The 8700g, RIM's latest BlackBerry, is slightly smaller than its predecessor, and has a styling somewhat reminiscent of a 1970s car. There's even a "radiator grill" like effect on the back of the machine. That's just the surface, however. This is a direct descendant of previous Blackberrys with all the familiar features, including the same slick clickwheel beloved of gadget fans. As on previous Blackberrys, the clickwheel really does make a good alternative to a stylus. As a plus for the clumsy, there's no danger of losing the clickwheel.

This Blackberry version has a splendid 320x240 colour screen with a 64k resolution, as well as a faster processor, supplied by Intel. Both of these are substantial improvements over previous Blackberrys I have tried. It also uses EDGE, a technology that pushes the boundaries of GPRS wireless connectivity.

Customisations include a handful of background themes – we were impressed by the Insight Icon option, which was cleaner and more compact than the default.

The device gives good control over other settings. Wireless can be turned off to preserve the battery life, but obviously, it is needed if you want to communicate via GPRS, the technology that enables you to send and receive emails while on the move.

As with previous models, the BlackBerry's batteries have some serious staying power. It was ready for action even after it'd been on standby for over a week. It charged efficiently over USB or connected to the mains.

For those who don't require the Enterprise email setup, or aren't on an Exchange server, there's an option to redirect email to the device. T-Mobile provided us with an "instant-email" account that forwarded messages to the Blackberry.

We found this easy to set up so that messages could be retrieved on the device as well as the desktop machine. We set the instant-email service to leave messages on the POP server, so they would also arrive on our home machine. The alternative is to have messages deleted from the server, so your messages are then divided between the two machines.

I happened to be trying it at a time when I was not especially mobile. The majority of times I collected email, I was backstage at the local amateur dramatic society between scenes of an Elizabethan farce. Luckily, it is easy to put the device on silent.

Without spam filtering and the system of folders I am used to in my Outlook client, I was a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of mail to trawl through. A more mobile lone-wolf would set things up differently, I suspect.

Despite this, it was possible to pick out the significant messages, and click out a coherent reply, before my next cue.

Internet access worked well - it was possible to browse news sites, easily and pictures came up well. The quality of the screen even tempted me to try watching movie clips, with only limited success.

The software included to synchronise contacts and calendar worked just fine, with synching via USB or bluetooth. Entering appointments on the device was very easy.

The phone functions worked well (something that RIM's been marked down for in the past), and also works well as a speakerphone. I found it easy enough to use the searchable contacts, memos and task lists.

Specifications

  • Quad-band mobile phone/PDA
  • Intel XScale processor
  • 64 Mbyte internal flash memory
  • 16 Mbyte SRAM
  • 320x240 light-sensitive backlit 64k colour display
  • GPRS and Edge wireless connectivity
  • Bluetooth
  • Internet and enterprise email access
  • qwerty keyboard
  • scrollwheel
  • USB 2.0 charging/synching port
  • 69.5x110x19.5mm
  • 134g


Rosemary Haworth, PC Advisor, contributed to this review.

OUR VERDICT

If you need mobile email, Blackberry is still the obvious choice. This latest version of the classic has a better screen and all the strengths we expect.