+ is just on board with its competitors, and that’s no small feat. Multiple tests saw no less than 20Mbps downstream and 6Mbps upstream. The unfortunate bit is that the software, which had not seen an update since February, does seem very dated, and RIM hasn’t seen it fit to throw in any special software additions to take advantage of that always-on 4G connection. However, if you’re a fan of what is most of the time useless carrier bloatware being slipped onto your tablet, then good news for you as there is none. The downside to that is there is no built in turn-by-turn navigation and for some reason only known by God and the big wigs at RIM, no built-in hotspot creation support which is a staple in the diets of cellular data enabled device users.

With no real clear upgrade path available to the public or talks of a PlayBook OS 3.0, I honestly can’t see why anyone would choosee this PlayBook over any other tablet; in fact I don’t see why they would choose it over the original one either. Then again, I still can’t see why someone would buy a mini iPad 2 over say a new “New iPad” or even an iPad 2, but they sold out of pre-orders in a matter of hours, so what do I know. Let’s hope than BB OS 10 isn’t such a disappointment and that RIM is actually trying to keep its now less than six per cent worldwide market share.

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