BlackBerry 7100 review:

BlackBerry 7100

The rest of the RIM BlackBerry 7100g's controls are pretty standard. On the right edge of the handset, you'll find the typical BlackBerry jog dial--just scroll up or down with your thumb to move the cursor and press to select a function. Just beneath the dial, there's also an Escape button that brings you back to the previous menu. A headphone jack and a USB port sit on the left side of the phone, while an inset power button is perched along the top. Turn the 7100g around, and you'll find the speakerphone grille just above the broad plastic battery door.

The RIM BlackBerry 7100g comes with a well-balanced meal of phone basics. The phone book handles as many entries as will fit in its 32MB of onboard RAM (the SIM card can hold an additional 250 contacts), and there's room in each entry for eight numbers, home and work addresses, Web pages, and more. You also get a speakerphone, which you can engage only once you're on a call; a calendar; task and to-do lists; a memo pad; a WAP wireless Web browser; an alarm; and a calculator. Some unexpected extras include the ability to search the 7100g's messages, calendar, address book, memo pad, and tasks, either individually or all at once; there's also a detailed help section. Unfortunately, the Bluetooth-enabled phone only supports wireless headsets, so if you're looking for Bluetooth file transfers or syncing, you're out of luck.

Loud and clear: The 7100g features a speakerphone, but you can turn it on only once you're on a call.

Clearly, push e-mail is the big draw for the RIM BlackBerry 7100g, and the handset doesn't disappoint. The device syncs e-mail and calendars in real time with Microsoft Exchange, BlackBerry, and Lotus Notes servers, plus it grabs messages from up to 10 POP3/IMAP accounts or Web mail services such as MSN Hotmail, Yahoo, and AOL. Configuring the device to work with our Gmail account was a breeze; we simply logged on to the BlackBerry Web site and entered our username and password, and we began receiving messages within about 20 minutes. The 7100g's e-mail client lets you view a variety of attachments, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, WordPerfect, and PDF documents, but you can't edit them. Unfortunately, the device doesn't have an instant-messaging client that works straight out of the box.

Extra applications on the RIM BlackBerry 7100g are on the weak side. As with the 7100t, the only title you get is the Breakout-style BrickBreaker, and you can't purchase other games or applications from Cingular's download service. On the personalization side, you can swap out the wallpaper with one of the six pictures available in the Pictures application (you can buy more wallpaper from Cingular), and you can choose from five ringer profiles, including Loud, Vibrate, Quiet, Phone Only, and a user-defined mode. However, you can't assign individual ring tones to specific contacts or groups. The 7100g is pretty light on multimedia features; there aren't any MP3 or media players here.

We tested the quad-band RIM BlackBerry 7100g (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS) in New York City, and our calls sounded loud and clear, both in regular calling mode and with the speakerphone. We also tried the handset in our gadget-heavy living room--complete with a microwave oven, a 32-inch TV set, a wireless phone, and a Wi-Fi network--and didn't notice any interference.

Pairing the RIM BlackBerry 7100g with a Bluetooth headset was a snap; once we turned on the Bluetooth radio, the phone found our Logitech Mobile Traveller Headset within a few seconds, and we were soon chatting away wirelessly.

RIM promises 4 hours of talk time and eight days of standby time from the BlackBerry 7100g. In our tests, we beat the talk time by an extra half hour and got seven days of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the RIM BlackBerry 7100g has a digital SAR rating of 0.86 watts per kilogram.

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