BlackBerry maker Research in Motion is jumping into the fiercely competitive tablet market, with the first major iPad competitor that doesn't run on Google's Android. Instead, the BlackBerry PlayBook, which starts at $500, relies on the all-new QNX-based operating system, which will eventually drive the company's iconic BlackBerry smartphones. While the 7-inch BlackBerry tablet doesn't hit shelves until April 19, the reviews are already hitting the web. So, how does the PlayBook stack up to its competition? (Watch a Bloomberg review of the PlayBook.)

Move over, iPad: "PlayBook is the most thoughtful product that RIM's put out in a long time," says Matt Buchanan at Gizmodo. The operating system is powerful, "fast, and silky," with "the best multitasking of any tablet out so far." Its front and rear cameras crush the iPad's. Sure, there's room for improvement, but "the PlayBook is more polished and usable in its beta state than the Motorola Xoom, and it's straight-up the best 7-inch tablet out there."
"BlackBerry PlayBook review"

The lack of apps is a deal-breaker: There are no individual apps for email, calendar, or contacts, says David Pogue in The New York Times. Yes, you can check email in the web browser, and RIM says better versions are coming soon. But "RIM has just shipped a BlackBerry product that cannot do email. It must be skating season in hell." Stick to the iPad for now.
"A BlackBerry tablet, but where are the apps?"

Let's just call it a work-in-progress: Reviewing the PlayBook does feel like "trying to hit a moving target," since RIM keeps on tweaking the software, says Tim Stevens at Engadget. But while the user experience feels "unfinished," the hardware "looks and feels great," and the apps will catch up. Even now, with its BlackBerry-level "security chops" and other "enterprise-friendly" features, it will "come close to satisfying" business users. Those "more excited about the 'play' part" might want to hold off.
"BlackBerry PlayBook review"