A lot of people have been waiting for this, and the day has finally arrived. Today, AT&T and Research In Motion officially released the RIM BlackBerry 8820, the first BlackBerry to offer integrated Wi-Fi. The 8820 supports 802.11a/b/g standards and is compliant with Wi-Fi security protocols, giving users another avenue to connect to the Web--a good thing since the device shows no love for 3G just yet. It also continues to offer Bluetooth and GPS support like its older sibling, the RIM BlackBerry 8800, as well as push e-mail and multimedia. It's a device built with the business user in mind and definitely won't have the mass appeal of a BlackBerry Pearl or BlackBerry Curve. There's not even a camera option. That said, for the intended audience the 8820 will certainly deliver the goods and performance. The RIM BlackBerry 8820 will be available starting on September 20 for $299.99 with a two-year contract and after rebates.
The RIM BlackBerry 8820 shares a very similar, if not identical, look and feel to the BlackBerry 8800. It sports a classic but sleek all-black casing and measures 4.5 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighs 4.7 ounces. It's not the quite the compact package of a BlackBerry Curve and as we noted in the 8800 review, the handset is pretty wide, making it slightly uncomfortable to hold when held up to the ear during phone calls. Still, it's slim enough to slip into a pants pocket or bag.
The BlackBerry 8820 sports a 2.5-inch screen that displays 65,000 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution. Text and images are clear and vibrant, and the screen also features light-sensing technology that automatically adjusts the backlighting of the screen, as well as the keyboard and trackball, depending on whether you're indoors or outdoors. We found that this function works well, and we had no problems reading the display under harsh lighting. As with most BlackBerrys, you can adjust the menu style, background image, and theme of the home screen.
The navigation array and full QWERTY keyboard remain unchanged from the BlackBerry 8800. Just below the display you have Talk and End keys, Menu and Escape buttons, and a trackball navigator. These controls are easy to use, but the keyboard may give some users pause. There isn't much space between the keys and though the buttons are pretty large and have a raised ridge to make them more tactile, we found the lacquered finish made the buttons slippery.
There are volume up and down keys on the right spine, while on the left side, you will find a 2.5-millimeter headset jack, a mini USB port, and a convenience key which, by default, launches AT&T's push-to-talk (PTT) services. There is a microSD expansion slot, but unfortunately, it's located behind the battery, so you'll have to take off the back cover every time you want to access it. Finally, the power and mute buttons are on the top of the unit.
Considering it to be a business-centric device, RIM decided not to include a camera on the BlackBerry 8820. This will be a joy to those who work in corporate environments that ban the use of camera phones. And while we certainly appreciate this precaution and understand it's a growing trend among businesses (for security reasons), we still would have liked the option of having a model with a camera. Without one, we think it'll be a disappointment to many potential buyers, especially since this is the first BlackBerry to offer Wi-Fi.
The RIM BlackBerry 8820 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a leather belt holster, a wired headset, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
Obviously, the biggest news here is the integrated Wi-Fi, as the RIM BlackBerry 8820 is the first BlackBerry to offer this option. It supports 802.11a/b/g, whether you're using your home or corporate network or hopping onto a Wi-Fi hot spot. There are enterprise security features, including WEP, WPA, and VPN settings. Our review unit was able to detect our test access point immediately, and we had no problem connecting to it or the Web.