This is my first review of a BlackBerry device, I may complete some additional reviews of similar devices (8700c, 7105t, and a 7130e) as time permits. Just to keep it honest, I should point out right now that I’m primarily fond of Microsoft devices (I own & use a T-Mobile MDA), but I have approached these reviews with an open mind. So, what makes an ‘evil’ Microsoft supporter want to review BlackBerry devices? My job – well that’s part of it, actually I had started to become interested in BlackBerry a little bit during the lawsuit last year and found that the devices had outgrown my original perception of an overgrown pager, by quite a bit.

So with a 8700c available for testing, why did I start a review on the 7250? Don’t know – guess I wanted to try the Sprint EVDO network out, I have EDGE with T-Mobile so the EDGE network on Cingular is nothing new.

With the latest crop of BlackBerry’s, the high-speed wireless connections are there, powerful Intel XScale processors, more memory, a great display, and 3rd part application support. These devices are starting to compete directly with Palm and Windows Mobile in the core PDA areas, in addition to industry leading mobile email support. So without further delay, here we go.

First Glance
The Sprint BlackBerrry 7250 is quite large, and I find it odd that I would say that. Until last year, Pocket PC Phone devices were also quite large and unwieldy. The newer 8700 series trims down a bit, but is still ‘large’. Getting past the size, and working with the device itself is quite fun. My initial experience indicated to me that the device would be well-suited for executives. Also, people with little time to learn something new, or do not have an interest in learning a complicated device would feel comfortable with the blackberry fairly quickly.

From a technologist’s point of view, the device lacks many of the high-end ‘power user’ features that I’m used to on the Pocket PC. The Smartphone version of Windows Mobile also gives me this impression – it was built with a focus on the end-user and not on being a flexible device. However, having a large amount of flexibility does not make an easy-to-use device – it does quite the opposite.

Overall, I was really impressed with the ease in which I could pick up the device and start using it.

Spec Sheet
With the exception of WiFi, the 7250 seems to have everything a mobile pro may need.

* Email
* Phone and SMS
* 4.5 x 2.9 x 0.9 inches
* 4.9 oz.
* Backlit 33-key QWERTY keyboard
* Thumb-operated track wheel and ESC key
* 3.3 hour talk time
* 8 day standby time
* 32MB ROM
* Embedded RIM Wireless Modem
* Up to 10 external email address
* Dual Band 800/1900 CDMA2000, 1xRTT, EVDO
* Bluetooth
* Vibrate

The only thing that is really missing here is a speakerphone. Its been added to the newer devices, so I’ll have to save my thoughts on that for another time.

Now I get it! Where has this been all my Pocket PC life? Ok, note to HTC – start building these things in all future Pocket PCs and Smartphones! Note to Microsoft – redesign the Windows Mobile interface to better support the wheel.

The 7250 is an older device, and compared to the newer 87xx series devices, the performance lags somewhat – nowhere near the sluggishness of my MDA though. There is little to talk about on performance from my perspective – it kept up with what I was doing, and the only times I really had to wait was during the Enterprise Activation where some of the initial data transfers seemed to ‘bog down’ the device for about 15 seconds – but that was only during the activation phase. I had not seen that issue when browsing or using the built-in applications.

The battery life on the 7250 is quite good. Coming from the Pocket PC world, I’m used to shorter run times – heck, on my MDA I usually charge every night! The 7250 lasted several days, I lost count but it was over 4 days. Granted, I didn’t use the phone much, but it seemed like I was constantly working mail (of course – this is a BlackBerry after all), and online doing some admin work here on the blog. Most impressive!

The display on the 7250 is a sore spot for me. I’ve been used to at least QVGA screens on all my Pocket PCs, and the last few phones I’ve had have all had extremely bright, brilliant displays of full rich color. The 7250 in comparison is dull and flat. It is however, readable – and for a business device that is first and foremost an email delivery device, it worked well. Still, the new 87xx series devices have a full rich QVGA display (in landscape!) that really helps to draw you in. If I had to get a BB, it’d be an 8700 on the display quality alone.

The BlackBerry is a good email device. Guess that is a given with the reputation they have, huh? What I do want to point out is that it is not really the best that I’ve seen. Neither is anything that you can run on the Palm or Windows Mobile devices – we all may have our favorites of one kind or another, but in short, email nirvana is not here. I was expecting the ability to read HTML mail as well as text, though the default email client on Pocket PC has the same problem though so I shouldn’t complain too much. Oh heck, I will complain – if BBs are the gold standard for mobile email, then I would expect to have the ability to read HTML mail. Most frustrating on that front, many emails now come in HTML and it looses something if its not rendered correctly. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much, the PPC actually butchers HTML mail, where the BB you can at least read the text.

In addition to its good push-mail features, the device can handle up to 10 external email accounts of POP & IMAP varieties. So if you have a few additional email accounts out there, you can get them delivered (via a pull), to your handheld as well.

Sprint’s 1XRTT and EVDO network is quite impressive. The EVDO speeds really were much faster than the EDGE network that I use with my MDA, though it won’t get me to switch from Tmo. The coverage was much better than I expected, since I’ve read many reviews on Sprint’s network and the issues it has in coverage. From my week or so with the 7250 in Minneapolis, there are no coverage issues. Also, I brought the device up to our cabin north of Brainard, MN and still had excellent coverage, though with 1XRTT data only. Good work to Sprint on this one.

Overall I was delighted by the BlackBerry 7250 and Sprint’s EVDO network. While I would not purchase this device, it is not from anything I’ve written about here – its simply that I’m a Windows Mobile guy and don’t see anything on BlackBerry that is making me switch at this time.

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