RIM BlackBerry 8700g review
The 8700g is actually slightly smaller than the 7290 and feels more lightweight, although there’s only 3g of difference. It doesn’t feel as robust either, with a more obviously plastic finish.
One of the touted improvements of the 8700g is the bigger and brighter screen, but we found it to be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it has a higher resolution and is very bright – streets ahead of any previous BlackBerry. On the other, it’s only visible with the backlight on, whereas the 7290 had a transreflective always-on screen. When you’re jabbing buttons, the 8700g is undeniably better, but you can’t just leave it on the desk and glance at it to see your latest emails; it always needs a prod to wake it up.
We were also slightly disappointed to find no 3G support, but the 8700g is the first BlackBerry device to work with EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution), which should provide broadband-like data speeds. There’s just one problem – there are currently no UK networks with an EDGE service, and only Orange has announced a roll-out. It’s likely that the other providers will soon join them, as adding EDGE to the existing GPRS networks is a low-cost option, but it’s still an unknown quantity.
The biggest improvement with the 8700g is its sheer speed, due to the new ‘Intel inside’ design. Everything seems to happen instantly, and it’s all down to the PXA901 processor running at 312MHz. What’s more, this zippiness isn’t at the expense of battery life – in fact, quite the opposite is true. There’s a new light sensor that dynamically adjusts the screen and keyboard brightness to ambient conditions, and it certainly pays off. Where we’d have expected four or five days’ battery life from one of the previous ARM-powered BlackBerrys, we found the new one lasted a healthy week between charges – that’s amazing for a device with a permanently open data connection.
The BlackBerry has become a must-have gadget for celebrities and politicians worldwide, largely down to the fact that it makes emailing incredibly simple for the non tech-literate. It can actually be easier to send an email using the 8700g than it is with Outlook. And it’s immediate too: emails received at the primary address appear on the handheld straight away. Who needs instant messaging when you can have instant email?
The styling of the new device reflects the increasing consumer interest, with a nod more firmly in the direction of the high street than the enterprise market; frivolities such as the ability to customise the screen backdrop are an inessential but welcome improvement.
The gadget-hungry may end up being disappointed, though – there’s no MP3 player, camera or even a memory card slot. Of course, there’s good reason for this, as they’d all present a security hole to the BlackBerry philosophy of being a totally secure, corporate mobile platform. But maybe RIM is missing a trick here. We suspect that a non-business BlackBerry, complete with high-quality bells and whistles, could be a great seller.
Ultimately, though, it’s still in the corporate environment, when used in combination with RIM’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), that the 8700g really shines. BES includes the Mobile Data System, which gives the BlackBerry controlled access to the corporate network, allowing the owner to use intranets and other LAN-based tools. Any web/WAP browsing also goes via the BES, which means you get the benefit of corporate firewall protection against web-borne nasties. Plus, your web browsing comes out of your monthly BlackBerry data allowance (a generous 50MB with T-Mobile) rather than the extra data charges you’d get with a non-BES version. To keep everything secure, there’s end-to-end security based around triple DES encryption. Email messages are even encrypted at all points between the handheld and the corporate email account.