capsule review

RIM BlackBerry 8700g

At a Glance
  • BlackBerry 8700g PDA Phone

    PCWorld Rating

    The 8700g is more consumer-friendly than other BlackBerry devices, but it still lacks a camera.

RIM BlackBerry 8700g
Photograph: Chris Manners

The BlackBerry 8700g, the latest addition to RIM's 8700 series of PDA/phones, adds more of a consumer flavor to BlackBerry's notoriously business-geared devices. To the BlackBerry's already stellar messaging capabilities, it adds support for consumer instant messaging clients and even easier handling of personal e-mail accounts. Alas, there's still no camera.

At first glance you could easily mistake the 8700g for its cousin, the 8700c, which we reviewed in June. The 8700c is a Cingular device; the 8700g is on the T-Mobile network (it costs $400 with a two-year service agreement as of 7/7/06). Both PDA/phones have the slightly bulky shape of RIM handhelds, but use that space wisely: They pack in a comfortable 35-key QWERTY keyboard and a vibrant 2.5-inch display. The 8700g adds a handy light-sensing feature that automatically adjusts the brightness of the display depending on your environment. Both devices feature the BlackBerry scroll wheel that makes for easy one-handed calling and navigation of the device.

As a phone, the 8700g performs well. It can be awkward to hold next to your ear, but isn't uncomfortable during long conversations. Voice quality was good, and the device features a speakerphone that works nicely. Also impressive is the 8700g's talk-time battery life: In our lab tests, it lasted 9 hours, 35 minutes--that's among the longest of all PDA/phones we've tested.

BlackBerry devices are known for their fantastic e-mail capabilities, and the 8700g is no exception. It features RIM's push e-mail technology, which brings your messages directly to the handheld--you don't have to check for them. It can accommodate up to ten e-mail accounts, and supports Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Notes, IMAP, and POP3 e-mail accounts. The 8700g expands the push e-mail technology to include Yahoo Web mail accounts, but doesn't work with Hotmail or Gmail. A new feature called "Set up Internet E-mail" makes it a snap to add e-mail accounts; you simply enter your e-mail address and account password, and within 20 minutes your messages are delivered to your handheld. Messages sent from the handheld are now reflected in the "sent" folder of your desktop e-mail client as well.

One of my chief complaints with the 8700c was its lack of support for consumer IM clients, but the 8700g rectifies that problem. The device includes a link to a downloadable IM app from a company called OZ; once you install that, you can run AIM, Yahoo Messenger, ICQ, or MSN Messenger on the device. You can also download and run Google Talk. I installed AIM, and it worked well--for the most part. Instant messagess arrived promptly and were easy to view, and replying to them using the 8700g's keyboard was a breeze.

Another weird issue with the 8700g was its handling of PDF files in its proprietary attachment viewer. Unlike most Palm and Windows Mobile-based PDA/phones, BlackBerry devices do not include apps for editing office documents. You can, however, view files that are sent as e-mail attachments. The file viewer worked fine with Word documents and Excel spreadsheets (though scrolling through a large spreadsheet on the small screen can be an exercise in futility), but when I attempted to view a standard Adobe-based PDF file, the formatting and some of the contents disappeared.

Overall, the 8700g is an impressive e-mail device, but it seems caught between its roles as a powerful enterprise tool and a handy consumer gadget. As a business tool, the 8700g could benefit from more office apps, and if RIM really wants to target consumers, it should consider adding a camera: Still, if you're looking for an outstanding e-mail and messaging device that also works well as a phone, the 8700g is worth a look.

Liane Cassavoy

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    The 8700g is more consumer-friendly than other BlackBerry devices, but it still lacks a camera.

    Pros

    • Excellent e-mail and messaging device
    • Adds support for consumer IM networks

    Cons

    • Lacks a camera
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