Redfly C8N mobile companion for BlackBerry - First Look

Smartphones like the BlackBerry have empowered a generation to work on the go from the toilet to the taxi on the way home. However one of the biggest complaints has always been a small screen and a small keyboard to get stuff really done.

In steps the Redfly C8N and C7, an 8-inch and 7-inch "mobile companion" that allows you to connect your BlackBerry handset to it and therefore benefit from a bigger screen and bigger keyboard.

Confused? Thought you would be. Think of a netbook, now take out all the features of the netbook so it's just a shell and you have a "mobile companion". No OS, no processor, and no memory of its own: all are provided by the BlackBerry handset you connect via Bluetooth or USB.

In reality it's the equivalent of connecting a bigger screen and bigger keyboard to your Curve, Tour, Bold so you can do some work as if you were at your desk on a laptop.

The unit has its own battery supply, so it's not like you are having to power both from your phone and the CN8 model promises 8 hours on the go from one charge.

In use and the screen, which is a 800 x 480 pixel resolution, does mean you can see things a lot clearer, whether that's an email, web page or movie. Don't forget all you are doing is projecting whatever is on the screen on your BlackBerry on to the netbook-style device.

Control on the Redfly is via a trackpad that replicates the movement of the "pearl" on the BlackBerry allowing you to scroll through your apps or of course the QWERTY keyboard.

So what's it like? Weighing just under a 1kg the unit is light, but isn't that pretty. The laptop looks fairly plasticy in its design and something that's probably been sourced cheaply, rather than gunning for a premium look like Apple or the latest HP models.

As for the keyboard, it's neither full size or even remotely near it. That means you go from a fiddly keyboard on a mobile phone to a fiddly keyboard on a small laptop. For us it just doesn't work.

Then you've got the question of why don't you just opt for a cheap fully functioned netbook instead of using your handset to do all the work? We can see why some people would want it. A spokesman for the company used an example of one customer phoning up to praise them on how happy he was to have lost the device without the worry of loosing the data. Even so when companies like Palm have tried this and then pulled the plug (Foleo anyone?) before it got to market, you have to question whether it's a real goer or not.

Verdict

We have to admit our play was brief and it would be interesting to see how this works in the field, i.e., in a real workflow environment.

As a journalist any device that allows me to carry less is always welcomed, however as with every "mobile computing" device, the moment that device starts making out it is more than it is are you inevitably disappointed.

Walking away from our demo and talking to other journalists at the event, the mood was "let's wait and see", rather than "damn we've got to have one" when it comes out later this year.


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