So, new job, new toys. I’m back in the land of blackberries. The current drug of choice is the 8800. Visually it is very nice. Thin, black lacquer and metal finish. Nice large colour screen. A small trackball for navigation, a significant upgrade on the old side dial of previous models.

I started my love of PDA gadgets with the very first blackberry. It didn’t even have a colour screen, just plain grey text. At the time, the concept for encrypted push email (ie, it shows up on the device without you having to do anything) was radical. It was a real pleasure to use. Its simplicity of design and function was its strength. All it did was email. It just did it really really well.

Now the world has moved on. Both Apple and Microsoft have re-entered the fray and Blackberry has had to continually evolve its devices to keep up. The 8800 is the latest and greatest version of that.

Thing is, I don’t think I like it very much. My last device, a Treo with Microsoft Mobile, was great. It was a small computer, complete with Microsoft Word and Excel. The screen was vibrant and was touch sensitive. That meant navigation could be done with a finger nail, pen or any old thing you had about. It was really easy to use, and behaved in many ways just like your desktop does. Its main fault was being a bit clunky, far too thick. I also used it as a phone, and the screen was always getting smudged from being up against my cheek.

So on to the 8800. Like I said, it looks great, and I have to say the keyboard is a pleasure. Very tactile, keys formed to be easy to hit, layout good. The screen is very bright and clear. I think it has better resolution than the Treo. Blackberry has also done much better on battery life. My Treo needed charged at the end of every day, intra day if I did a lot of calls. One week on and I have only just had to charge the Blackberry. That is a big plus.

Its very fast. I’ve often noticed it buzzing with a new email before it pops up on my desktop inbox. That’s really quite something when you think about it. It has built in GPS, and I’m intrigued by this, but am still playing with it. So far it has helped me find a supplier’s office, so clearly has a use. Yet on another try it decided I was in Yorkshire rather than London, which was not very useful at all.

The problem is navigation. The little trackball is all right, but to move between functions means spinning it and clunking lots of key sequences. Navigation on the Treo, because of the touch screen, was a joy, really easy. Its just awkward on the Blackberry. That may be unfamiliarity, but I adjust easy. I think it is just poor. Because its something you do all the time, it’s a constant irritant.

So, there are many pluses. Speed, look and feel, good keyboard, great screen, even greater battery life, fun features like GPS yet that one drawback, a clunky navigation. I shall report back at some stage when I’m more used to it, but for now the thumb is quavering half way.

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