The BlackBerry PlayBook tablet.

London - If Google's entry to the laptop market represents something new, the shelves of gadget stores are already groaning with tablets. Which makes BlackBerry's arrival to the party rather late.

The Canadian makers of the ubiquitous mobile phones favoured by business people and youths taking advantage of its free chat service are catching up with two iPads, several Samsung Galaxy Tabs and impressive pieces of kit including the Motorola Xoom.

Its offering, the Playbook, goes on sale from £399 (about R4 300), the same price as the rival device from Apple. At 5.1” by 7.6” it sits comfortably in one hand, and is more portable than the iPad.

The casing is slick and although the screen's resolution doesn't quite match up to the iPad, the difference in quality is not noticeable. The Playbook prides itself on the browsing speed it offers, and the claim to bring the “true Web” to tablets is no idle boast.

The multitasking feature is attractive and operating the various menus and functions quickly becomes intuitive. The Playbook is aimed at its existing business and consumer customers and the strength of an inbuilt audience is also its Achilles' heel.

While parent Research in Motion has promised a family of devices, its first foray into the tablet market is massively hampered if the user does not have a BlackBerry smartphone to attach it to. - The Independent