BlackBerry 7130c

GCN Lab Review

BlackBerry 7130c

Pros: Affordable, good battery life

Cons: Hard to type on, limited memory

Price: $199

Performance: A

Features: B-

Ease of use: C

Comfort: A

Value: A

The 7130c has a lot of features that it shares with the more expensive 8700g. Unfortunately it doesn't share all of them. Although at 4.2 ounces and 4.5 by 2.1 by 0.75 inches, the 7130c is among the most portable solutions we tested, its buttons and QWERTY-style key pad make typing and aggregating data a nightmare for the novice user.

The keypad combines two letters and a number per button, and an intelligent character recognition program called Sure Type. Sure Type effectively tries to guess the word you're typing by choosing the most common letter combinations for you.

As you hunt and peck, Sure Type lumps together the letters forming the most common words and sentences. In our opinion, however, Sure Type is more likely to give users a headache before it gets the desired word.

Sure Type never successfully spelled the word we intended, nor did it give us the letter combinations we wanted, particularly when spelling names.

Fortunately the feature can be disabled, but that leaves you with a system where you have to tap a key twice if you want the second character on that button. This archaic method makes sending e-mail from the 7130c a painful experience.

Unlike the 8700g, which feels and works like a professional, office-ready assistant, the 7130c feels more like a personal, more consumer-oriented device. This leaves the user craving consumer-oriented bells and whistles such as a built-in camera and MP3 player, which are absent.

But what's really missing from this smart phone is a Mini SD card slot. With a high-resolution LCD capable of displaying 240 by 260 pixels in over 65,000 different colors, an additional SD card slot to store and transfer images feels necessary. It's especially true when you consider the 7130c only has 64MB of flash memory and 16MB of SDRAM.

Another addition we'd like to see is WiFi support, although we understand WiFi's penchant for sucking up battery power is a primary reason RIM and others leave it out.

The reception via the 7130c was about average for this review. It wasn't as crisp as the Palm Treo or BlackBerry 8700g, but it was better than the Samsung i830.

Like the 8700g, the 7130c has a robust 312MHz Intel XScale Cellular Processor, which makes basic computation on the smart phone indistinguishable from that of a high-end PDA. And at a modest price of $199, the 7130c won't break the bank at any agency.

But perhaps the best characteristic of the 7130c is its battery life, which in standby lasted 18 days during our tests.

It's also comfortable to use. We spoke for about four hours before the battery died and liked the feel of the handheld throughout our conversations.

If only RIM could improve the keyboard design and get rid of the Sure Type software, it would have another winner on their hands.

Research in Motion,Waterloo, Ontario, (519) 888-7465; www.blackberry.com

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