Research in Motion's latest BlackBerry borrows its style heavily from the company's more consumer friendly BlackBerry Pearl, but does that mean mean BlackBerry have dumbed down its business offering? We take a closer look.

The first thing hardened BlackBerry fans will notice is that this is the sleekest, most shiny BlackBerry yet. Gone is the plastic feel, the cheap buttons and disappointingly for some, the jog wheel.

That famous jog wheel, which you know was just begging to give your thumb RSI has been replaced by a nipple/pearl between the keyboard and the 2.4in screen which is considerably wider than that of the Pearl.

The pearl is the main way of interacting with the device and is incredibly easy to use. Navigating around the screen and menus is now mutli-directional rather than the up/down motion found on previous BlackBerrys and overall although some crackberry addicts we showed weren't too enamoured with the new contoller, overall it’s a thumbs-up.

Unlike the Pearl and more like traditional BlackBerry handhelds, the 8800 has a full QWERTY keyboard which is easy to use. The keys are well spaced out and fairly flat and considerably better than the Palm Treo 750's keyboard layout.

So what about the inside? Well most notably there is no Wi-Fi, no HSDPA for connectivity junkies, although is a quad-band GSM/GPRS device that is also EDGE-enabled, and there is no camera for those who like to snap when they are out and about.

Now our film reviewer friend loved this because it meant his phone wasn't going to get confiscated when it next went to a screening, but we are disappointed there isn't an option to add this if you want - an 8800c if you like.

What the BlackBerry 8800 does have however is built-in GPS. We must admit we got very excited about this feature thinking we would be able to ditch the need for a separate one in the car.

We were bitterly disappointed. More of an after thought than a must have, the GPS mapping software doesn't include postcode search, isn't really geared for use in the car and overall is slow to respond and react because rather than store the map data on the device it downloads the information it needs. This can make scrolling around a slow process, as you wait for the new data to load. It's a shame because this seems to be the killer app that could propel the 8800 to greatness.

Other than that it's business as usual meaning that you'll be addicted to the flashing red light telling you you've got mail every second of the day and in the 2 weeks we've been living with it we've already found ourselves checking our mail at 3am because it's that easy to do so.

Other features include Bluetooth 2.0, polyphonic ringtones, media player, headset jack, and video support.

Verdict

This might be the best looking BlackBerry to date, and at its core job it works a treat, however RIM are missing quite a few tricks here.

We can forgive the lack of a camera - after all this is designed for business users, however the lack 3G, HSDPA or Wi-Fi support is shocking compared to the competition and the GPS isn't nearly half as good as it should be.

Good, but not all that it could be.


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