Research In Motion BlackBerry 7130g
- Push email convenience, Aesthetically pleasing, Display, Battery life, Lightweight
- SureType keyboard does take some time to master, less than perfect design for left handers, touch screen and stylus omission diminishes PDA appeal
The SureType keyboard maybe initially cause some frustration, but once you get used to it, this is another excellent BlackBerry unit. A smaller size and a far more pleasing design should make the 7130g appeal to an even wider audience than usual.
Price$ 749.00 (AUD)
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BlackBerry devices have been well known for their business use, with excellent email capabilities thanks to a full on-board QWERTY keyboard. But the disadvantage of previous units was that the keyboard made handsets large, bulky and not very attractive. RIM has attempted to change this with the release of the 7130g - a new BlackBerry that is aesthetically pleasing, smaller in size and that features a SureType keyboard.
BlackBerry's main claim to fame is email. The 7130g, like all other BlackBerry units, uses push email; a service that retrieves emails from your account and forwards them directly to your handset. The 7130g allows you to access up to ten email accounts simultaneously and it supports many popular ISP email accounts as well as Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino. When located near a wireless network, the 7130g uses it to retrieve email, but do note that when you're on the road it uses GPRS, and thus you will be charged standard carrier fees. The email application of the 7130g is the same as previous units; unfortunately emails are still date stamped with the time they are downloaded rather than the time they were sent. Despite this, the fact that anyone with a regular email account can use a BlackBerry means it appeals to a wide audience.
Purely as a mobile phone, the 7130g is a well equipped device. RIM has included a hands-free speakerphone, speed dialling, conference calling and call forwarding features. Audio quality was also top notch - even in noisy environments phone calls were loud and clear. The speakerphone was similarly impressive with more than adequate volume and clarity. A calendar, address book, alarm clock and to-do list are all included as standard applications, but the lack of a stylus and touch screen and the limited number of third party applications is a downside. Synchronising the calendar, address book, email and task lists between a desktop PC and the handheld using the bundled BlackBerry desktop software is a straightforward process.
The scroll wheel makes navigation through menu items - presented in a standard grid layout and clearly labelled with both text and a small icon - an easy process. The scroll wheel doubles as an enter key when pressed, and combined with the back key, makes it effortless to browse through the interface. The scroll wheel works best for the thumb; left hander's will naturally use their index finger to operate the scroll wheel and this could be uncomfortable
RIM has also included dedicated answer and end call buttons on the front of the 7130g (above the keyboard). Power and mute buttons are located at the top of the handset and the flashing LED above the screen lets you know when you receive new emails or messages. A 2.5mm headphone jack and a dedicated audio profile button (Silent, Outdoors, Office, etc.) are located on the left hand side.
The most interesting design upgrade of the 7130g is the keyboard. RIM has done away with the standard QWERTY keyboard on the 7130g and added what they call a SureType keyboard. A similar experience to using predictive text input, each button of the keyboard has two corresponding letters. SureType guesses the word you're typing after you input the first couple of letters, allowing you to select from multiple options using the scroll wheel. While SureType does take a while to get used to and doesn't provide the full flexibility of a QWERTY keyboard, this design is an acceptable trade off to keep size down. The keypad itself is quite flat, but despite squeezing two letters on each key, messaging and typing was a comfortable experience.
The SureType keyboard means the 7130g is far smaller than previous BlackBerry's and it's also a bit more stylish. Measuring 114.5mm x 56mm x 18.4mm, the handset is finished in matte black and silver, although the surrounding areas of the screen are glossy and tend to pick up fingerprints. While the 7130g is unlikely to be a standout item on the catwalks of Milan and New York, RIM takes some baby steps beyond the traditional conservative BlackBerry styling. Further, the size and weight (120g) means the 7130g easily slips into a pocket or bag. The 7130g uses a 2.4in QVGA 240 x 260 pixel resolution LCD display, but we found the screen on the BlackBerry 8707v slightly more impressive. Like all new BlackBerry units, the screen includes what RIM dub "intelligent auto-sensing technology", which aims to adjust the backlight and keyboard lighting to suit the surroundings. For example, if you are in the dark, the light will appear brighter, but if you are outside in the sun it will turn itself off. Our testing found this was quite effective and it had a noticeable impact on the display.
The unit (designed around a 312MHz Intel XScale processor) is very fast, even when multiple applications are running. The 7130g also includes 64MB of flash memory and 16MB SDRAM and comes running the standard Blackberry OS, which is fairly intuitive. It supports quad-band GSM/GPRS networks and a fully integrated Web browser is also included.
According to RIM, the 7130g battery life is 16 days standby time and four hours talk time. We found we had to charge the unit every three days or so with moderate usage. The unit charges over a standard mini-USB connection.
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