BlackBerry 8700g (T-Mobile) review:
RIM BlackBerry 8700g
Ever since the Research in Motion-vs.-NTP battle escalated, we haven’t heard too much from RIM in terms of product announcements–until now. Along with T-Mobile, RIM introduced the BlackBerry 8700g at CTIA this year, replacing the BlackBerry 7290 and sprucing up T-Mobile’s smart-phone lineup. Like its cousin, the BlackBerry 8700c for Cingular, the BlackBerry 8700g offers users a next-gen device with a full QWERTY keyboard, and it comes with an Intel processor and EDGE speeds for faster performance. In addition to support for Bluetooth 2.0 and up to 10 corporate or personal e-mail accounts, the 8700g offers some extras that make it more consumer-friendly and easier to use right out of the box than the 8700c. Overall, the device delivers on all fronts: as a phone, an e-mail machine, and a handheld. The RIM BlackBerry 8700g will cost $299.99 with a two-year contract (or $349.99 with a one-year contract) and will be available on April 17. Unlike the RIM BlackBerry 7290 it replaces, the RIM BlackBerry 8700g offers a sleeker and more compact package at 4.3 by 2.7 by 0.7 inches and 4.7 ounces. Sure, it doesn’t have the cell phone form factor of the BlackBerry 7100 series, and if you’re new to BlackBerrys, the device’s squarish shape will take acclimation, but in return, you get a full QWERTY keyboard and a spacious 2.5-inch-diagonal QVGA display.
While we’re on the subject, the BlackBerry 8700g’s screen is gorgeous. It displays 65,000 hues with a 320×240-pixel resolution–a vast improvement over the BlackBerry 7290. Colors are vibrant, with sharp, clearly defined images and text. It’s great for navigating the intuitive menu or for viewing Web pages and images. The display also features a light-sensing technology that automatically adjusts for your environment, depending on whether you’re indoors, outdoors, or in the dark. We put it to the test, and we’re happy to report that the screen was always readable. You can also adjust the backlight’s brightness and time-out settings, as well as font size and type, all through the Options menu. A small LED above the screen flashes different colors to alert you to various messages: green for network activity, red for message notification, yellow for low battery, and blue for Bluetooth connectivity.
Like the latest crop of BlackBerrys, the 8700g features Send and End keys for more of a cell phone-like experience.
Below the display, you’ll notice the 35-button QWERTY keyboard along with the new Send/End and soft keys also found on recent BlackBerrys. The center soft key, or the front convenience key as RIM calls it, can be programmed to launch any application, as can the side convenience key on the left spine. The keyboard itself is fairly spacious, and we had no problems firing off quick e-mails and text messages. Yet, while they are well backlit, we didn’t enjoy the slippery and plasticky feel of the keys.
Aside from the aforementioned side convenience key, there’s a USB port and a headset jack on the left side, while the familiar track wheel and Escape button are on the right. As with the BlackBerry 8700c, you can toggle between different applications by pressing the Alt button on the keyboard, then Escape. Rounding out the BlackBerry 8700g’s chassis are power and mute buttons on top, as well as the speakerphone on the mobile’s backside. RIM packages the 8700g with a healthy set of accessories, including a wired headset, a belt holster, a USB cable, an AC adapter, and a travel charger.
The RIM BlackBerry 8700g shares many features with its cousin, the BlackBerry 8700c, but it offers new tricks that should attract more consumers. We’ll discuss some of the similarities first. The 8700g takes advantage of the same 312MHz PXA901 Intel processor for enhanced performance, and it supports T-Mobile’s EDGE network for faster Web browsing and download times.
As a phone, the address book is limited only by the available memory, which tops out at 64MB of flash memory and 16MB of SDRAM; the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. For each entry, you can store up to eight numbers, work and home addresses, e-mail and Web addresses, company information, and notes. In addition, you can assign them to a group category: business or personal. You get 35 polyphonic ring tones with support for MP3s, a vibrate mode, conference calling, speed dialing, call forwarding, and a speakerphone. For wireless headsets, car kits, and desktop connectivity, Bluetooth 2.0 is onboard as well. As a quadband phone, the 8700g can be used overseas.
In addition to Bluetooth 2.0, the RIM BlackBerry 8700g offers a speakerphone for hands-free calling.
The differences between the 8700g and the 8700c center mostly on the e-mail and messaging departments. The smart phone can still sync with your company’s BlackBerry, Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise server to deliver corporate e-mail in real time, and it continues to support up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts. However, the 8700g makes it easier to set up e-mail accounts right out of the box, thanks to the BlackBerry Internet E-mail service. A utility on the device, aptly named Set Up Internet E-mail, guides you through the whole process, and it doesn’t involve much more than inputting your e-mail address and password. We used it to add our Yahoo account, and it was a snap–decidedly easier than with the 8700c. We received messages in our in-box after about 20 minutes. Also, e-mails sent and received from personal e-mail accounts are now reflected in the source account. In other words, if you use the 8700g to send a message from your Comcast account, the message will also be in your Sent folder when you log on from your PC; you also have the option to delete messages on your handheld or on your handheld and in-box. And there’s some extra good news for Yahoo users–thanks to RIM’s expanding partnership with Yahoo, you can now enjoy the joys of push technology and receive your Yahoo mail in real time.
The proprietary instant-messaging client was one of our consistent complaints of past BlackBerry models, but that ends with the 8700g. We’re glad to see RIM add support for popular IM apps, such as Yahoo, ICQ, AOL, and MSN. Google Talk is also available for download, and the 8700g supports text and multimedia messaging as well.
Of course, to get work done, on-the-go mobile professionals may need more functionality than e-mail, so the BlackBerry 8700g’s attachment viewer opens popular file formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, GIF, and more. You can also see tracked changes and embedded images, as well as zoom and rotate documents. We had no problems viewing several Word and Excel documents; however, the PDF file gave our device some problems, as formatting was lost and the full document didn’t load. Other applications on the 8700g include a calendar, a Web browser, a tasks list, a memo pad, an alarm, and a calculator. There is no audio or video player, and games are restricted to one title (BrickBreaker). Alternatively, more titles, as well as ring tones and wallpaper, are available through T-Mobile’s T-zones.
We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) RIM BlackBerry 8700g in San Francisco using T-Mobile service, and overall, call quality was good. There were occasions that our callers sounded somewhat garbled, but for the most part, conversations were clear and volume was adequate. Though callers said they could tell we were using a cell phone, they had no problems hearing us. The speakerphone was also excellent, performing just as well as the regular phone, if not better. We had no problems pairing the 8700g with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset, and though audio quality diminished a bit, this may have to do more with the headset than the phone itself.
The Web browsing experience was decent. The EDGE support helped with faster speeds, although graphics-intensive sites took a bit longer to download. As with all handhelds and smart phones, viewing Web pages on such a device takes some getting used to and requires quite a bit of scrolling.
The BlackBerry 8700g is rated for 4 hours of talk time and up to 16 days of standby time. In our tests, the 8700g battery lasted for an impressive 7 hours of talk time.