Research in Motion (RIM) has been keeping itself busy pumping out new phones for the past year or so. Among the newer entries into the market, we first had the 8800, followed by the Pearl and the Curve. And recently, the Blackberry 8820 made its debut, featuring everything you have come to know and love about a BlackBerry with a long awaited, highly anticipated upgrade – Wi-Fi connectivity, the first ever for a Blackberry device in the Asia Pacific region.
The 8820 is really an upgrade to the 8800, so design-wise, it is pretty much identical, following the same sleek design – black exterior with chrome finishing on the side. From what seems to be a permanent fixture on new and future Blackberry devices is the trackball interface, giving you a navigational experience akin to a mouse. Similar to the 8800, the keys on the neatly packed QWERTY keyboard give good tactile feedback and remains comfortable to use even for long emails and documents.
As an enterprise solution, the 8820 dutifully performed its functions by pushing new email to our Inbox via POP3 and other protocols with its Blackberry Internet Service (BIS). E-mail synchronization is supported as usual with the Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES).
Looking at its integrated Wi-Fi capabilities, the 8820 will support 802.11a/b/g networks, though the lack of a Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a strike against the phone as it essentially means no VoIP calls are possible. Nonetheless, the web browsing experience is sufficiently enjoyable with fast loading speed on its 320 x 240 display. Having an onboard GPS system gives 8820 another plus point as a handy navigator for traveling purposes. Do note that if you require additional maps, it is downloaded via a mobile data connection which could chalk up a huge amount on your next bill.
Seeking to improve its multimedia capabilities further, the 8820 takes a cue from the Curve and comes bundled with a media player that synchronizes with the supplied Roxio Media Manager software that makes ripping, converting and transferring music, pictures and videos from PC to the 8820 a breeze. A2DP profile is present on the 8820, giving users the choice of using the 2.5mm earphone jack while some sought for a wireless experience with a pair of stereo Bluetooth headsets.
Memory expandability is available with microSD cards (SDHC too), with the memory card location just above, and not underneath the battery; so replacing it just involves taking off the back cover. To produce a crystal clear audio playback, the built-in speaker is situated at the top of the phone, thus providing no obstruction to its delivery even when the device is placed on the table. Unlike the Curve, the 8820 lacks a built-in camera, which is a rarity among mobile devices today, but this might actually be a smart move since the 8820 is a business phone.
Battery life is rated at up to 5 hours of talk time and 22 days of standby time. In our tests of periodic usage of calls and SMSes with both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth functionality on, the 8820 managed to last up to three days.
In all honesty, having Wi-Fi connectivity on a Blackberry is a welcome addition to the family. The biggest difference you’ll see here is the speed of access you get with e-mails and web surfing on the 8820, which we find pleasing on the 8820. However, having an unlimited data plan to go in tandem with the 8820 is still recommended, since a business traveler might not gain access to a Wi-Fi network as readily as a GPRS connection. Thus, at a retail price of S$1,088, the Blackberry 8820 gives business users greater flexibility with their work.