By: Robert Strohmeyer
There was a time, however difficult it may be to recall now, ... Smartphone Reviews forum
Review: Hands On With the BlackBerry 8700c Electron
There was a time, however difficult it may be to recall now, when Research In Motion ruled the world of mobile messaging and data relatively unopposed. With its push technology, the BlackBerry quickly rose to the top of a relatively small heap of competitors and became the international gold standard in mobile business communications by the end of the 20th century. Meanwhile, competitors like Palm and Handspring (which were separate companies not long ago) continued playing with their own designs for wireless messaging, including the now-defunct Palm.net and the continually evolving Treo line of handhelds. But through ever mounting competition, the BlackBerry has held its ground.
Now a new generation of wireless data phones has emerged and looks likely to pose a serious threat to the BlackBerry's position as Alpha Phone. The Palm Treo 600 and 650 handsets picked up impressive market share in just a couple of years. Soon the Treo 700w and Motorola Q will bring added pressure in the form of Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 coupled with notably BlackBerry-esque styling. Will the BlackBerry hold its ground? The folks at RIM dropped a brand new BlackBerry 8700c Electron on my doorstep this week, so I've been checking it out to see what this latest mobile data center has in store for the next round of competitors.
In its physical dimensions, the BlackBerry 8700c isn't too far off from the Palm Treo 650. The Treo is almost half an inch narrower than the 8700c, but the Electron is two tenths of an inch thinner. However, the Palm's 2.5-inch, 320 x 320-pixel, touch-sensitive display beats out the BlackBerry's 2.6-inch, 320 x 240-pixel LCD when it comes to web browsing. Even so, image quality on the 8700c leaves little to be desired, or at least nothing that the Treo could improve upon.
But the real comparison between the Treo and the BlackBerry comes down to the platform. Palm lovers will undoubtedly prefer the familiar Palm OS and its relatively massive catalog of third-party apps. The BlackBerry, however, remains a staple of enterprise networks everywhere. Those unitiated in either platform should consider whether they'd prefer to use a stylus to tap on their selections or whether they'd like to use a side-mounted scroll wheel to roll to their various on-screen options. The stylus is far more immediately intuitive for new users, while the scroll wheel has distinct advantages for one-handed navigation, which makes it a boon to business travelers who always have their hands full.
While many differences between the Treo 650 and the BlackBerry 8700c are fairly trivial, there remain some significant distinctions. The 8700c's keypad is notably wider and flatter than that of the Treo, making it far easier to punch out a message without struggling to use the very tips of your fingers with every keystroke. The Treo's keypad, by comparison, is tight and crowded, leading to frequent mistypes for anyone with moderately sized hands. And if you're a ham-fisted brute, you'll be far happier wrapping your meat hooks around the 8700c. However, the the Treo offers an SD memory slot, which is something you just won't find on this BlackBerry. And the BlackBerry's lack of a camera is an obvious shortcoming.
The 8700c hasn't just made improvements relative to the Treo line. It's also a step up from previous BlackBerry handsets. Compared to the 7290, for instance, the 8700c is two tenths of an inch narrower and more than a tenth of an inch thinner. That may not sound like much, but it makes a big difference in your pocket. And of course, the 8700c's 320 x 240-pixel display handily beats out the 240 x 160-pixel LCD of its cousin. Most significantly, the Electron comes with Bluetooth and support for Cingular's EDGE network, making it even more appealing to business people who want to get more out of their data.
One particular improvement I was glad to see in the 8700c is substantially better web browsing. And I'm not just talking about the on-screen view. Prior BlackBerrys often suffered from severely crippled web browsing ability, particularly if they weren't used as part of an enterprise network solution. This has more to do with carrier-side implementation than any limitation of the hardware, but it caused serious frustration among mobile consumers who rightfully expected the wireless web on their BlackBerry. The 8700c suffers from no such hindrances, displaying every site I tried at least as well as its competitors can. It would be nice if the display were just a little bit taller, but if it means increasing the device's size, I'd rather roll the scroll wheel a few extra times. Java support is still lacking in the 8700c's browser.
Ultimately, the BlackBerry 8700c Electron is a serious contender in the race for smart phone domination in 2006. Rather than reinventing itself as a Treo wannabe, this phone builds on RIM's already substantial offering to give serious business users a handset that's capable of serious business. Naturally, we've yet to see just how well the up-and-coming Windows Mobile 5.0-based BlackBerry killers will put up their fight. But it's probably safe to say RIM will hold its ground a while longer with this handset. Meanwhile, history dictates that we'll see yet another generation of RIM BlackBerry handsets drop early next year, once the competition has heated up.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Price: $299 with a two-year contract
(launches November, 2005)
Size: 4.3 x 2.7 x 0.77 inches
Weight: 4.7 ounces
850/900/1800/1900 MHz GSM/GPRS and EDGE; 312MHz Intel PXA901 processor; 64MB flash memory, 16MB SDRAM; Bluetooth; Up to 16 days standby time and 4 hrs talk time; USB for charging and data sync; Polyphonic and MP3 ringtones
Our Canadian neighbors to the north will soon be able to get this same handset, called the 8700r for the Rogers network. The price will be $500 Canadian with a three-year contract. Additional Photos:
Last edited by hayden; 11-15-2005 at 08:50 PM.
Great article. This kind of thing is what makes this forum excellent.
Another good find hayden.
Funny he didn't mention the Intel chip and comment on whether it made a difference or not.
Great comparo photos. Especially to the 7290.
Re: REVIEW: Hands On With the BlackBerry 8700c Electron
i like the comparison. the pictures go good with it all. look forward to more of your reviews.
Re: Review: Hands On With the BlackBerry 8700c Electron
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