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Old 03-24-2005, 04:57 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Product Review: BlackBerry 7290

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"Product Review: BlackBerry 7290

Thu Mar 24, 1:42 PM ET Business - NewsFactor

Mark Long,

The BlackBerry 7290 from Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM - news) (RIM) is a Java-based wireless handset that combines the full functionality of a GSM/GPRS cellular phone with personal computing capabilities, such as browsing the Web and communicating with others via e-mail and Short Messaging Service (SMS) transmissions.

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Globe-trotting executives can also elect to use the new smartphone's quad-band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) radio to place and receive calls at overseas locations where compatible GSM/GPRS networks are available.

Under the Hood

Measuring 4.5 x 2.9 x 0.9 inches and weighing in at 4.9 ounces, the BlackBerry 7290 features a brightly lit TFT screen that is capable of displaying 65K-plus colors, 32 MB of flash memory, 4 MB of SRAM, and an abbreviated Qwerty-style thumb-board with highlighted keys that double as the handset's phone pad. The smartphone also incorporates the requisite predictive text-entry software that lets the end-user type text while employing just 33 keys.

Incoming call notification is provided by way of the user's choice of a flashing LED, on-screen alert, tone or silent vibration. The handset's rechargeable and removable Lithium battery is capable of delivering more than 4 hours of talk time or up to 9 days of operation in the standby mode.

The new smartphone also integrates Personal Information Management (PIM) synchronization capabilities that can automatically synchronize the handset's onboard calendar, contact directory, e-mail in-box and task list with another notebook, PDA or office-bound desktop PC.

PDF, WordPerfect and ASCII-based files can also be delivered to the handset as e-mail attachments, together with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT - news) Word, Excel, Exchange and PowerPoint documents. In addition, the smartphone provides mobile workers with the ability to exchange text messages with other SMS-compatible devices.

Corporate Capabilities

Mobile workers may elect to access as many as 10 traditional ISP e-mail accounts, as well as enterprise e-mail accounts located behind the corporate firewall, through the use of an Internet-based e-mail interface that RIM calls "the BlackBerry Internet Service." It provides corporate e-mail access without requiring the use of specialized server software.

Larger enterprises may elect to run with RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server software, which incorporates the requisite capabilities for automatically pushing e-mail and other corporate data to the BlackBerry 7290 in a highly secure fashion.

Moreover, BlackBerry Enterprise Server can provide mobile sales staff with secure access to the very Internet- and intranet-based corporate applications they need to update customer account information while on the fly or check inventory while on the go. Handheld security is further enhanced through the incorporation of device password protection and a keyboard-lock feature.

Highlights and Drawbacks

On the upside, the new smartphone offers Handheld Security Password protection and a keyboard lock. RIM has made another big improvement by more than doubling the amount of available flash memory to 32 MB. But this also proves to be the ceiling for the handset, because RIM's corporate-class offerings are all designed to leverage the back end of the I.T. enterprise in order to provide whatever additional data storage requirements the handset end-user may require.

This is one reason why RIM has yet to offer a built-in SD Card/MultiMedia Card capability in any of its handsets. Yet another may be that some corporate clients feel safer in knowing that their security concerns are limited to a set design that limits the number of outboard peripherals that can be connected to the handset.

The latter may also help to explain why the integration of Bluetooth support is limited to facilitating interactions with a wireless headset or car kit. But before buying, prospective purchasers will need to weigh the device's memory and expansion limitations, and decide whether RIM's enterprise-level design philosophy will actually meet all their needs.

The reduced form factor for the 7290 also comes at the expense of display size: 240x160 pixels as opposed to 240x240 pixels on larger Blackberry models -- such as the 7750, which is designed to operate over speedier CDMA (news - web sites) x1 networks. In addition, the handset's track wheel has been placed on the right side of the case, which is a less-than-ideal location for lefties.

The Bottom Line

The BlackBerry 7290 operates over slower GSM/GPRS networks and lacks the speed-bumped EDGE capabilities that are increasingly appearing in other smartphones with global roaming capabilities. On the other hand, the smartphone costs substantially less than the prices other wireless carriers are currently charging for higher-speed CDMA x1 models, such as the BlackBerry 7750.

The BlackBerry 7290 is available right now from Cingular Wireless for US$249.99 after the application of a mail-in rebate and when the subscriber signs up for a two-year customer agreement. On a scale of 1 to 5, I give RIM's 7290 smartphone a 4.0 rating. "
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