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BlackBerry is synonymous with Push Email. It’s only been just a little while since we’ve had the BlackBerry Pearl 8100 and we know what that can do. So the company has decided to bring us yet another communication marvel and lo! behold, the much awaited BlackBerry 8800 is here in our fair city at last and lucky us, we got to be the first to test drive this black and silver beauty.
The BlackBerry 8800 is targeted primarily at the hardcore business person who would get the best use from the device. Like its predecessor, the 8800 is also black and silver and it’s quite a sexy looking phone from any angel. This particular model may surprise you with the lack of a few features, but let’s get to the review and see what it’s like in depth.
The 8800 is actually the slimmest BlackBerry there is, at just 114mm. It’s also quite light, weighing in at 134g. Like I said before, it’s a good looking device, scratch that, it’s a great looking device. But lets face it - it’s a wee bit wide to hold in your hand or up to your ear. Although the full QWERTY keypad seems small and the buttons are a bit too close together, it’s not difficult to use or get used to. The keys are slightly curved towards the edges thereby allowing you to maneuver over the keypad easily. Now you can’t exactly use one hand to type a message or mail, so please don’t try sending an email while driving. The number keys, located on the left of the keypad are well highlighted. There are also the standard call and end keys on either end of the trackball and two user-configurable shortcut keys on the immediate sides.
The mini USB and 2.5mm earphone sockets are located on the right side along with the voice command key. On the left are the volume keys with the power and mute keys located on the top. What really makes the phone stand out is the track ball or 'Pearl' that glows, just like that of the 8100. The Pearl, as we found with the earlier r8100, makes navigating through the menus very easy. It does make it a bit difficult to move in short distances (like adjacent characters) but the sensitivity can be adjusted.
The 8800 has a clear and bright 2.5-inch, landscape display. This TFT sports a 320x240 pixels resolution with 65K colors. It’s equipped with a sensor for ambient lighting so it also saves on the battery while adjusting the screen brightness to the lighting around you. Awesome! It’s extremely clear and visible even in the bright sunlight.
Like all the others of the BlackBerry clan, the interface has remained unchanged. Its simplicity remains intact. Icons and backgrounds are identical to the Pearl. Though the main menu may seem a bit cluttered to a first time user, as the icons are rather small and too many appear all at once, don’t worry, just look to the bottom of the screen that provides a helpful prompt as to what the particular icon is assigned to. However, the sub menus for editing, moving or arranging folders etc. are rather plain in black and white and extremely simple navigate. Quite unlike the overall look and feel of the phone.
As with the Pearl, the 8800 also has options for changing the fonts and a font smoothing option that doesn’t really seem to make much of a difference. But you can choose a font and its size to suit your requirement. The rest of the functions are again identical to that of the Pearl’s. For example the Pearl (the trackball) can be used to select options and the menu button can be used to access the context sensitive sub menus to change details of the folder you’re navigating though. And of course the back / Escape key, but of course the application doesn’t shut down so you can simply go back to what you were doing later.
Email and Web
As with the BlackBerrys of the past the 8800 has maintained the BlackBerry standard with regards to emailing. As ever, it's easy to chat, send, receive, and forward emails. With the QWERTY keypad it is a little better, more traditional than its predecessor's SureType when it comes to sending mails. Viewing attachments as well was a cinch.
I did have a few connectivity issues while commuting to the suburbs, but not too much. Certain areas of the city do have range problems so that’s nothing to pull the chain on. What I would like to mention here is that the look of the web pages hasn’t really changed since the 8100 and that’s not a good thing. Just like the Pearl, they look rather dry and unattractive after they’ve been resized to fit the page. I'm obviously comparing this to the E61's splendid web browsing capabilities.
What I really liked was the Page Preview command in the menu that allows you to see the entire page in a small section on the right of the screen. All you'd need to do is scroll through to the section you need and the main screen automatically jumps to that point and by simply clicking the Pearl it opens right there.
The 8800 like the Pearl can also sync with Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise, exchanging email, calendar, tasks etc. For chatting, the device is ready with Google Talk and Yahoo! Messenger.
Multimedia / Storage
The BlackBerry 8800 is still capable of entertaining even the business people on-the-go. It has a media player that supports audio in MP3, MIDI, AMR, AAC and WMA formats. The MP3 and MIDI files can also be used as ringtones. It also plays video in MPEG-4 format. What I don’t fancy about the player is that with videos it doesn’t utilize the full screen. I couldn’t seem to remove the play/pause, stop RW/FWD and volume menu from the display to utilize the full, wide 2.5-inches of the screen.
Other than that, the sound quality through the headset and the speaker were great. With clear picture quality, the media experience, except for screen usage, was quite pleasant. Unfortunately the 8800 also, is not equipped with an FM radio. But that would be rather unnecessary in a phone meant for executives. The 8800 also doesn’t have a camera like the 8100 Pearl, but that’s because this baby caters to a different crowd. So we can't cut points on this.
Unlike the Pearl, the 8800 has a Hot-Swap slot for adding additional memory using MicroSD cards. The thing is though you need to open up the rear panel to insert or remove the card. The slot is located just above the battery.
Network / Connectivity
The 8800 is a Quad-band GSM phone. Hutch and Airtel are the network providers for BlackBerry that are issuing the 8800, letting it work on their EDGE network.
When connected via USB and the driver is installed, it does show up as a mass storage device so you can simply copy past files on to the drive. It’s also equipped with Bluetooth 2.0 that supports headsets, hands-free and serial ports.
Another interesting feature is the built-in GPS that the 8800 has. Although maps are not easily available, rest assured, they will be soon.
What puzzles me is how come this Smartphone doesn’t have Wi-FI. I mean I do understand that the Pearl was directed towards a more consumer-based market too, but isn’t the 8800 a more traditional business BlackBerry? Phones that cost almost half have WiFi ... *cough* E61 *cough*.
"Wow!" ... That should pretty much sum it up. The battery life is simply amazing. Makes me think of the Energizer Bunny, the one that goes on and on and on…
After using it for two and a half days while putting it through it’s paces, I still used up just one fourth of battery life. And I’m quite sure it will still be perfectly alright for me to use it tomorrow as well. And all this on a single charge. Its 1400 mAh lithium cell can give you 5 full hours of talk time.
The phone has a standard USB slot but it still doesn't recharge directly through it. I kept getting a really long warning message which to sum up says – Not a sufficient power source. We had the same issue with the 8100. What gives…? My guess is the only way to charge the phone is through the battery charger, (which has 3 different adapters so you can use in most countries) as there seems to be a problem while connected to the USB.
The BlackBerry 8800 is being offered by Hutch and Airtel and is available for Rs. 31,990, which is surely a bit steep, but you have to consider the fact that it’s targeted at the people who rely on being connected via email to stay at the top of their game. This device is targeted at those individuals who are users of the BlackBerry email system and appreciate its value added functioning.
The device isn't really meant for the more casual business user, or one that doesn't have a BlackBerry-based corporate email service. For the latter, the Nokia E61 is a better option because it offers POP, Microsoft Exchange as well as add-on BlackBerry email support if required, and scores more points for its awesome web browser.
However with their legendary email capabilities and business functions this is the future and for all you BlackBerry fans out there and the future is here. I’m quite sure corporate India will appreciate the 8800.
|Network||GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900, EDGE |
|Physical||114 x 66 x 14 mm, 134 g|
|Display||320x240, 256k colors|
|UI||BlackBerry Device |
|Media||MP3, AAC, 3GP, MPEG4|
|Connectivity||USB 2.0, Bluetooth, GPS|
|Battery||520 hours stand by, 6 hours talk time|
|Street Price ||Rs. 31,990 (Offered by Airtel and Hutch)|