The BlackBerry phenomenon has the ability to change work habits permanently. The system allows users to collect email anywhere there's network coverage, and this creates a huge amount of flexibility for anyone who has to be connected for work. Initially the service was geared towards corporate customers wanting round-the-clock email access, but more aggressive pricing on data packages has helped it extend down to mainstream consumers.
- Bluetooth functionality, great keyboard
- A little hard to read the screen in full sunlight, some may find the shape unappealing
If you're looking for mobile email access, the BlackBerry 7290 is a great solution. It's bulky for a phone, but the keyboard is ideal for entering screeds of text.
Price$ 789.00 (AUD)
At first glance, RIM's quad-band BlackBerry 7290 works much like other smartphones, offering phone, contacts, calendars, task lists and other basic office functions. The inclusion of mobile email raises the stakes, though, and this advantage has made the BlackBerries extremely popular overseas.
The 7290 resembles earlier models, measuring a pocketable 11.3 x 7.5 x 2.2cm and tipping the scales at 140g. Although the size and shape takes a little getting used to (you have to get over the feeling that you're talking into a pocket calculator), it's not uncomfortable to use, and it fits into a trouser pocket or handbag easily. If you feel a little self-conscious, you can always just rely on the bundled earpiece and microphone for hands-free communication.
The menu system is easy to use and the large colour screen offers plenty of space to fit text and icons. The screen is clear and bright indoors, and although it backlighting has been improved from that of its predecessors, it can still be hard to read outside in full sun. One significant addition with this model is Bluetooth, which would be welcomed by owners of older BlackBerries.
The keyboard is well spaced and is astonishingly quick to type on--with practice. In fact, we found ourselves able to punch out emails at around 30 words per minute after the test period, and could imagine reaching about 40 with more experience. The desktop software can be configured to forward email, contacts, calendar and task lists from Outlook accounts and it works with Exchange and Domino servers and POP email accounts.
The machine itself is available from a few providers, but Optus supplied the test rig. At the time of review, Optus is offering a deal where you get 50MB of data and up to $500 in voice calls capped at $99 if you sign up for a 24 month plan with an access fee of $45 per month. Extra data is charged at $5.50/MB, but 50MB should be ample for a relatively heavy user. Details on pricing structures and Other plans for existing customers are available at www.optus.com.au/blackberry.
RIM is onto a winner with the BlackBerry 7290. If you're specifically looking for email on the road, it's hard to pass up. It's a bulky device for a phone, but the keyboard makes it easy to enter data.
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