Tag Archives: tablet

BlackBerry PlayBook

PlayBook Review

The BlackBerry PlayBook deserves a second look as an affordable tablet with enough under that capacitive touch screen in the way of hardware to compete against some of those better brands of tablets but a simple option may mar this reviewers recommendation.

Ease of Use, Performance:  1/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features  4/5
How much I enjoy 2/5

Total:  3/5 Stars

BlackBerry PlayBook

Research In Motion or RIM as many have become fond of saying has released a new update in software to their PlayBook tablet and I have the fun task of reviewing this device and its newest operating system release. The PlayBook was first released in April of 2011 and has gone through a few updates in its proprietary operating system but the latest major update brought quite a few new changes.

I did not know much about the tablet and probably receive it because of this new software release but the tablet itself is a nice piece of hardware with its large 1080P video playback capable screen in the 7 inch display. The PlayBook has a lot of features under the hood with available 1 or 1.5 Gigahertz dual core processors depending on the cellular or Wi-Fi only version and comes with 16 to 64 gigabytes of storage.

The 1024 by 600 display is very clear and a great capacitive touch screen that is easily the best tablet device I have reviewed to date but one small feature in its software mars a recommendation, but more on that later. The playbook has its own app world direct from RIM with a wide selection of apps available directly from their App store but you can also use Android based apps with a simple conversion.

There are a lot of apps and games available and companies are constantly reformatting their Android based apps to fit onto the Blackberry system but even then you’re not limited to waiting for them to move to the new system. Apps are merely needing a simple switch to a new format with some tinkering to the settings in order to get most of them to work on the PlayBook so many android apps can simply be converted using an online website for use on your PlayBook.

BlackBerry Playbook Whats in the Box

The PlayBook is very similar to other tablets and even with a different operating system many apps can still work on it with the simple conversion but the main deciding factor is not in your control when dealing with apps. Some Android apps work and others don’t so if there is a specific one you want or need you may be out of luck but I did find plenty of apps to keep the tablet at the center of my interest.

The PlayBook has all the usual hardware you would expect from a more than budget friendly device with a 3.5 mm audio connection near the corner of the same side that the power, volume up and down buttons and a play pause button are.  The power, HDMI and dock connections are on the side opposite from the buttons but it is hard to say what side of this device is the top or side as the orientation can be any which way.

The tablet does something internally that some other tablets do not with the home screen along with many other screens rotating depending on how your tablet is oriented which is a nice feature. I know that many tablets do and don’ have this feature but it is these little things that often make one device more of a pleasure to use but another feature does mar this when it comes to basic usage and even affects the operating system and apps.

I wanted to use the tablet as a security monitor using the Logitech security app that allows me to browse my security cameras on the tablet but a feature of the tablet brought the use of the PlayBook as a security monitor to an end. The screen timeout is only adjustable to a five minute setting and that is the upper limit that you can leave it on without touching the screen or an app keeping it on.

Connections and Controls

Many apps and even native ones from RIM have the feature taken into account and have some part of their app making the screen active but some do not and even ones that are part of the operating system like the update. I found this out when an update came out during the review and I tried updating the tablet with the newest release only to have the tablet go to sleep and pause the update in the middle somewhere.

After five minutes the tablet went to sleep and continued the download when I woke it up from its nap, this was an update from the company and the update was actually paused because I did not reach over and touch the screen to keep it awake. Playing music has no effect on this but when I tried watching my security cameras the screen goes black and the program halts so the tablet is useless for many functions like a desktop clock and calendar.

You either need to find an app to keep the screen awake which I refuse to actually bother with or worse pay for one as I see this as part of the system and RIM should just add the choice to the already available menu options for screen timeout. I asked at the BlackBerry forums, RIM support and the Public Relations Manager I was dealing with for the review and did not get more than a cursory answer to my question.

I simply asked with so many customers on their forum wanting the unlimited timeout why the company does not simply add it but one response was that the company is concerned about screen burn in which was the only answer that made even a lick of sense. Other answers where simply the development team appreciates your feedback and future updates are in the works like the BlackBerry 10 release coming out next year but specifically no mention that the unlimited timeout feature will be added.

PlayBook Desktop Software

I asked in my last email specifically if an executive will give an answer on this as a manager may not have the authority to and we shall see where this question goes as I am sure to update this product in the future as more features become available. I just find it hard to believe and it seems to me that the company is saying that whatever features are here is what we have to deal with and it does not seem to be a big issue with the company.

I can just see a presentation in some conference room and a business suited person at the head of the table showing off his charts or whatever from his tablet and having his wristwatch set to beep every four minutes and forty five seconds to remind him to touch his tablet. While this may seem farfetched I did ask on the forums and one reply said that they had bought the PlayBook for work presentations and he cannot use it for this as the screen timeout interferes with his presentation and just makes him look bad.

Web browsing with support for H264 high definition videos and playing movies to an external monitor or TV screen becomes much less a bonus set of features when the device turns off after five minutes of use unless the app keeps it awake. For many apps this is not an issue like watching video with that external monitor or TV screen connected to the micro HDMI connect as the tablets screen shuts off during playback anyway.

But try to set your tablet as a desk clock and calendar and be ready for a disappointment but some apps will keep the device awake while others won’t, it really depends on the app and what it has been designed to do. This one feature trumps many of the best features I have seen as several times I have come across a use for the tablet that is knocked out of the water by the screen timeout and it gets frustrating to not get a real answer on this issue from the powers that be at RIM.

Other features that are excellent and can sway the decision for many about buying the PlayBook include the nice 3 megapixel and 5 megapixel cameras with 1080P video that works very well and the easily managed apps when using more than one. The general use of the PlayBook really is nice with simple gestures to close apps, go from one to the next when multiple apps are open and even go to settings for each app while the app is open makes a convincing argument for a purchase.

Moving files and syncing with your computer for music and movies works well with the program on your computer and it keeps things handy with one place to go to not only move files back and forth but to backup your PlayBook settings and apps. I am very impressed with a lot of aspects of the PlayBook and will continue to tinker with it as I find the tablet easy to use and quit handy for a lot of uses but I always wind up coming back to the one problem that keeps popping up.

I have been trying some cooking lately as I received a set of cookware and I was using the PlayBook as a recipe book with a recipe open on a website, I had to awaken or swipe the face of the tablet to continue cooking as the screen timeout would kick in. This one feature makes the BlackBerry PlayBook not a recommendation by me as it just does not work as an all-around tablet when you have to either keep waking the thing up or count on an app to keep it awake.

I will continue to try and find the answer of why RIM does not allow users to set what timeout they want instead of being hobbled and having to choose what RIM thinks is best for their product. I just hate to see a good choice in a tablet get so downgraded due to one simple issue and cannot understand why the company does not allow users to decide on their own.

PlayBook @ BlackBerry

Updates on the PlayBook

Video of PlayBook in Use

BlackBerry PlayBook Updates

BlackBerry PlayBook Screen Timeout Issues

Good News, the development team at RIM for the PlayBook has added a never dim functionality, this is the same as the screen timeout according to the RIM Public Relations Manager, to a future update for the PlayBook so the tablet will not go to sleep after only five minutes. This was a major problem with the device but when it does get included in the software I willhave no problem recommending the PlayBook as an affordable tablet with great features and especially useful user gestures and app control.

I have also asked a reviewer who is using the current BlackBerry 10 OS if this update allows users to choose an unlimited timeout in the release that is currently out as I would very much like to know this. If anyone knows if BlackBerry 10 OS allows users to choose an unlimited timeout for the screen in the menu choice or elsewhere int he software please email me about it and I will add it to my review.

I have not heard anything recently but I am hoping that OS 10 is going to include the settings to allow users to set the screen timeout to what they want instead of limiting it to five minutes.

BlackBerry PlayBook

 

BlackBerry Website

MG Android Gaming System

PlayMG Handheld Gaming Device

The MG Android Gaming System is a first of its kind Android based handheld gaming system that uses the Google Play market as its source for games in an Android device that allows kids and parents to game wherever they want.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4.5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features  5/5
How much I enjoy 5/5

Total:  5/5 Stars

MG Handheld Android Gaming System

PlayMG brings a new gaming system to the market with the MG which is a simple handheld Android gaming system that uses Google Play as its gaming and apps store. The MG is a simple design much like many popular Android phones and is close in specs for the size and screen of my Samsung Galaxy Stellar smartphone but the MG is not a smartphone.

The MG comes with the handheld device, an 8 GB micro SD card and instructions for both using the handheld android gaming device and how to set up purchasing accounts for youth and monitoring. The device does not come with yet another power adapter or cord as they figure you probably have one of those lying around but you can add one to your purchase for a reasonable price.

The PlayMG handheld gaming system costs about $149 currently from their site and comes with $10 of preloaded games and a $10 deal when you start the MasterCard SpendSmart card where PlayMG will match the first $10 your load onto the device. The MG does come with a few dozen games but you can spend weeks just checking out the free ones before you even worry about buying any unless you have some specific ones of interest.

The MG does look like a smartphone but it has no cell phone hardware so you connect to the internet over your Wi-Fi connection to download games and apps from the Google Play Store. The MG also has a micro USB connection to charge and connect to your computer so you can easily transfer large files without tying up your Wi-Fi connection or draining the battery.

MG Whats in the Box

The Android based system works well and I have had no problems with my prelaunch model that a simple reset did not solve but you can also use the Google backup service to ensure all your kids games are easily recovered. The MG has a single core processor and plenty of memory for the casual and even first person shooters I tried and no game or app had any problems.

The system did lock up once on me while working with the settings but a simple reset by holding the screen brightness and volume down buttons reset the device and got things working properly without having to reload or change anything. The MG has a volume up and down button, a power button, screen brightness button and onscreen buttons for home, back and menu functions.

The internal battery is an 1880 mAh battery that gives about 3.75 hours of real play time or can be set to standby for 4+ days according to the company. I found this to be pretty accurate in my real world conditions but plugging it in when not in use is a good idea so you have it ready when you want it.

The MG has a few perks that cellphones don’t have in the kid friendly way you buy games and allows parents to load money into an account that kids can spend at their leisure. MasterCard has a youth or teen spending system called SpendSmart that limits spending and monitors activity of the account by parents to help kids with budgeting and responsibility.

SD Card Slot Under Back Cover

PlayMG has set up a system with MasterCard that allows you to load money onto the device and kids can spend what they want but only what you load so when that money is gone the kids don’t spend your life savings on games. This fiscal responsibility is a great way for kids to learn how to budget money but other features of the system also help parents with time management for their kids.

The gaming system uses what they have dubbed Family Collaboration which also has a spending account on the system that comes from MasterCard that alerts parents about kids spending. This system requires you to receive a MasterCard debit card in your teens name but it also has the protection of a regular debit card from a major credit card company and integrates into your Google play account.

The account will lock out spending other than the MasterCard debit card and shows on screen how much the account has for spending using the MG Family Collaboration app. Angry Birds Star Wars, Wreck-it Ralph and other popular games are now available on a handheld gaming system that you don’t have to worry about your kids spending too much on or making phone calls you can’t afford or don’t know about.

The MG allows parents to give kids the same games they have on their phone but in a way that teaches kids to spend money wisely and give parents peace of mind. Parents can receive emails weekly about spending, time spent on the device and what exactly they have downloaded to keep track of their kid’s activities on the MG system.

Google Play on the MG

The MG works well as a teaching tool that kids will understand and learn from if you want to use it but you can also not use the account and notice system and use the MG as a regular Android gaming system. The MG has a 1 Ghz CPU with 1,024 MB of system Ram and 4 gigabytes of internal storage along with an additional 8 gigabytes of storage on the included 8 GB micro SD card for additional space.

You can store a lot of games, books and music but not that many movies will fit but you can watch movies and videos either directly that you download or through the browser. The MG works just like an Android based smart phone without the cell phones ability to make phone calls and it uses a regular Android 4 system and the Google Play market.

The Gorilla Glass 4 inch touch screen means no need to worry about protecting the device like some less expensive cell phones and the device also has the 1.3 megapixel camera for use in games and apps as well as taking quick snapshots. I have also used the MG with a few apps but this is limited to apps that do not use Bluetooth or the phone but you can surf the internet over a Wi-Fi connection and do things like use the device with apps like finance or mail.

You can set up a Gmail account on the MG and use apps to keep your budget and many other things so the MG is not a kid’s only gaming system if you want a quick way to keep and play games without having to tie up your smartphone. I have successfully used a Logitech security system app to view my Logitech home security system on the MG so the system work well enough to view live video streaming over my network.

The MG also has a 3.5 mm audio connection for use as a music player with your favorite set of headphones or external speakers for a better listening experience but the MG speakers do work well enough for gaming.  I much prefer the better clarity that headsets give and the loop on the top makes a great way to securely carry the device on a lanyard or strap.

The MG does have a lot of features and is a great handheld gaming system that I would seriously consider a contender for the future of handheld gaming against those companies like Nintendo and Sony. The MG makes a great way to teach kids money smarts and a way to get back your phone so you can enjoy some of the games you bought for yourself without worry about your kids calling China by accident.

I highly recommend the MG by PlayMG as a fantastic handheld gaming system that has more uses and much more flexibility than those other gaming specific systems. PlayMG will also be coming out with cases, value bundles and more soon so check out their site and remember them for your upcoming gift giving needs.

PlayMG Website