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BlackBerry 8820 (T-Mobile) review: BlackBerry 8820 (T-Mobile)

BlackBerry 8820 (T-Mobile)

Bonnie Cha
Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
7 min read

Spring has arrived and the flowers are blooming, and apparently so are the BlackBerrys. Just last week, RIM released the BlackBerry Pearl 8120 for AT&T, and now T-Mobile is getting the RIM BlackBerry 8820. It isn't the freshest model on the market; in fact, AT&T has had this model for a few months. However, it does present T-Mobile customers with a better-equipped business smartphone than the current RIM BlackBerry 8830, since it brings the addition of Wi-Fi and support for the carrier's HotSpot@Home service. It also continues to offer Bluetooth, GPS, and of course, e-mail capabilities. Minor gripes include a kludgey Web browser and design flaws, but overall, the BlackBerry 8820 will serve mobile professionals well. The RIM BlackBerry 8820 is available starting today for $349.99 with a two-year contract.


BlackBerry 8820 (T-Mobile)

The Good

The RIM BlackBerry 8820 for T-Mobile brings the addition of Wi-Fi and support for the carrier's HotSpot@Home service. The smartphone continues to offer solid e-mail functionality and Bluetooth, GPS, and multimedia capabilities.

The Bad

The BlackBerry 8820 doesn't include the improved Web browser found on newer BlackBerrys, so there's more work involved in navigating pages. The handset is slightly bulky, and we wish it was equipped with a 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Bottom Line

The RIM BlackBerry 8820 one-ups the BlackBerry 8830 and offers T-Mobile business customers a well-connected smartphone with the addition of Wi-Fi.

Physically, the RIM BlackBerry 8820 doesn't differ much from the AT&T model of the 8820. It does sport a midnight blue casing rather than a black one, but the dimensions remain the same at 4.5 inches tall by 2.6 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep and it weighs 4.7 ounces. The 8820 is the largest device of the current crop of BlackBerrys so it feels a bit wide when using it as a phone, but it's still thin enough that you should be able to slip it into a pants pocket comfortably.

The RIM BlackBerry 8820 is one of the larger devices in the BlackBerry family. It's pictured here with the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8130.

There's a 2.5-inch nontouch display that shows 65,000 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution. It also features the same light-sensing technology found on the latest BlackBerrys that will automatically adjust the backlighting depending on your environment. Text and images look sharp on the BlackBerry 8820's screen, and you can customize the home screen with various themes, background images, and font sizes. Being a T-Mobile phone, there's also the option to have your MyFaves contacts up front and center if you choose to add this service.

The BlackBerry 8820's full QWERTY keyboard is tactile and fairly roomy, but the buttons are a bit slippery.

Below the screen, you'll find the now-standard BlackBerry navigation array of Talk and End keys, a Main Menu shortcut, a back button, and a trackball. The full QWERTY keyboard features good-size buttons that have raised ridges for a more tactile feel. Still, the lacquered finish makes the buttons a bit slippery, and there isn't much spacing between the keys, which may be troublesome to people with larger thumbs.

Some other things of note: The left spine has a 2.5mm headset jack, a mini USB port, and a programmable convenience key that launches Voice Dialing by default. There's a volume rocker on the right side, while a power key and mute button are on the top of the handset. Finally, you will find a microSD/SDHC expansion slot behind the battery cover; it's in an inconvenient location but does accept cards up to 4GB. There is no camera on the BlackBerry 8820.

T-Mobile packages the RIM BlackBerry 8820 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a protective case/belt holster, a pair of earbuds, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ring tones, and help page.

The RIM BlackBerry 8820 is designed to be a business-minded smartphone and comes with a proper arsenal of features for the mobile professional. Of course, one of the biggest attractions of the 8820 is its wide range of wireless options. First, Bluetooth 2.0 is onboard, bringing support for mono and stereo wireless headsets, hands-free kits, and dial-up networking. The smartphone is also equipped with a GPS radio, so you can get real-time location tracking abilities and turn-by-turn driving directions with navigation software. The BlackBerry 8820 comes with BlackBerry Maps installed, but you can also add other mapping applications such as Google Maps for Mobile.

The smartphone is equipped with a GPS radio and did an impressive job with real-time tracking.

The bigger news, of course, is the addition of Wi-Fi, which was sorely missing in the BlackBerry 8830. The BlackBerry 8820 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. Having Wi-Fi is great since it gives you an alternative to surfing the Web using T-Mobile's EDGE network. Plus, the 8820 is also compatible with T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home service, which lets you make and receive calls via preconfigured wireless networks. The benefit of this is that calls made via Wi-Fi will not be deducted from your cellular plan, meaning you get unlimited calls as long as you're within range of the hot spot.

The RIM BlackBerry 8820 is a well-connected device with the addition of Wi-Fi.

In addition to Wi-Fi calls, the RIM BlackBerry 8820 makes regular cellular calls too. Phone features include a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, world roaming, and text and multimedia messaging. The phone book is limited only by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts), offering room in each entry for eight phone numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home address, and job title. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo to a contact, one of 26 polyphonic ringtones, or a group category. T-Mobile's MyFaves plan is supported on the BlackBerry 8820, which gives you unlimited calling to five contacts, regardless of carrier. Individual plans for MyFaves start at $39.99 a month.

The RIM BlackBerry 8820 offers the famed push technology and can sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise server with support for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise to deliver corporate e-mail in real time. All in all, the device can support up to 10 accounts, including POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts, and there is an e-mail wizard on the device to guide you through the setup process. There's a spell check function for e-mails, and an attachment viewer is also onboard to open popular file formats, such as those from Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Corel WordPerfect, as well as PDFs, JPEGs, and GIFs. Instant messaging is supported with multiple clients, including AIM, Yahoo, Windows Live (though you'll have to add these separately), and BlackBerry Messenger.

The BlackBerry 8820 includes a number of PIM tools for business users, including a calendar, a tasks list, a memo pad, an alarm, and a calculator. Unfortunately, the BlackBerry 8820 doesn't include the improved Web browser found on some of the newer devices, which means tedious scrolling and difficult page navigation.

There is a microSD/SDHC expansion slot located behind the battery cover that accepts up to 4GB cards.

As a business-centric device, RIM decided not to include a camera on the BlackBerry 8820, but it does have other multimedia capabilities. There's a built-in media player that supports MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, and MIDI music files and MPEG-4, WMV, and H.263 video formats. The music player is fairly basic. Aside from standard stop and play functions, you can create playlists as "folders" and shuffle and repeat songs within a certain folder. It also displays some track information, such as title, artist, and album art if available. The included software CD also contains a copy of Roxio Easy Media Creator, so you can create MP3s from CDs and add audio tags. For videos, the player has play and stop buttons, fast-forward and rewind, and a full-screen mode. The included software CD also contains a copy of Roxio Easy Media Creator, so you can create MP3s from CDs and add audio tags. There's about 64MB of flash memory available, but we suggest using a microSD card to store large media files.

The RIM BlackBerry 8820 has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and up to 22 days of standby time. We're still conducting our battery drain tests and will update this section as soon as we have final results. We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) RIM BlackBerry 8820 in San Francisco using T-Mobile service and call quality was good. We enjoyed clear audio and very little background noise when talking to friends, and we had no problems interacting with bank's automated voice-response system. On the other end, callers had no major complaints. Speakerphone quality was equally good, and we were able to pair the BlackBerry 8820 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones. Unfortunately, we didn't receive a HotSpot@Home kit in time to test out the service, but will report our experience as soon as we get our review unit.

The BlackBerry 8820 was generally responsive, though there were a couple of occasions where the smartphone would briefly stick when switching between screens or launching applications. Connections weren't a problem. The smartphone had no problem finding and connecting to our test access point, and we were able to quickly view Web sites. As we noted before, navigating through pages is a bit laborious since there's a lot of scrolling involved. The device's GPS capabilities were also impressive as it was able to get a fix on our location (longitude and latitude) within a few minutes. That said, it took the BlackBerry Maps application a while to draw up the maps.

Multimedia performance was OK and just what we've come to expect from smartphones. Music playback sounded a bit tinny through the phone's speakers, and we really wish the 8820 had a 3.5mm headphone jack so we could enjoy better sound quality through a decent pair of headphones. Watching video on the BlackBerry 8820 should be fine in short spurts. Images and sound were always synchronized but the picture was slightly pixelated, particularly during action sequences.

We're still conducting our battery drain tests and will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the RIM BlackBerry 8820 has a digital SAR rating of 1.28 watts per kilogram.


BlackBerry 8820 (T-Mobile)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 8
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