- ✓Large keyboard
- ✓Integrated Wi-Fi and GPS
- ✓Good battery life
- ✕Screen could be larger
- ✕Lacks 3G
- ✕Lacks camera
When we reviewed RIM’s BlackBerry 8800 earlier this year, we noted that it was a device aimed at business users but lacking in two key features — 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. RIM has now dealt with one of those omissions in the new 8820, adding Wi-Fi into the mix.
Visually there's nothing to choose between the new BlackBerry 8820 and its 8800 predecessor. The styling of both devices is identical, and this, more than any other feature, indicates that the 8820 is what the 8800 should have been all along — the first BlackBerry with Wi-Fi.
Compared to the sleeker, more consumer-friendly, BlackBerry Curve the 8820 is relatively large. The Curve measures 60mm by 15.5mm by 107mm and weighs 111g, whereas the 8820 comes in at 66mm by 14mm by 114mm and 134g. The 8820 is therefore a little thinner but otherwise larger and heavier than the Curve. The differences are not huge, but they do mean that the device can cater for a rather larger keyboard, although it does take up more pocket or bag space.
The keyboard is probably the most significant hardware feature of the 8820. It occupies the full width of the device, its QWERTY keys being contiguous to allow them to be as large as possible. In theory this should make the keys easier to hit accurately and to use at speed than more separated keys. However, this tends to be a matter of personal preference, so make sure you try before you buy.
Each key also has a curved lip that gives it a distinctive profile. We found this to be visually rather off-putting; if you're not looking straight at the keyboard, the second character set (symbols and manual dialing numbers) can sometimes be obscured by light reflection. Some users will get used to this, but others may find it a constant irritation.
Above the large keyboard is a very familiar BlackBerry-style row of buttons. The outer pair are the Call and End keys, inside these are a menu button and a back button. Right in the middle is the now familiar mini-trackball which characterises all modern BlackBerry devices and takes the place of the side-mounted scroll wheel of previous devices.
The mini-trackball can be rotated under the thumb for up, down, left and right movement, and pressed to make selections. Its location makes it accessible to both left- and right-handed people. In general we approve, although if you have to scroll through a lot of email the old 'BlackBerry thumb' problem can resurface in a new way.
The screen measures 2.5in. from corner to corner and has a resolution of 320 by 240 pixels, which is standard for this type of device. However, in contrast to the keyboard, the display looks a little small in its surroundings and we feel RIM could have made it larger. The screen is clear, sharp and bright though.
There are few side-mounted buttons. On the right edge are volume controls, while the left edge houses a button that's configured for voice dialing but can be programmed to launch another application if you prefer. This is also where the 2.5mm headset port and mini-USB power and PC sync connectors are located.
As with the design, much of what's in the BlackBerry 8820 is inherited from the 8800. Both devices share the absence of a camera — a feature which, we assume, RIM has omitted in order to raise the 8820’s stock among business users, many of whom regard them as unnecessary.
With 64MB of internal memory, the BlackBerry 8820 is not particularly well endowed with storage. However, there's a microSD card slot beneath the battery cover if you need to augment this.
RIM has implemented support for SDHC microSD cards. This effectively removes the 2GB ceiling on card capacity, allowing you to buy cards with capacities up to 4GB today and potentially 32GB in the future.
The key feature of the 8820 is its integrated Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g), which when added to the Bluetooth (2.0) and GPRS data connectivity gives the 8820 a more rounded set of wireless features than previous BlackBerry devices.
However, those excited about the prospect of Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony should note that the 8820 does not support SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) clients, so you won't be able to use free Wi-Fi networks to make VoIP calls. Instead, RIM has implemented the UMA (Unlicensed Mobile Access) system, now renamed GAN (Generic Access Network). This allows your network operator to be in control of VoIP offerings. At the time of writing, incidentally, Orange is the only UK network operator with the 8820 in its range.
The addition of Wi-Fi has prompted RIM to include a connection manager. Accessible from the main screen, this allows you to turn GSM, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections on and off easily, and to configure Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. Switching between different predefined Wi-Fi networks is easy — you just flick between saved profiles.
Like the 8800, this new BlackBerry has a built-in GPS receiver. This, along with the Maps software, allows you to use the 8820 as a navigation device. Although the receiver hardware works fine the maps and routing data are offboard, so, as with all solutions of this type, you're at the mercy of your network connection.
The multimedia client seen on the 8800 is also present, offering music player, photo and video viewer functionality. However, this program is less sophisticated than the software found on many mobile phones these days.
The obvious absence from the 8820’s feature set is 3G. The phone is quad-band, and there's an argument that mobile email works fine over the provided GPRS connectivity. Although we didn't have to wait for email downloads during testing, the 8820 has a competent web browser on board, and would there benefit from a faster data connection.
The BlackBerry 8820 is supplied with desktop software for synchronising with a local PC. For such users the BlackBerry Internet Service provides mobile email for up to 10 POP accounts. The device is, of course, also compatible with the BlackBerry Enterprise Server used in corporate environments.
Performance & battery life
We tested the battery life of the 8820 by asking it to play music continuously from a full battery charge, which it did for a little more than 10 hours.
Also, in real-world testing, we were able to use the 8820 for up to a week at a time between charges, switching it off when sitting at the desk and on when leaving the office in order to keep up to date with email.
Mobile email, which we tested via the BlackBerry Internet Service, is efficient — although we can’t see why RIM still won’t allow users to mark selected emails for mass deletion from the device and the server.
As already noted, the 8820 is what the 8800 should have been, and anyone using the earlier device may feel a little upset about missing out on Wi-Fi. As implemented, though, its value is somewhat limited as it doesn't include full SIP support.
|Short Messaging Service (SMS)||Yes|
|Phone Functions||Voice dialing, vibrating alert|
|Phone Navigation Buttons||trackball|
|Band||GSM 850/900/1800/1900 (Quadband)|
|Phone Form Factor||full keyboard|
|Service Provider||AT&T, not specified|
|Operating System Family||BlackBerry OS|
|Operating System||BlackBerry Handheld Software|
|Messaging & Internet|
|Cellular Messaging Services||MMS, SMS|
|Messaging & Data Features||Text messages, Multimedia messages (MMS)|
|Downloadable Content||Wallpapers, Ring tones, Games|
|Messaging Services||MMS, SMS|
|Data Transmission||EDGE, GPRS|
|Wireless Interface||Bluetooth 2.0, IEEE 802.11|
|Display Resolution||320 x 240 pixels|
|Color Depth||16-bit (65000 colors)|
|Supported Digital Audio Standards||MP3|
|Supported Flash Memory Cards||microSDHC, microSD|
|CE Input Device|
|Phone Functions||vibrating alert, voice dialing|
|Additional Features||GPS, microSD memory card|
|Digital Player (Recorder)|
|Supported Digital Audio Standards||MP3|
|Supported Flash Memory Cards||microSD, microSDHC|