RIM BlackBerry 8800 review

There’s no doubting the desirability of RIM’s BlackBerry Pearl 8100, but for many “professional” mobile email users that device is ruled out by not having a QWERTY keyboard.

RIM BlackBerry 8800 review

RIM’s solution is the BlackBerry 8800, taking styling cues from its little brother, including the Pearl itself – a small, white illuminated trackball sitting where most other phones have their joystick or navigation pad. Size-wise, the 8800 is about the same height and width of most other QWERTY smartphones, but it’s ultra-thin and pocketable at just 14mm.

As a device designed for use in secure environments, you won’t find a camera onboard, but there are signs of RIM realising that corporate smartphones don’t need to be stuffy, with the inclusion of a card slot and a media player. Stability was excellent: over a three-week test period, we didn’t need to reset or reboot the phone at all – something to make Windows Mobile users weep.

An internal GPS receiver is a useful addition, and there’s a built-in mapping application that downloads map tiles, completely free of charge, from a remote server. In use, we found it perfect for those “I can see two roads ahead, where the fork am I?” moments, but the A to B navigation facility needs a little more work.

Although the 8800 is a great phone, the real emphasis of a device like this is push email, and that’s an area where BlackBerry has always excelled. The internet-based “prosumer” version works well, but we also reviewed a full-monty enterprise device, hooked up to a corporate BlackBerry Enterprise Server. It performed flawlessly, with emails often arriving on the handheld a few seconds before they’d show up in Outlook. The Enterprise version also routes all web traffic through your corporate security systems, and it’s when viewing web pages or using web-based tools that the trackball really comes into its own. It’s much more usable than other mobile phone control methods.

For corporate users needing the best mobile email and enterprise application platform, the 8800 should be at, or near, the top of their shopping list. As an all-round smartphone for small business users, the lack of 3G, Wi-Fi and a camera may limit its appeal.

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