The initial verdict for Research in Motion's PlayBook is in - and it's generally not good.
The New York Times' prominent tech writer David Pogue calls the tablet "half-baked" and says "it seems almost silly to try to assess it, let alone buy it."
Pogue is one of several U.S. reviewers who were given early access to the much-anticipated device, which RIM hopes can compete with Apple's iPad 2.
But while reviews had good things to say about the PlayBook's hardware, its Flash-able web browser and slick interface, most were largely negative and focused on missing features still not available.
RIM sent out multiple software updates for the PlayBook while reviewers were assessing it and most reviewers indicated there's hope for the device - once it's in a truly finished state.
"This is both encouraging and worrying - encouraging that RIM is actively working to improve things, but worrying that things as critical as memory management are still being tweaked at the eleventh hour," wrote Engadget reviewer Tim Stevens.
Some lamented that the first version being released is Wi-Fi only and cannot connect to mobile networks. There were also mixed reviews on the BlackBerry Bridge feature, which may appeal to security-minded business customers but likely won't impress consumers.
A handful of critical apps, including those for e-mail, BlackBerry Messenger and contacts, only appear on the PlayBook when a wireless link is established with a BlackBerry. When the link is broken, those apps disappear off the tablet. It's a feature that business users may appreciate, to help keep sensitive data under control. But consumers will have to wait until a promised update in the months ahead until they can keep those essential apps on the PlayBook at all times.
"RIM has just shipped a BlackBerry product that cannot do e-mail. It must be skating season in hell," Pogue wrote. "For now, the PlayBook's motto might be, 'There's no app for that."'
Some reviewers also claimed that battery life didn't fully live up to RIM's stated maximum of 10 hours of juice, particularly when playing a lot of video.
Most reviews noted the lack of PlayBook apps available out of the gate, especially when compared against the iPad's fully stocked App Store.
RIM has said the PlayBook will eventually run some Android apps, which is promising, if properly implemented, Stevens wrote.
"The ability to run Android apps could totally change the game - or it could be a non-event. We won't know until RIM flips the switch and lets us all try it out."
Perhaps the most positive review came from Bloomberg's Rich Jaroslovsky, although he used a back-handed compliment in praising the PlayBook.
"Who would have thought that the maker of some of the world's least exciting smartphones would have produced a product this slick? The PlayBook makes BlackBerry relevant again."
The Associated Press also called the PlayBook an "impressive tablet."
"It has to be, considering the iPad's head start," wrote Rachel Metz. "And if RIM can ramp up its app offerings, it will be an even heartier contender."
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