BlackBerry 8820

GCN Lab Reviewer's Choice selection

At 4.5 inches by 2.6 inches by 0.5 inches and weighing 4.7 ounces, the BlackBerry 8820 looks like the Curve's big brother. It essentially has all the same capabilities: the easy-to-use operating system, mini-SD card problematically embedded in the battery compartment and fantastic battery life ' 22 days standby, five hours talk time.

The features that distinguish this unit as the big brother, other than almost an inch difference in width, are the embedded Wi- Fi and built-in GPS receiver, which lets users view their location and receive turn-by-turn directions. Ordinarily, I frown on any size increase in a PDA, but the addition of these two features makes the difference negligible.

This is by far one of the best units in the review for travelers. It always seems to pick up one signal or another even when driving cross-country. The Push to Talk feature and voice-activated dialing worked well and are easy to learn. The size of the unit makes typing on the full-size QWERTY keyboard a pleasure.

I also used the unit's instant messaging feature a lot. It works well but unfortunately happens to be proprietary. Government agencies might like the fact that RIM includes a proprietary version of IM because they might be more likely to adopt the system for security reasons, but I would like to have seen compatibility with larger IM clients.

At $350, the 8820 is a little expensive but still a good value given all its features. Despite a few minor issues, the 8820 is definitely at the top of the list as an ideal handheld for the avid traveler.


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