Designed exclusively for use with the Vodafone network, the BlackBerry 8707v is an update to their 8707 handset, adding 3G capabilities to what already was a quite impressive unit. The 8700v (v standing for Vodafone) offers the convenient push email functionality that BlackBerry's are famous for, while also providing excellent battery life and a comfortable keyboard, but its asking price is a little higher than we'd like to see.
The most notable feature of the 8707v is once again its 35-key QWERTY keyboard. The keys are well raised and comfortable to press. We managed to achieve fairly reasonable typing speeds on the 8707v, so it's clear this is a real advantage for business users. One issue we did discover however was the size of the keys - they are very small, so those with large fingers will find themselves hitting multiple keys at once.
The other key feature of the 8707v is push email, which is a service that retrieves emails from your account and forwards them directly to your PDA. The 8707v allows you to access up to ten email accounts simultaneously on this unit and it supports many popular ISP email accounts as well as Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino. When located near a wireless network, the 8707v uses it to retrieve email, but do note that when you're on the road it uses GPRS, and thus you will be charged standard WAP fees every time you retrieve email. It is also possible to synchronise calendar, address book, email and task lists between a desktop PC and the handheld via the straightforward bundled software. The unit charges over a standard mini-USB connection, which is also a nice touch.
The 8707v is very easy to operate thanks to an intuitive scroll wheel and back key on its right hand side. The 3-way scroll wheel doubles as an enter key when pressed in, and combined with the back key, makes it effortless to browse through the unit's interface. Those who are left handed may have problems though, as this set of controls has really been designed to work best with the thumb - left hander's will naturally use their index finger to operate the scroll wheel and this could get uncomfortable very quickly.
In addition to these controls, RIM has also included dedicated answer and end call buttons as well as a menu button. These are located on the front of the 8707v (above the keyboard) and worked well during testing. There is a power button at the top of the unit and the flashing LED above the screen lets you know when you receive new emails or messages. A mini-USB port for charging and synchronising the device (a standard mini-USB cable is included in the sales package), a 2.5mm headphone jack and a dedicated audio profile button (Silent, Outdoors, Office etc.) are all located on the left hand side.
The 8707v's screen also impressed us. A QVGA 320 x 240 resolution LCD display, it includes what RIM dub "intelligent auto-sensing technology", which automatically adjusts the backlight and keyboard lighting to suit your surroundings. For example, if you are in the dark, the light will appear brighter, but if you are outside in the sun it will turn itself off. Our testing found this was quite effective and it had a noticeable impact on the display.
This BlackBerry has a fairly standard design and despite possessing a full QWERTY keyboard and a wealth of features, it only weighs 134 grams. The unit measures 110mm x 69.5mm x 19.5mm so although it is bulkier than a regular smart phone, it is still small and light enough to slide into your pocket or bag. Fashion fanatics may be disappointed though - this is a business phone and the design reflects this.
The 8707v is powered by an Intel PCA901 cellular processor and this helps its speedy operation. The unit is very fast, even when multiple applications are running. The 8707v also includes 64MB of flash memory and 16MB SDRAM and comes running the standard Blackberry OS, which is fairly intuitive but not particularly outstanding. It supports quad-band GSM/GPRS networks as well as 3G, but there is no camera for video calling or image capture which we found a little strange. Some business orientated 3G capable phones don't have video calling functionality, claiming it is not a necessity on such a device, but we think it would still be useful for conference calling. A fully integrated HTML web browser is included though.
RIM has included a fairly standard array of mobile phone features on the 8707v, including a hands free speakerphone, speed dialling, conference calling and call forwarding features. PDA features are also available with a calendar, address book, alarm clock and To-Do list. However, the lack of a stylus and touch screen and a limited number of third party applications mean its performance as a PDA leaves a little to be desired.
According to RIM, the 8707v battery life is 16 days standby time and four hours talk time. We found we had to charge the unit every three days or so with moderate usage. Audio quality was also excellent - even in noisy environments the audio was loud and clear. The speakerphone was similarly impressive with great volume and clarity.
Overall, the BlackBerry 8707v adds 3G capabilities to an already solid business smart phone. Its keyboard and push email are once again its main strengths, but it does come at a price. If you are a mobile professional who always requires e-mail access though, you won't be fazed at all.