BlackBerry 8700g

GCN Lab Review

BlackBerry 8700g

Pros: Easy to install and learn

Cons: Expensive, no removable memory

Price: $350

Performance: A

Features: B+

Ease of use: A+

Comfort: A-

Value: B

|GCN Lab Reviewer's Choice|

The latest top-of-the-line smart phone from RIM, the BlackBerry 8700g, was the easiest to set up and use of the devices we tested. Unlike the Palm smart phones, the 8700g came out of the box with all the software we needed and wanted. Therefore we weren't burning 30 minutes installing Dataviz or removing games we didn't need. And the wireless e-mail software on the 8700g was faster and more user-friendly than Microsoft ActiveSynch 4.1, which the Motorola Q and Samsung SCH-i830 use.

One of the easiest operations was setting up the 8700g to receive e-mail from four separate accounts. Two of the e-mail accounts were Web-based, and all four took just a few minutes to set up. The 8700g can handle up to 10 wireless e-mail accounts, each account configured separately and assigned unique 'sent from' addresses, filters and auto-signatures. And it has a 30-day, auto-aging feature that ensures your inbox doesn't get too full.

The 8700g is perfect if you travel outside the country because it operates in quad-band mode over the 850-, 900-, 1800- and 1900-MHz frequencies. That basically means you can use it in about 225 countries around the world. During testing, reception on the 8700g was among the best in the review. Voice transmission was clear and crisp at all times.

We also liked the 8700g's less obvious touches. For years, we've been begging
device makers to standardize the connectors on gadgets such as smart phones. It seemed as if each vendor had its own propriety dongle for connecting to a power source or computer. As nitpicky as it sounds, we liked that the 8700g comes with a standard, run-of-the-mill USB connection to charge the unit and synch it with our PC.
Another improvement is the 8700g's display, which RIM upgraded to a QVGA version capable of displaying 320 by 240 pixels on a wide-angle screen.

The high-resolution screen is powered by a robust 312-MHz Intel Xscale cellular processor with 64MB of flash memory and 6MB of SDRAM running a BlackBerry Java-based operating system.

With all its features, we expected the 8700g to sport a sub-par battery life. However, we found its published specs'16 days on standby and four hours of talk time'to be pretty much on-target.

Ergonomically, the 8700g is unlike the BlackBerrys you might have seen around the office. We find the more traditional, square-shaped devices cumbersome and uncomfortable as phones. But the 8700g comes in a more elongated form factor that minimizes the heat created between the ear and the receiver and makes talking on the phone a lot more pleasant. It also includes a Bluetooth radio, which we recommend you use with a wireless headset if you're on the phone a lot and your agency's wireless policy allows it.

That said, users may still find the BlackBerry 8700g a little bulky and awkward, particularly if you're left-handed, because the pinwheel navigator is located on the right side of the device.

And although the 8700g dazzled us in almost every test, we have a couple of issues. Despite the robust embedded memory, we would like to see a Mini SD card slot on the unit to expand its capabilities.

Its Web surfing features were fantastic, but the unit would be much improved if it had WiFi support so that it could join an office network.

At a retail price of $350 per unit, or $299 with a two-year contract from T-Mobile, the 8700g is moderate to expensive, particularly considering you have to upgrade the monthly plan to take advantage of the cool Web-surfing features. For instance, Pocket Express gives you three-click access to the latest news, sports, weather, maps, blogs and more. We'd consider springing for it because overall, the 8700g is one of the best smart phones out there.

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

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