BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet Has Battery Life Issues—Blame QNX OS

View of the PlayBook tablet's operating system

It's very pretty but supposedly the battery only lasts three hours.

Research in Motion’s coming tablet device—the BlackBerry PlayBook—might have an unexpected snag. According to Shaw Wu, an analyst at Kaufman Bros., the PlayBook currently has only a “few hours” of battery life. What is to blame for the dismal battery performance? Wu thinks the problem lies with the new BlackBerry Tablet OS that RIM’s recently acquired QNX Software Systems division is building for it.

The PlayBook packs a 5300 mAh battery. In comparison, two tablets that it will be directly compared to in the media and by customers—Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab—have batteries rated to last 10+ and 7+ hours during video playback respectively. While Apple won’t tell anyone the mAh (milliampere-hour) rating of the custom designed battery inside the iPad, the Galaxy Tab is known to have a 4000 mAh battery inside. Three hours of battery life out of the PlayBook? That really won’t cut it for a tablet.

RIM’s decision to go with a reworked version of the QNX operating system for the PlayBook could be the reason for the dismal battery performance (as could the dual-core, 1 GHz processor inside). QNX is a real-time operating system, meaning that it strictly sets how much time it has to complete each task given. Needless to say, this could make the OS difficult to scale down to battery sensitive uses.

“Keep in mind that QNX wasn’t originally designed for mobile environments but rather for devices like network equipment and automobiles where battery life isn’t as much a constraint [sic]” said Wu. (I’m pretty sure there are no battery life constraints with network equipment and automobiles…)

With the Galaxy Tab’s battery coming in at a mere 75% of the PlayBook’s but with twice the life, RIM certainly has a problem. I’m sure Apple is laughing itself silly (the iPad’s screen is also much larger). This is also probably the reason why the PlayBook’s release date has been pushed back after March. What good is a tablet that has the battery life of a regular laptop? Kind of defeats the whole purpose.

Don’t fear though. RIM has plenty of time to get its famous battery preserving technology converted from its BlackBerry operating system to the new QNX one. Battery optimization is often left to the end, after bugs are worked out and the final hardware has been determined. If the PlayBook actually launches with three hours of battery life, RIM will have a problem. Until then, expect a lot more out of it in its final form.

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