Editor's note: Portions of this review were taken from our evaluation of the RIM BlackBerry 8830 for Verizon Wireless, as the two devices share a similar design and feature set. This review has been updated with the correct SAR rating. We apologize for the previous error.
Up until now, globe-trotting Sprint customers may have felt a bit stymied by the limited world-roaming capabilities of the CDMA network. Sure, you can use CDMA in other countries, but if your itinerary includes Europe, you're out of luck. But with the new RIM BlackBerry 8830, all of that changes, as the dual-mode CDMA/GSM smart phone gives you freedom to make calls and receive e-mail around of the world. Like Verizon's BlackBerry 8830, Sprint's version offers EV-DO support, multimedia capabilities, and solid performance. However, it also adds unlocked SIM capabilities, giving you the freedom to use SIM cards from other countries, an AOL instant messaging client, and support for Sprint Navigation to be used with the device's built-in GPS chip. The RIM BlackBerry 8830 for Sprint is available now $199.99 with a two-year contract and after rebates and discounts. Sprint's Worldwide BlackBerry plan starts at $69.99 for unlimited BlackBerry e-mail and Web access.
The RIM BlackBerry 8830 shares the same body style as the Verizon variant, though it forgoes the silver chassis for all black, like the GSM-only BlackBerry 8800. At 4.4 inches high by 2.6 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep and 4.7 ounces, the 8830 is certainly slim, but it's also one of the larger BlackBerrys we've seen of late. The wider and taller body makes it tad awkward to use the 8830 as a phone, but as we noted in our BlackBerry 8800 review, this is typical of full-QWERTY BlackBerrys as well as Pocket PC phones and Treos.
The BlackBerry 8830 features a 2.5-inch (diagonal), 65,000-color display with a 320x240 pixel resolution. Below the display you'll find the trackball navigator, the Talk and End keys, and the Menu and Escape buttons. The 8830 also includes a light-sensing technology that automatically adjusts the backlighting of the screen, the keyboard and the trackball, depending on whether you're indoors or outdoors.
Unfortunately, the BlackBerry 8830 is hobbled by the same full-QWERTY keyboard that bothered us on the BlackBerry 8800. The buttons are on the slippery side, and there's no spacing in between the keys, which we missed. It's not so bad that we couldn't use the keyboard; we just much prefer the ones found the BlackBerry Curve and BlackBerry 8703e.
There are volume up and down keys on the right spine, while the left spine has a 2.5-millimeter headset jack, a mini USB port, and a user-programmable convenience key (assigned to launch voice dialing by default). There is a micro SD expansion slot behind the battery cover, as well as the SIM card slot. Finally, the power on/off and mute buttons are on the top of the unit.
Sprint packages the RIM BlackBerry 8830 with a travel charger, a USB cable, a SIM card, a belt holster, desktop software, and reference material. For additional add-ons and help, please check out our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
The big draw of the RIM BlackBerry 8830 is its dual-mode functionality. With this capability, the phone switches automatically between CDMA and GSM networks to offer seamless international roaming. (Note that the phone does not support domestic GSM bands.) In all, you get voice coverage in 170 countries and e-mail and Web browsing coverage in more than 75 countries--a slightly larger coverage area than Verizon Wireless. Just be aware that you'll still incur roaming rates, which range from 59 cents to $4.99 a minute. Sprint includes a SIM card in the box that you can use during your travels, but unlike Verizon's version, the Sprint BlackBerry 8830 is also unlocked so you can plug in an international carrier's SIM card to use their voice and data services.