RIM BlackBerry 8830 World Edition Review

by JerryJ Reads (95,395)

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the new BlackBerry 8830 World Edition looks remarkably like the BlackBerry 8800… it’s essentially the same phone with a few changes and new features.

BlackBerry 8830

What makes the 8830 so special is the fact that it’s one of the few smartphones that offers support for both CDMA and GSM cellular-wireless networks. This means customers using Sprint and Verizon (both CDMA carriers) can now make calls outside the U.S., where all other networks use GSM.

If that isn’t enough to get your attention, the 8830 also serves as your multimedia player with support for MP3 music files, video, and digital photos.

It’s currently available from both Verizon Wireless and Sprint; this review is of the Verizon version.

Look and Feel

As previously mentioned, the 8830 is virtually identical in appearance to the older BlackBerry 8800. The new sibling features a stylish silver and chrome exterior, but uses the same center-mounted trackball and full 35-key QWERTY keyboard as the 8800.

Of course, many users will wish the 8830 didn’t inherit the keyboard from its predecessor. While the keyboard is useful for typing complete emails it’s hardly a joy to use. Unlike some other BlackBerry smartphones that have firm keys with clear separation, the keys on the 8830 (like the 8800) are "squishy" and are so close together that I often found myself pressing multiple keys while trying to press a single key.

8830 Keyboard
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The 8830 likewise features the same internal GPS receiver found on the 8800, and features the same excellent 320-by-240-pixel (QVGA) LCD, high capacity battery, and microSD card slot.

Unlike the BlackBerry Pearl and the Curve, you don’t have to remove the battery in order to access the memory card. However, the microSD slot location still isn’t very convenient, since it’s stored in the battery compartment under a swing-open latch. I just don’t know why RIM can’t design a BlackBerry with a simple push-in microSD slot in the side of the phone.

While some traditional BlackBerry users dislike the new trackball menu navigation system, I’m a fan of it. Unlike the old three-way jog dial, the center-mounted trackball is a remarkably simple directional pad and selection device. While the trackball can be a little too sensitive to movement at times, it’s generally accurate and easy to use.

Overall, the build quality is good though there is some creaking noise when you firmly grip the 8830.

While the design is simple and straightforward, there isn’t much to get excited about either. The 8830 is reasonably attractive, but lacks the design and features to make it really stand out from the competition.

Performance & Software

The 8830 performs as quickly and reliably as the rest of the BlackBerry family, and the 312 MHz processor provides more than enough power for the applications in hand.

It features the same range of menu options that we’ve come accustomed to seeing in a BlackBerry, most notably the excellent email interface. However, the web browser continues to be the weak link an otherwise strong chain. For those who haven’t seen a web site displayed on a BlackBerry browser, just imagine a mess of jumbled words and photos that barely resemble a web site.

Music Player
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While the web browser works perfectly well with sites that are designed for mobile phones, few sites are designed to be mobile phone friendly. It’s long past time for RIM to provide a web browser that displays web sites the way they are supposed to be displayed. It’s downright foolish to think that every site is going to offer a mobile-friendly layout.

One nice improvement that RIM included with the 8830 is the new multimedia player first seen in the Curve. Now you can listen to your music collection, view your family photos, or watch your favorite video clips from your BlackBerry.

Verizon offers a Global Service which provides customers with 24-hour help desk support while traveling … something pretty unique in the industry and for customers. In addition to providing improved global high bandwidth and high capacity service, think of Verizon’s Global Service as a kind of insurance: If anything happens anywhere on the globe you have someone to turn to for assistance.  When customers sign up, they get a free calling card back to the Verizon Wireless help desk for assistance.

GPS

As previously mentioned, the 8830 uses the same built-in GPS receiver used in the 8800, the SiRFstarIII-LT. This gives the phone lower power consumption than other GPS receivers, and the ability to use "Assisted GPS" from cellular towers for faster location fixes.

During my testing the receiver obtained and maintained a strong signal, though my testing was limited to the mostly suburban areas around a major city (Cincinnati).

The map system provided useful navigation assistance, allowing the same bells and whistles one would expect from typical GPS navigation and could even pull addresses from the BlackBerry’s address book.

Editor’s Note: The 8830 that Verizon sent Brighthand for this review has its GPS functionality enabled, but this carrier is currently disabling this feature on units being offered to customers. It intends to change this later in the year, allowing users to access the GPS hardware that’s built into this device. The version being offered by Sprint has GPS enabled now.

Battery

The 1400 mAh battery, rated for five hours of talk time or a very impressive 22 days of standby, is a bright spot for ththis device. Unlike some of the newer BlackBerry phones, the 8830 and 8800 offer almost unbelievable battery life and outperform most smartphones from other manufacturers.

That said, battery life is something you’ll need to keep an eye on if you’re using the 8830 as your personal media player for music, video and photos.

Conclusion

The BlackBerry 8830 is a logical upgrade of the 8800 and is the perfect smartphone for world travelers who need full access to email, address book and calendar, but also want GPS map tools and a built-in media player. While the design might not be too much to look at, it’s a well-built phone that’s simple to use with good controls (if you have small fingers).

Bottom line, globetrotting business professionals will be hard pressed to find a better solution for mobile email access and little multimedia fun.

Pros:

  • World coverage
  • Integrated GPS
  • Integrated media player
  • Full keyboard
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Squishy keys placed too close together
  • Still using an almost useless web browser
  • Inconvenient location for the microSD card slot

Photo Gallery

Left Side   Right Side
Left Side
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  Right Side
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Left Side   Right Side
Left Side
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  Right Side
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Back View   microSD Slot
Back View
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  microSD Slot
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Specifications

Processor: 312 MHz Marvell XScale
Operating System: BlackBerry 4.2.1.72
Display: 2.5 inch, 320 x 240 pixel transmissive/reflective LCD
Memory: 64 MB flash memory
Size & Weight: 4.49 inches long x 2.6 inches wide x 0.55 inches thick; 4.73 ounces
Expansion: Single microSD slot
Docking: Single mini-USB port
Communication: Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE; Bluetooth 2.0
Audio: 2.5mm headphone jack; speakerphone; speaker & mouthpiece for phone
Battery: 1400 mAh replaceable Lithium Ion cell
Input: 35-key thumb keyboard; trackball with press-to-select
Other: SiRFstar III-LT GPS receiver

 




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