Tuesday, 18 November 2008
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    Palm Treo 650 (Sprint, CDMA)~$299.00
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    Palm Treo 700p (Verizon Wireless)~$399.99

(Review) - BlackBerry is one of the most productive tools for mobile professionals who are looking to boost their productivity and stay connected via e-mail, phone calls and instant messengers. It’s so popular in fact, that anytime RIM releases a new BlackBerry, it’s more or less an instant hit. Take the 8700 series, more specifically the 8700g, for instance. The 8700g from T-Mobile is packed with features and seamless integration of applications and shortcuts that it’s arguably one of the best devices for professionals.

The exterior of the 8700g isn’t the most stylish in terms of outer beauty, but it’s quite sleek for a Smartphone that does a variety of things in a compact format. In other words, if you are looking for a LG Chocolate or a Motorola KRZR, the 8700g won’t impress you at all. For the professionals, however, the 8700g offers a compact design that does everything that you are used to in an all-in-one package. The power and mute buttons are located at the top for convenience, while the earphones jack, USB connector, a menu button and a scroll wheel are located to the left and right of the device. The back contains the speaker for the speakerphone, and the front is loaded with the QWERTY keyboard, pickup/end call buttons and a bright display.

Honestly, whether it’s Palm’s Treo series or RIM’s BlackBerry series, all Smartphones require you to get a feel for them before you really start to get comfortable with the device on a regular basis. If you have been a BlackBerry user for a while, converting to the 8700g shouldn’t take long at all. But if you are used to the Treo interface, the shortcuts, features and the keyboard do have a learning curve. With that said, things should be back on track to productivity once you are used to the interface. For us, the 8700g provided a great learning environment with the integrated "Help" feature on the device. You can checkout various shortcuts, learn how to enable and disable features and a whole slew of options to make things just a bit easier.

Although the physical interface of the 8700g is nearly perfect, the user interface is even better. You can jump from one option to another with the scroll wheel, which is very quick to perform. We noticed no lag whatsoever during our performance tests, where we loaded applications, new messages, called and hopped from a variety of features one after another. The user interface is straightforward, and downright impressive to use.

The 8700g is packed with e-mail, instant messaging client, web browser, calendar, alarm, notepad, calculator, help, pictures, password keeper, search and a game. On the surface, starting up these programs is simple and requires no advance knowledge. All of these applications work as soon as you launch them. But if you really want to dig deep inside the options menu, you can edit everything from the ringtones to the browser settings within the options menu. This is really what we like about the BlackBerry. It doesn’t overwhelm you with a lot of technical options unless you initiate the contact. Did we mention the 8700g is integrated with Bluetooth and EDGE network? Support for EDGE will really come in handy when you are browsing through webpages and need them to load in a respectable time. The difference between EDGE and GPS/GPRS networks is ridiculously noticeable. Once you go EDGE, you won’t go back.

The call quality of the BlackBerry 8700g was good (the speakerphone, on the contrary, was excellent), though not as impressive as some of the other phones we’ve tested. For instance, you could tell we were using a cell phone if we called you from the 8700g. That, in our opinion, isn’t acceptable for such a quality product. Not to mention, it requires a fair bit of testing in a number of environments to get to the comfortable volume level. We had to increase the volume level to full while on subways, but had to seriously drop it down a notch when in a quiet environment. That’s normal, but the problem is that the voice got really garbled when we set the volume at full. In a noisy environment, if we dropped the volume setting to anything but the full level, we couldn’t hear the other person. It was a catch-22 thing during our testing. RIM specifies 4 hours of talk time and 16 days of standby time, and much to our delight, the call time lasted 6 hours, while the standby time was around 15 days. With cell phones, it depends on other usage as well. There’s no way you could ever get 6 hours of talk time if were playing games or browsing online. It really is a give-some-take-some situation. You decide what’s important to you, and work your way from there. We must add though, charging the 8700g doesn’t take long at all. You could be ready with a full charge within a few hours.

Even though we don’t have a lot of complaints against the 8700g, we would like to mention a few things. First, we had some issues opening a few .PDF files. We don’t understand why we were able to launch some .PDF files but not the others. It’s a mystery that we hope RIM can fix. Moreover, the call quality could certainly be upped a notch. There’s definitely room for improvement that RIM should work on for the next-generation of BlackBerry devices. And finally, giving more than 80MB of storage (or an expansion slot) might be handy, in case we want to load a few images or applications on the device.

Even after those minor drawbacks, RIM has another winner in its product line for mobile professionals. For the price of $350, the 8700g is a workhorse with a lot of sweet features packed into an amazingly slick device. It may not support multimedia functionality, but for professionals who are looking to get some work done, the 8700g is nothing short of excellent.

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