Home Review Review: BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 Web Browser

Review: BlackBerry PlayBook OS 2.0 Web Browser

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Browsing on the BlackBerry PlayBook was already top-notch since launch day way back in April 2011. With 2.0, you’re getting the best tablet browser hands-down. Here are a few reasons why. It supports a very new version of Flash, running version 11.1.121.21. Because of this, Flash animations are generally rendered better on the PlayBook when compared to any Android tablet, and of course, any iPad.

The PlayBook shatters the previous record on HTML5test.com score on a tablet OS with an impressive 354 and 9 bonus points. This shows that the PlayBook’s browser supports more HTML5 features than any other tablet browser (and most desktop browsers too). Even from Day 1, the PlayBook has scored a perfect 100/100 in the Acid3 test, which of course, many other tablets have done as well.

Taking a look the browser with Modernizr, a tool which tells you which aspects of HTML5 are supported. We can see that the PlayBook supports the most HTML5 features when compared to any other native tablet browser. With OS 1.0, one of these missing features was WebGL. I am proud to say that support for WebGL is here with OS 2.0! Just check out Zygotebody.com to see yourself inside out. It isn’t perfect, but for a tablet I’ll let it slide for now.

There aren’t any new settings or options in the new browser, mostly because you had all the necessities to work with already. The browser is also very fluid, much like the browser in iOS, and destroys the native browser in most Honeycomb tablets when it comes to smoothness. Scrolling through web pages is very smooth once the page is loaded. One slight issue would be that the browser occaisionally doesn’t recognize your scrolling input with heavier webpages.

Let’s move over to javascript performance. Running the Sunspider 0.91 benchmark, I get a completion score at a respectable 2244.5 ms which is behind iOS 5 and high-end android tablets. This is a decent showing when compared to the competition, but this is also where the PlayBook could use a little work. With the great hardware on the PlayBook, there should be room for improvement in the JavaScript engine.

Other than that, I’ve noticed that there have been some minor tweaks and improvements to speed things up. This keeps the PlayBook in the running with some of the other faster tablet browsers out there. I still see some checkerboarding with larger websites, and occasionally having to click links twice but it doesn’t happen often enough to really detract from the experience.

One of the less-nerdy improvements is the addition of a “Reader mode”. The goal here is to cut the useless ads on the side of the page so you can focus on the actual written content of an article. For the articles at N4BB.com, it worked beautifully and scrolling was slicker than a used car salesman.

However, if you’re using it to check out longer review articles, you probably won’t see the entire article. It cuts the content short for some reason. You’ll also have to wait for the page to load completely before turning reader mode on. Oh, and it does take a couple seconds to switch the viewing mode…and the “Reader mode” button is a little small. But I’m getting really nitpicky. In any case, it’s a welcome feature that works well for shorter articles, even though it still needs a little more work to make it something that you’ll actually use all the time. It would be nice to be able to use it before the webpage has loaded so you can shorten the load time of the content. And if there was support for multi-page articles, it would be a real win in my books.

Overall, the browser in PlayBook 2.0 is very solid. It is simply a pleasure to use. Some tweaks and bug fixed have improved the responsiveness of the browser as well the rendering speed. HTML5, in general, renders better on the PlayBook than any other tablet. The browser isn’t the fastest one out there, but it’s definitely competitive. If we’re talking Flash, the PlayBook does that as well as (or better) than any other tablet out there. The reader mode is also a welcome addition. Together with all these improvements, the browser is one of the PlayBook’s greatest strengths.

Physicist by day and technology lover by night. I enjoy the finer things in life, like McDonalds burgers, Ford Focuses and riding the bus. I'm here to give you all the information and honest perspectives on everything BlackBerry!