BlackBerry PlayBook Bluetooth Keyboard Case Hands-on (Video)

Daniel Bader

April 3, 2012 4:16pm

The BlackBerry PlayBook is nothing if not versatile, as evinced by its almost-complete transformation in February with OS 2.0. With that release, it is more like a laptop than ever, with a comprehensive email/calendar/contacts suite as well as updates to DocsToGo.

The official PlayBook Bluetooth Keyboard Case is available for $99 exclusively from The Source in Canada, and while it won’t be replacing my MacBook Air anytime soon, it adds just enough functionality to the business-oriented tablet to be a compelling prospect. While the price may be a bit high for some, considering it, with the tablet itself, costs less than an iPad, you’re getting quite a bit of bang for your buck.

The keyboard itself is a generic Bluetooth Profile device, so it can pair with any compatible tablet or smartphone. I paired it with my iPad and a couple Android tablets and it worked just fine, though there are some PlayBook-specific features, not to mention it is designed to fit, with the tablet, in the included case.

The keys are clicky but a bit soft for my liking, with a distinct lack of travel. This could pose a problem for those who like to touch-type, as it’s difficult to tell whether you’ve pressed the key down enough to move on to the next one. I never felt entirely confident typing this way, and combined with the cramped nature of a 7-inch keyboard, it’s not the fastest experience.

The case itself is propped up in typing mode by a piece of thin cardboard. This is one of the case’s biggest liabilities as, although it is attached to the frame by a piece of stretchable fabric, the entire thing collapses with the slightest nudge, sending the Playbook careening down to the surface with a thud. The tablet is protected well enough within the faux-leather folio, but it’s frustrating to have to right the ship every time I nudge the table.

Inside the case, the PlayBook’s top buttons are encased in a forgiving plastic that makes the flat power button protrude enough to press it. When I say that the PlayBook’s power button was one of the worst in modern history, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration.

When closed, the combo operates like a folio notebook, with a Moleskin-like piece of fabric that wraps around the hard shell to close everything in. The keyboard itself is removable and can be affixed into the case using similar fabric notches; nothing is entirely secure in this case.

Nevertheless, the case sans keyboard operates as a great prop to type on the virtual keyboard, and due to the hard crease in the plastic itself, works wonderfully when holding the PlayBook with one hand (think the iPad Smart Cover when rolled up on the left side). The extra gripping room is luxurious, but feels awkward with the keyboard installed — you’ll have to take it out first for an optimal experience.

One feature of the keyboard that can’t be overlooked is the trackpad. When paired with the PlayBook, you can use the small trackpad to navigate a mouse cursor around the interface. Rather than imitating a Windows or OS X desktop, the trackpad uses one- or two-finger touches to initiate most functions. Bring the cursor to the left or right edge of the screen, press touch two fingers (for a “right mouse button equivalent”) and it will navigate seamlessly to the next open app in the multitasking list. Do the same at the bottom of the screen to bring up the multitasking list and at the top to activate the app- or system menu. The bottom left corner activates the virtual keyboard and the bottom right corner any notifications.

It’s a pretty good system — scrolling is activated by sliding two fingers up or down — but the mouse sensitivity is atrocious, forcing you to run a marathon with your finger just to get to the other side of the screen. Similarly poor is touch accuracy as the trackpad failed to register nearly a third of my finger presses. Nevertheless, with a software update the trackpad could be dramatically improved.

For $99, the PlayBook Bluetooth keyboard case is not cheap, but it’s a good idea to have with you when traveling and out of laptop juice. It won’t substitute for a good laptop — no tablet will, even the iPad — but RIM improved the various productivity apps in OS 2.0 that for basic word processing, spreadsheeting and presenting DocsToGo does as good a job as any other tablet suite. With the keyboard paired, it performed as well as any other Bluetooth keyboard, and never missed any letters (unless my fingers missed the key, which was more often that I would like).

The PlayBook Bluteooth keyboard case is available for $99 exclusively from The Source in Canada.


    Just when you think its too late for RIM, they once again invent themselves out of a bind. This time with the BlackBerry PlayBook Bluetooth Keyboard Case.

    You want an innovation war Apple? You GOT IT BABY!

    • Case Costs More Than Playbook?

      Hold on, the case costs more than the actual Playbook?

    • RIM7percent

      RIMM stock at $13.
      Playbook 11.5 shares
      Keyboard: 7.6 shares

  • TheTigerTek

    I need a new case for my PlayBook.. I had the convertible loved it but gave to my sister. I was thinking of picking up a this keyboard with the case combo but it’s a bit pricey. Hopefully I can find one for less on ebay or something.

  • Bukovian Smorzhee

    who cares? rim is dead.

  • RIM7percent

    Just wait for the Playbook to drop to $99 next month.

  • troll123

    I just got a Playbook and this thing is POS…

    They should have made it like the transformer.. now I gotta charge my Playbook I have to take it out of this “case”… Should have been docked TO the freaking Keyboard and charge it like the freaking rapid charger… that flimsy microUSB port on the Playbook scares me…
    FAQ U RIM!

  • kevin

    If this was $50 I would be all over it.

    • kev’s mom’s lover

      kev, your mother is $50 and I am all over her

    • A. Carmine


  • sp

    i honestly dont get why all you trolls are wishing for RIM to go bankrupt.

    there are a market for them to be still around. if you dont like their phones then DONT buy it…simple as that.

    i dont think anyone on here truly wishes a company to go under just for the sake of saying I told you so. or do you all really feel that them going out of business and thousands of people losing their jobs is the best for the canadian economy.

    you all need to get your heads checked if you are just here to wish demise on a company that put Canada on the map. sure they are behind right now on a lot of things but at least they are sort of trying (i hope) to right the ship.

    shame on you guys and negative comments.

  • Theywillbepissed

    “It won’t substitute for a good laptop — no tablet will, even the iPad ” – why would you mention the ipad over the transformer prime? You know, the tablet with integrated keyboard dock, near full size keyboard, fully functional touchpad, usb ports, and extra battery?

    • Daniel Bader

      Because in my opinion, the way to a great laptop experience is in the software. And despite a superior “Transformer” hardware setup, Android lacks for viable tablet-focused productivity apps. But you’re right, as a full-on laptop replacement the Transformer Prime is certainly superior, provided you have the money to spend on the keyboard dock. Remember, you’re spending over $700 taxes in on the Transformer Prime + keyboard dock. At that price, you might as well buy a cheap ultrabook — they’re almost the same size.

    • Theywillbepissed

      Fair Enough

  • Angus Chan

    Still looks like you can’t use the charging dock with this case 🙁 I really don’t like having the cut away the case to make it fit!

  • Malevolent

    I got this case/keyboard and at first I really liked it but it’s a pain because i have to take it out of the case(which is not easy) to use the dock. They should have linked the keyboard physically with the playbook to increase battery capability or made it so the dock still works. I was excited but ultimately it’s a design fail for my use. Now it’s just sitting back in the box, too bad.

  • Matt

    I like the keyboard, honestly do, the keys are nice, most third party ones are garbage in comparison.

  • Linuzo

    I have a playbook and a new curve 9380, while sometimes the touch on the curve is a little hard to use the playbook makes up for it as a perfect duo.. If anything they said this keyboard is a bluetooth keyboard. So I might just pick it up so I can use it with my PS3 as well.. For the price of the keyboard with the case it’s not bad. considering most third party ones are 50-60 plus another 25-35 for a case. So it’s not that much out of price range.. Also for 199 you get a playbook for 99 you get case and keyboard thats only 298 for both still 200 cheaper then an ipad.. And just wait for BB10 because that OS will be coming to the playbook!! OS 2.0 is only a preview of what BB10 is going to have in store.. I support RIM I am Canadian! !

    • scotiaguy

      Right on!

  • wasagadave

    Wondered what powers this keyboard, and can not find this mentioned anywhere. Is it inexpensive to keep this puppy juiced?

    • StriderNL

      The power button is on the lower left hand slide. It’s a slider. As to how it charges – it’s the same USB connection as the Playbook.