RIM Blackberry 7280 (Cingular Wireless) review: RIM Blackberry 7280 (Cingular Wireless)

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The Good Compact; color screen; nice built-in keyboard; real-time e-mail; Web browser; Java support (J2ME); compact travel charger and syncing cable; decent battery life.

The Bad Lacks speakerphone and memory-expansion slot.

The Bottom Line If you can find decent coverage in your area to support it, the BlackBerry 7280 is an admirable and functional smart phone.

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8.3 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 8

Review summary

Research In Motion's (RIM) early attempts at mating its popular wireless e-mail device/PDA with a cell phone didn't turn out as well as the company had hoped. But the BlackBerry 7280, offered by AT&T Wireless for $449 and Cingular for $399 (with a two-year contract), is a different story. An upgraded version of the dual-band 7210, it combines a GSM/GPRS phone, a PDA, and wireless e-mail capabilities in a slim, 4.8-ounce unit that doesn't require an earbud to talk on. The only potential drawback is getting service; if your carrier's GPRS coverage is not widespread in your area, you'll have a tough time accessing e-mail on the go.

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Pocket-friendly: While most will wear the BlackBerry on a belt, it'll fit in a shirt pocket.

Some jokingly refer to the 7280 as a BlueBerry rather than a BlackBerry because of its blue casing. A bit shorter and thicker (4.4 by 2.9 by 0.94 inches) than RIM's stalwart 957, the unit is compact for a smart phone; male buyers will probably wear it clipped to their belts using the included swiveling holster.

The high-resolution, 240x160-pixel display supports 65,000 colors and is the same width but a shorter length than the 957's screen. Though not as bright--even with the backlight on--as the displays found on Pocket PCs or Palms, the screen is readable and ideal for viewing in direct sunlight. As for the keys, they're slightly bigger and more raised than the 957's, making them more tactile. Either way, the 7280's minikeyboard is among the best available to date and certainly superior to the ones found on Handspring's Treo models.

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A little girth: The 7280 is slightly thicker than the old BlackBerry favorite, the 957.
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No cradle needed: We appreciate the included USB cable/charger.

The first thing you'll notice when you go to dial a number manually is that RIM has created a traditional number dial pad over the buttons on the left side of the keyboard. When inputting numbers as part of a text message, you may be initially thrown off by the layout. However, the arrangement is essential if you want to dial numbers on the 7290 as you would with a traditional phone.

As with RIM's earlier combo units, you can plug in the bundled headset to make a call, but this model also features a built-in earpiece and mike. It's not the most comfortable implementation, but it's quite usable as a phone as well as a wireless e-mail device and PDA.

Along with the familiar scrollwheel and the Back button (which you press to end a call) on the right side of the unit, you'll find a port for a USB cable/charger on the left side. On top, there's a quick-launch button for phone mode, plus an IR port. The removable lithium-ion battery can be replaced.

While it has no SD (Secure Digital) card expansion slot, this model ships with a healthy 16MB of internal flash memory and 2MB of SRAM. The unit also includes a 10MB of free memory, and it supports Lotus Notes.

If you don't work for a company that has BlackBerry Enterprise Server installed on its servers, you can opt for BlackBerry Web Client, which is included in AT&T's package and allows you to have e-mail messages wirelessly forwarded to your 7280 from an e-mail account. Setup is fairly simple and can be done on the Web or via a wireless Web connection on the device in a matter of minutes. Data plans are $39.99 per month for 8MB of data or $49.99 for unlimited e-mail.

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