Does size matter? In the decision to buy a media tablet, it’s the key question.
With their large screens the roughly 10-in. units like Apple Inc.’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, are easy to read, perfect for multimedia but awkward to hold and input text with one hand.
The 7-in. devices are lighter and easier to hold, but can be less easy to view some Web sites and pluck things on the touch screen.
Research In Motion’s Wi-Fi only PlayBook tablet, with its new optional wireless keyboard
, is one of those tempting 7-inchers, particularly because it’s price has been deeply discounted since December.
The 16 MB version is going for $199, which is $300 off the original list price. That makes it a heavy, but fast and flexible ebook reader in addition to a multimedia player.
Pilloried by reviewers when it was released in 2011 for lacking an integrated email and calendar client, that was remedied last February with a major version 2.0 upgrade to the operating system.
More about that update in a minute.
First, I want to turn to the BlackBerry Mini Keyboard. At $119.99, it’s not an inexpensive accessory. But it does come with a case that securely holds the both the tablet in one half in a hard plastic frame and the keyboard on the other half with a set of elastic straps. If you have one, it’s slightly thicker than RIM’s PlayBook Convertible Case ($48.99).
The Mini Keyboard connected quickly via Bluetooth to the tablet – you go into settings, and search for new devices. A pairing passkey will appear on screen when the keyboard is discovered that has to be entered, and you’re away.
Because its size is restricted by the width of the PlayBook, the chicklet-sized keys are tightly together. The F and J keys have indents that help your finders find the right places for touch typing, but it isn’t easy. I found myself hunt-and-pecking more often than not.
You’d use the keyboard for quick notes (or the on screen keyboard, for that matter) but not a report – unless you’re a very patient typist.
The Mini Keyboard does have a feature that two other PlayBook keyboards offer, a small touchpad that also works as a mouse: Use one finger around to place the cursor, move two fingers to scroll. One tap works like a mouse left click, two fingers for a right mouse click.