RIM Blackberry 8800 Review

Discussion in 'Headline News' started by Adama D. Brown, Apr 26, 2007.

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  1. Adama D. Brown

    Adama D. Brown Brighthand Reviewer

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    <!-- Generated by XStandard version 1.7.1.0 on 2007-05-29T22:38:31 --><p>Cingular Wireless recently began offering the BlackBerry 8800, RIM's latest cellular-wireless handheld, and only the second model from this company to offer support for playing video and MP3s. </p><p><strong>Look and Feel</strong></p><table align="right" cellpadding="5"><tbody><tr><td align="middle"><span onClick="displayWindow('http://www.brighthand.com/picture.asp?f=6084','Picture',770,579,'');">[​IMG]</span></td></tr><tr><td align="middle">(<span onClick="displayWindow('http://www.brighthand.com/picture.asp?f=6084','Picture',770,579,'');" style="color:green; text-decoration:underline; cursor:pointer">view large image</span>)</td></tr></tbody></table><p>The 8800 is a near lookalike to its older sibling, the BlackBerry Pearl. It sports the same dark navy blue with chrome highlights, and the same white directional controller, but swaps the Pearl's 20-key predictive input system for a full 35-key QWERTY layout. </p><p>The new model also drops the Pearl's camera in favor of an internal GPS receiver, and takes advantage of its own larger size to pack in a bigger screen and a higher capacity battery.</p><p>For the most part, what you see with the 8800 is what you get. No tricks, no hidden features, with the sole exception of the memory card slot, tucked under the battery cover. </p><p>Unlike the Pearl, you no longer have to remove the battery in order to access the memory card. The microSD slot is still stored in the battery compartment, but it now has a new location and swing-open latch to accommodate hot-swapping (click here for a picture).</p><p>Other than that, though, it's a perfectly straightforward design. Keyboard, buttons, screen. Dead simple.</p><p>What surprised me most about the 8800 is the relatively poor performance of the controls. </p><p>The keyboard, for starters, is adequate for typing, but nothing more. Rather than the full, firm click that one would expect from a device as keyboard dependent as the BlackBerry, it feels squishy, and the keys tend to wiggle a bit on their rubber mat. Consequently, it can be less than great for extended use. </p><table align="left" cellpadding="5"><tbody><tr><td align="middle"><span onClick="displayWindow('http://www.brighthand.com/picture.asp?f=5810','Picture',770,580,'');">[​IMG]</span></td></tr><tr><td align="middle">(<span onClick="displayWindow('http://www.brighthand.com/picture.asp?f=5810','Picture',770,580,'');" style="color:green; text-decoration:underline; cursor:pointer">view large image</span>)</td></tr></tbody></table><p>That, however, is a fairly minor frustration compared to the directional controller. The 8800 copies the trackball device from RIM's earlier BlackBerry Pearl device: a small, rubberized ball which rotates freely inside its socket to indicate direction, and can be clicked inward for a center action. </p><p>There are people who rave about the trackball as a pointing system. I'm emphatically not one of them. Despite practice, it's always harder to use than a simple directional pad, and responds to urgency or inexperience with wild inaccuracy. </p><p>Besides which, I can't seem to figure out what benefit it's supposed to provide over a more conventional directional device, besides seeming &quot;cooler.&quot; Don't get me wrong, there is a positive in that the BlackBerry now has some kind of directional controls, but the trackball is not, to my mind, on par with a real D-pad. </p><p>I don't really have objections to most of the 8800's build quality--the control issues seem more a failure of engineering than manufacturing. </p><p>But at the same time, I personally find nothing really exciting about the 8800's physical design. It's appealing to look at, sure (though it doesn't photograph well), but it has no particular advantages that I can see over its competitors, and it doesn't feel as nice in the hand as, say, the Samsung BlackJack. </p><p>Compared solely to other BlackBerries, it does have a more appealing form-factor, the added directional controls, and some improvements to memory card access, but otherwise it has little to distinguish itself from the herd.</p><p><strong>Performance &amp; Software</strong></p><p>It's hardly a surprise that the 8800 performs snappily, as the BlackBerry platform has such relatively little overhead that a 312 MHz processor is quite adequate to the tasks at hand. </p><p>The 8800 has the whole range of standard BlackBerry platform functionality, resting mostly around email, but also encompassing basic web browsing, limited third-party expandability, and a variety of functions like mapping that would be useful to the frequent traveler. </p><p>I do note that the standard web browser has improved somewhat since the BB 8700, but it still far behind its competitors, or even the freeware Opera Mini. The device also comes with VoiceSignal software built-in for voice-dialing. </p><p>Although RIM has designed its most recent models, including the 8800, with music and video in mind, it's pretty clear from the software implementation that these capabilities are as much proof-of-concept as anything else. The level of serious multimedia support is woefully inadequate, bringing to mind the audio/video &quot;support&quot; seen on the Palm devices of two or three years ago. </p><p>I can only conclude that RIM simply wants to brag in their promotional materials about having the ability, while knowing that anyone with more than a passing interest in mobile multimedia has already bought some other device. Don't get me wrong, you can certainly use it as an audio player if you want to, but it's not as good as most other devices, and pretty much hopeless for serious video. </p><p>The main user of the 8800's internal GPS receiver is the TeleNav service pushed by Cingular on most of its smartphone offerings. None of those, though, has gotten quite the amount of shove that this BlackBerry has gotten, due mostly to being the most recognizable brand of device to feature an internal GPS. </p><p>Having the receiver built in also allows for the use of the &quot;TeleNav Track&quot; service, which lets businesses monitor their employees' locations, as well as do a few other advanced tricks like automatic mileage tracking. None of this comes free, of course--the basic TeleNav mapping service is $10 per month, and the TeleNav Track options are additional on top of that.</p><p>Last but not least, this model supports Cingular's push-to-talk service, for those of you longing for that full Nextel feel in your devices. This too is an optional added-cost service, another $10 per month. </p><p>If you want to take advantage of all the capabilities of the 8800, you'd better be prepared to pay. </p><p><strong>GPS</strong></p><p>As with most built-in GPS receivers these days, the 8800's internal chipset is one of the SiRFstar III line, specifically the SiRFstarIII-LT. This was designed for a smaller footprint and lower power consumption than other SS3 receivers, and also supports the use of Assisted GPS from cellular towers to produce a faster location fix. </p><p>Make no mistake, though, you don't need to see a cellular tower in order to get a GPS lock--the LT is, like its bigger brothers, a fully independent receiver. Though in this case, it may not matter as much--without access to a cell tower for data service, there will be no maps from TeleNav, Google, or anything else but what's already on the device, and to my knowledge there aren't any cellular-independent mapping packages for the BlackBerry. </p><p>In actual use, the receiver proved every bit as reliable as is to be expected from the SiRFstar line, getting and holding a signal and tracking motion with aplomb. If the reduced size and power drain affect performance, it wasn't noticeable from my testing, though I have no urban canyons with which to stress test its reception capabilities. </p><p>While I didn't delve deeply into the TeleNav package, nor its positives and negatives, it does provide a more than adequate navigation system, allowing the user a full range of typical GPS options, including integration with the BlackBerry's contacts application. </p><p><strong>Battery</strong></p><p>This is one area where this device does quite well for itself. </p><p>The 1400 mAh battery, rated for some five hours of talk time or a completely insane 22 days of standby, manages to power the 8800 well past its smaller siblings, and also outpaces many other smartphone offerings such as the Blackjack, as well as the Treo 680 and 750 models. </p><p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p><p>The BlackBerry 8800 is a perfect device for those who liked the Pearl, but were turned off by the predictive text input. Otherwise, I find it hard to get excited about. </p><p>The internal GPS receiver is a pleasant boon, and the device itself is mostly well built, but the controls are marginal, and I continue to feel that the BlackBerry platform's main advantage is having been the first to get push email right. </p><p>While hard-core BlackBerry users may find it nearly perfect, I suspect platform switchers will be disappointed.</p><p><strong>Pros:</strong></p><ul>

    Integrated GPS

    Full keyboard

    Good battery life

    <p><strong>Cons:</strong></p><ul>

    Marginal keys

    Awkward trackball

    No 3G

    <p><strong>Bottom Line:</strong></p><p>Appealing to a certain market, but not the best device in its class.</p><p><strong>Specifications</strong></p><table border="0" cellpadding="1" cellspacing="2" width="100%"><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Processor: </td><td>312 MHz Marvell XScale </td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Operating System: </td><td>BlackBerry 4.2.1.72</td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Display: </td><td>2.5 inch, 320 x 240 pixel transmissive/reflective LCD</td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Memory: </td><td>64 MB flash memory </td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Size &amp; Weight: </td><td>4.49 inches long x 2.6 inches wide x 0.55 inches thick; 4.73 ounces</td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Expansion: </td><td>Single microSD slot</td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Docking: </td><td>Single mini-USB port</td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Communication: </td><td>Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE; Bluetooth 2.0</td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Audio: </td><td>2.5mm headphone jack; speakerphone; speaker &amp; mouthpiece for phone</td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Battery:</td><td>1400 mAh replaceable Lithium Ion cell</td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Input: </td><td>35-key thumb keyboard; trackball with press-to-select</td></tr><tr align="left" valign="top"><td>Other: </td><td>Push-to-talk functionality; SiRFstar III-LT GPS receiver</td></tr></table><p><br /> </p><p>&#160;</p><p><strong>Photo Gallery</strong></p><p>[​IMG]</p><p><em>Rear view, with battery cover</em></p><p>&#160;</p><p>[​IMG]</p><p><em>Left side: audio jack, mini-USB port, push-to-talk button.</em></p><p>&#160;</p><p>[​IMG]</p><p><em>Keyboard with backlighting active.</em></p><p>&#160;</p>
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 13, 2014
  2. dgad

    dgad Newbie

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    The trackball for me is superior to most other input devices. It took me 2 days to get used to it. You can also adjust the sensitivity and motion of the trackball. It has a wonderful intuitive level of programing where it takes on features that you need for each different window / application.

    The blackberry OS also is more stable than most. I would say Blackberry leaves a lot to ask for in terms of extra features but it also provides a superior messaging environment, fabulous Voice Dialing that is superior to most other phones, and almost never needs to be reset. Once you get used to the OS it is hard to use anything else for basic communication. It is not a Pocket PC or anything as such but a fabulous communication device.

    I have used the 8525, Nokia E70, and a few others. They are all good in different areas but the useability of the Blackberry is IMO superior.
  3. Streaky

    Streaky I can't remember

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    I have today takne delivery of my 8800 (on O2) from work, upgrading from an 8700. It is way too early for me to comment on it, but the form factor is significant. I have already downloaded Google Maps and Repligo and am looking to playing, playing, playing. The trackball is really weird, though, and it's going to take a while to get used to it.

    It would have been useful if my colleagues had thought to give me a manual!
  4. Eternal Visitor

    Eternal Visitor village idiot

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    if I may chime in on the trackball.

    1: I actually found it easy to use for basic directional input. (I would hate to play games with it though)

    2: they probably used a trackball for the same reason palm used a 5-way joystick on the Zire 71, it doesn't take as much room to get right. (I find even the 5-way on my TX to be a bit to small to use in a hurry without the skin case on [it helps somewhat])

    there, that's my $0.02 CDN
  5. Ed Hardy

    Ed Hardy TabletPCReview Editor Staff Member

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    To me, the trackball and the D-pad a roughly equivalent when picking out icons in the application launcher.

    However, I find the trackball to be hugely superior when work with a long text document, like an email. Moving around in dozens of lines of text with a D-pad is a laborious process, while you can whip to just where you want to be with the trackball. This is important on a device like the 8800, as it doesn't use a touchscreen.
  6. New Cell

    New Cell Unleashed Enigma

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    The Verizon 8830 is due in mid May, does anyone see any further pros or cons regarding?
    I know it's a bit early...:)
  7. Streaky

    Streaky I can't remember

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    I've got used to the trackball, and it's great (although difficult to use in games such as the in-built BrickBreaker or the download of MeteorCrusher I now have)! One of the really good things is that if I spot a typo in an email I'm composing I can use the trackball to scroll back and correct it - something the 8870 wouldn't let me do (I had to delete using the backspace key to get to the typo).

    Google maps has been my most used app over the weekend. I am finding satellite acquisition by the in-built GPS to be poor, but I am still playing around with that. Overall, the form factor is great as well. It's a really sexy beast.
  8. LandSurveyor

    LandSurveyor LandSurveyor

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    I've pretty much decided that no smartphone currently on the market is going to replace my Axim; and, with that in mind, I still want a smartphone but music, games, etc., will be handled by the Axim, which stays in the cradle in my office during the day, and I will hit the woods with the phone. After looking over all the plans available, I've about decided the best for me is T-Mobile's Minutes & Mail 1000. This will give me email, tethering (yes, I know EDGE is slow but we don't have 3G around here and only dial-up at home) and unlimited text, which I find handier than I would have ever thought. Is the 8800 the best choice right now? Or can an E61 work on the Blackberry service without much fiddling? I'd like to see Tmo get that 8300 as a camera, even a phone camera, comes in handy once in a while.
    One more question, if I may: How well does Google maps work on the small screen?
    Thanks
  9. taklamakan

    taklamakan Newbie

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    "pretty much hopeless for serious video"

    What does that even mean? Can I throw a DIVX avi on there or not?
  10. Adama D. Brown

    Adama D. Brown Brighthand Reviewer

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    You can use DivX, but you can't just throw it on there. You'll want to reencode the file to bring it down to a size that the Blackberry's very limited processor and marginal video player can cope with. I suggest 320 pixels wide, size no more than 100 MB/hour.
  11. Streaky

    Streaky I can't remember

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    Welcome to Brighthand, taklamakan.

    LandSurveyor: Google Maps works really, really well on my BB's screen, and GPS acquisition is better (I've downloaded 1.6.4).
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