RIM BlackBerry 8700c
At a Glance
This strictly business hybrid leaves off the camera, but offers great tools for e-mail and Web browsing.
BlackBerry devices have their roots in e-mail--and it shows. The BlackBerry 8700c, a hybrid PDA/cell phone, is a stellar e-mail device that offers the push e-mail capability that BlackBerry devices are known for. And while it may be more parts PDA, the device performs capably as a cell phone, too.
The 8700c I tested ($350 with a two-year contract from Cingular Wireless as of April 7, 2006), is the first BlackBerry device to support Cingular's EDGE network, which offers faster data transmission.
The 8700c is slightly larger than both of the Palm Treos we tested--with a width of 2.7 inches versus the Treo 700w's 2.3 inches--but it uses that space to offer a roomy QWERTY keyboard that makes typing easy. It also includes the jog wheel and escape button that make one-handed navigation possible on BlackBerry devices. In addition, the 8700c comes with two Convenience buttons--one on left side of the device, and the other directly below the display--that you can program to launch select features.
The 8700c excels at e-mail. It can consolidate ten e-mail accounts, including POP3, Microsoft Exchange, and Lotus Domino e-mail. Adding an account is simple; and once the account is set up, the device checks for messages every few minutes and delivers them to your inbox. The 320-by-240 pixel color display is crisp and clear for easy text viewing. And the 2.75-inch-diagonal display enables you to read messages without excessive scrolling.
You can view attachments easily, and a JPEG image I received looked great on the 8700c's screen. Viewing an Excel spreadsheet was less appealing, however, as was viewing some Web pages on the included browser. Because the browser doesn't optimize Web pages for a small screen, viewing PC World's home page, for example, was no treat. The content appeared jumbled and out of order.
Another complaint about the 8700c: For such a stellar messaging device, its lack of support for instant messaging clients like AIM and ICQ is puzzling. It also has no camera.
Making and receiving calls is easy, though the 8700c can feel bulky when held next to your ear. Compared to many of the PDA phones we tested, however, the 8700c is quite light, weighing only 4.7 ounces. (Both Palm Treos, by contrast, weigh more than 6 ounces.) The 8700c's light weight does make it more convenient to hold, especially during lengthy conversations, and it comes with a speakerphone that is easy to access and surprisingly powerful.
Talk-time battery life was very good in our tests, at 8 hours, 40 minutes.
Overall, the BlackBerry 8700c is an impressive device for e-mail and works well as a cell phone. Too bad its strong business orientation didn't leave room for extras like IM or an integrated camera.