Why the BlackBerry PlayBook is still worth buying

The BlackBerry PlayBook probably isn’t at the top of anyone’s tablet wishlist right now — not that it’s ever been high on the list for most shoppers. Sales have never been particularly strong, and the recent announcement that the PlayBook won’t be upgraded to BlackBerry 10 didn’t help. Nevertheless, the PlayBook is an option worth considering if you’re shopping for a small tablet — especially if you’r on a budget.

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Its biggest selling feature right now, of course, is its price. BlackBerry has been discounting the PlayBook for years now. In 2011 the PlayBook sold for $299 and up. Today you can pick one up for a fraction of that.

All4Cellular is selling refurbished models for as little as $130. And you can pick up a new 64GB model from Amazon for nearly $30 less than the price of a 16GB Amazon Kindle Fire HD.

An iPad mini with 64GB costs a whopping $350 more than the PlayBook.

Yes, you make certain sacrifices when you buy a PlayBook. You won’t have access to hundreds of thousands of apps like you do with an Android tablet or an iPad. You do, however, have a lot of solid choices available in App World, including popular titles like Evernote, Zinio, IM+, and Angry Birds. The PlayBook also comes with some great built-in apps. BlackBerry’s Facebook app is particularly good, and DocsToGo is an excellent mobile productivity suite. The PlayBook’s video player also supports loads of different formats, including .MKV.

Beyond that, you get a device with a very good web browser. It’s fast and standards-compliant (thanks to its WebKit core), and it also supports Adobe Flash. Yes, there are people who consider that a good thing. Up here in Canada, for example, it means that I can watch TSN’s sports programming on the PlayBook — something I can’t do on my Nexus 7 or iPad.

One other really great feature of the PlayBook is the fact that it supports Wi-Fi file sharing by default. If you’ve got your PlayBook attached to your wireless network at home, you can dump songs, movies, and documents onto it without ever plugging it into your your computer. Just browse for it on the network and copy and paste your files. It’s so much more convenient than fighting with iTunes.

What else is there to like about the BlackBerry PlayBook? It’s well-built and feels like a premium device — much nicer than the Nexus 7 and it’s only 60 grams heavier. It’s also got very good battery life. The problems that plagued it when it first launched have long since been fixed by software updates.

And again, there’s the price. If you do enough digging on the web, you may be able to find floor models, returns, or refurbs for less than $100. Staples Canada was recently selling off 32GB PlayBooks for around $90. At that price, the PlayBook is an absolute steal — even if you never use it for anything more than a portable media player. You would, though. It’s an excellent little device, and well worth snapping up if you can find it at a bargain-basement price.

  • inkflow

    It’s simply a shame that BlackBerry left the tablet market. They have such high potential yet they make almost every mistake possible. In a few years BlackBerry will simply disappear.

  • Cal Rankin

    I got Flash running on a Galaxy Tab 2 7.0 with Jelly Bean by getting the Photon Browser from the Play Store. I don’t use it much, but it comes in handy when I want to go to any site that needs Flash. It does have some ads, but it’s tolerable if you’re not comfortable sideloading Flash

  • BoloMKXXVIII

    I have owned a Playbook for a couple of years. Great hardware (except no replacable battery nor microSD card slot). The battery is a big issue because there are no NEW Playbooks. You are mostly getting refurbs or old stock. No Netflix either. I like the OS but it is very frustrating to try to use this as a main tablet. There are just too many holes in Appworld. There is an Android app player but it does not work with all Android apps. It was written (I think) for Gingerbread. There is NO development going on for the Playbook. You can play Slacker Radio but there is no official Pandora radio. There is an app called Apollo that will work for Pandora. I own a Playbook but it gets very little use. There are many cheap Android tablets (HiSense is one) that is only a little more money but much more usable.

  • Conception

    Best Apps for PlayBook: PDF’s: PDFReader from BB World ($0.99 – Repligo is a bit better but requires side loading and is not free), Bookmarking Utility for stock browser: Sitebook (free), Music Player: Neutron Music Player ($4.99), Video/Audio Streaming Player: Kalemsoft Media Player ($6.99), Web Browser: OrigamiBrowser (currently free but donationware) – being developed and will be released to BB World. There’s a lot more and I could go on and on…but this is the kind of stuff every PlayBooker needs to keep their tablet kicking.

  • nards barley

    “All4Cellular is selling refurbished models for as little as $130″

    I would get the NOOK HD at $130 before a Playbook.

    • Conception

      I’d collect some bottles and buy a Sero 7 Pro for $149 from Walmart and run circles around both the PlayBook (which I own a 32 GB one) and the Nook HD.

      • nards barley

        Maybe so, but wouldn´t you miss the higher resolution on the Nook HD?

      • errornode

        Browsing and application support should be leagues ahead on the Nook HD+ than the PlayBook. However, better flash support and sound output does give the PB an edge for any sort of desktop media streaming output.

  • RobBrownNZ

    The Playbook has a good video player, but apart from that, it’s an almost-good 2012 tablet with poor app support from a completely incompetent manufacturer. In other words, I’d stay well clear. My Playbook, bought when Blackberry were promising the BB10 update, is now just an expensive movie player for my kids.

  • Frank

    My concern would be that this device, with all of the obvious shortcomings, is as good as it’s ever going to be. BlackBerry has abandoned the platform – what incentive do they have to improve a device they no longer develop or sell? It has no future.

  • Loneranger

    Can it do bbm?

  • David

    No SD card slot = Fail.

  • jbhq

    Amazing how MS got hit hard by browser constraints … yet here we have no choice but to open links with the standard deficit browser …

  • Säbel

    But they killed it. Months of waiting, BB10 ain’t coming.

  • http://jedibeeftrix.wordpress.com/ Jedibeeftrix

    agreed. had one for use as a web-browser and e-reader for eighteen months now and never regretted it.

  • errornode

    It takes a bit of work to make it useful, but not much more than many other electronic devices out there. There are a ton of android apps you can scoop up and sideload at http://apps.goodereader.com/playbook/playbook-android-apps/. I personally put on quite a handful that I use – native Twitter and Linkedin apps, Whatsapp, Songza, Flipboard, Pinterest, Path, Tumblr, Tapatalk & Tripadvisor get used frequently. Add onto that solid dual speakers, HDMI support and Bridge for those who still have Blackberries and it’s a very solid pick for under $100. But yeah, you really have to do some sideloading to make it useful because relying on the tiny BB App world is going to make it even more limiting than it is.

  • Colwyn

    You can sideload any android app on the playbook, by the way.

    That was the reason I bought it last year, in fact. At 130$, it is the best purchase I made in years concidering its build quality.

    And the playbook is multi tasking (several apps rollin at the same time).

    I am very (very) disapointed by the decision not to port BB10 to the playbook. The official reason is that supposedly clunky on the playbook. I dont believe it.
    The playbook, the only multi tasking tablet, “clunky” ?

    Come on.

    The real reason is that BlackBerry is leaving the tablet market so no more time and money invested for the playbook users. They gamble everything on the same color : their new phones.

    Too bad, the playbook is fantastic.

    • t1tan1um

      The reason BlackBerry 10 OS wasn’t released on PB is because of the hardware, especially the old Wi-Fi models that had 1GHz procesors, compared to the NEW 3G/4G LTE version that have 1.5GHz procesors. The first dev versions of Z10 had 1.5GHz proc and 1GB RAM and the experience was bad compared to the newer dev versions of Z10 that had 2GB of RAM. So this is the reason Z10/Q10/Q5 launched with 2GB of RAM and the reason it wasn’t ported to Playbook. :(

  • Nathan

    I have a kobo arc 10 hd. Kobo is known for ereaders, but has made a couple of quality tablets. It integrates the reading experience well, the ipad sized screen is great, and google play is a bonus. Even if I was on a budget (which I wasn’t) i would NEVER buy one of these playbooks! You can find better value in a nook hd and hd+, both of which have google play!
    I don’t need a huge selection of apps, but it is nice to be able to get apps from outside of google play on my android kobo tablet.
    I’m sorry: the playbook has good value, but I still wouldn’t recommend it. not unless you want a cheap 4g device.

  • sem

    It sux…can’t download torrents and can’t have skype…are u serious? Its not worth even for free

  • Gerard

    I owe a bb pb,it’s such a shame BB isn’t working on ways to improve and compete with other tabs out there, this is a great tablet, first for anyone who is thinking of buying but knows its out dated and getting a bad rep, i want to insure you the only thing really that kills the sales of this tablet is the apps, you can get android apps i’ve heard. But really the lack of apps is the only thing thats hurting the PB, everything else you really cant beat. Sure the screen resolution may not be the top of the line,but its camera,audio and speakers have been tested and compared up to the ipad 2 which i believe is newest and beat the ipad to in its picture and speakers,its ability to take photos anytime you want (watching movies,surfing the web) is a great feature. But the best is its multitasking,there isn’t a tab nor app on todays market that can compare to this well designed window swiping multitasking and will be the first feature your fall in love with, so a recap
    Negative:
    Apps (lack of apps)

    Positive:
    Best camera available on todays market without a doubt
    Best speakers by far
    Greatest feature available “multitasking”,anyone whos used a PB would agree and those who haven’t really can’t comment due to lack of info but it’s the best.

    Verdict if your thinking of getting but are kinda worried its not new gen…enough,its fucking worth it,i got my off ebay.ca for 112.99,i cracked the screen and am buying another.only reason this tab didn’t do so well is apps,thats it. Would of been the king of tabs or at least up there. Or and its keyboard is kinda shity if you like to speed through words

  • bobthesob

    Wow i had my playbook for about 3 years now and i got it on a bid on ebay for about $100. I dont have a computer anymore, and the playbook is all i use and its great! No reformats and repairs from computer stores. i notice alot differences from other tablets like no java support or some wont even load a youtube video sucks for them i guess. playbook is closer to a pc just you cant install pc games like WOW or anything but its got some good games on it like dead space and mass effect i enjoy alot. my playbook is combine with blutooth Mouse and a keyboard

  • Phuc Trinh

    Lame. The browser and facebook app are slow… it doesn’t support ac3. Transfering by wifi sharing is super slow… It still has good things though but not many to the point that it’s quite useless to me. I only use it as a music player because of its speakers quality.

  • Joy

    I have a bb pb for not even a whole year now and i have been so carefull with it, but the camera is broken and the slot for headphones, great job blackberry. Now i have to pay alot for reparation.

  • smitch

    Owned the playbook since start and it’s still running strong after 3.5 years. There a lack of app support and the whole infrastructure had collapsed like lost evernote support. Still as a media device, as a browser and its undeniable quality and durability (my 2 year uses it for kids shows) its lasted 3.5 years and still holds a 6-7 hours charge. The true multitasking is still real on this device where I can watch a streamed show uninterrupted and flip to type some emails or browse the Web. HDMI out is still a plus and of all things, I use the playbook to browse questionable sites I worry of getting hacked first to make sure it checks out before loading on my PC. No one can hack the playbook browser or OS, nor would they.