Reviewed May 29, 2007 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
Editor's note: the BlackBerry 8830 is now available on Sprint as well.
A couple of months after the GSM BlackBerry 8800 hit the market for AT&T and T-Mobile, Verizon brought the BlackBerry 8830 World Edition phone to CDMA users in the US. Though both BlackBerry phones are in the same series of RIM’s device portfolio, the BlackBerry 8830 isn’t just the 8800’s CDMA twin brother. It adds a GSM/GPRS radio to the CDMA mix, making the BlackBerry 8830 a two-flavored beast. But it loses some speed as it’s using a different processor than the BlackBerry 8800. You can use the phone on Verizon’s CDMA networks in the US, and when you travel abroad in Europe and Asia where GSM dominates you can roam using the GSM SIM card with Verizon’s Global Service plan. There are lots of similarities between the BlackBerry 8800 and the 8830, but there are some differences as well. Like the 8800, the BlackBerry 8830 has the new BlackBerry form factor with that attractive, slim body and trackball control, a microSD card slot, Bluetooth 2.0, push email support, PIM applications and built-in GPS and navigation. The camera-less BlackBerry 8830 is designed for corporate users who require more security in their working environment.
The BlackBerry 8830 works on both digital dual band 800/1900 MHz CDMA networks and dual band 900/1800 MHz GSM/GPRS networks for use in Europe and Asia (the US uses the 850/1900MHz GSM bands only, which the 8830 doesn’t support). The service plan in the US is the same as other BlackBerry devices, but if you wish to add the GSM service, you will need to get Verizon’s Global BlackBerry Service plan which gives you a SIM card and international dialing instructions and a call card back to the US for customer support calls. The SIM is Vodafone ‘s and the Verizon 8830 is SIM locked to Vodafone. The enterprise channel sales of the BlackBerry 8830 starts on May 14th and the consumers will be able to buy the device and services in Verizon stores and on Verizon web site starting May 28th 2007.
Design and Ergonomics
Like the BlackBerry 8800, the BlackBerry 8830 scores a new body that’s thin and sleek looking. The silver housing and chrome side panels look even better than the BlackBerry 8800 in dark blue. Silver can make a device look classy, and it certainly is the case with the BlackBerry 8830. The BlackBerry 8830 is the same size as the 8800 measuring in at 4.49 x 2.60 x 0.55 inches, but somehow it lost a little weight. The BlackBerry 8800 and 8830 have the BlackBerry Pearl’s stylish look, but with a wider body to accommodate the full keyboard and large landscape display.
The built-in QWERTY keyboard on the BlackBerry 8830 should look familiar to BlackBerry veterans. Though the keys have more pronounced edges for a better touch-typing experience compared to last generation of BlackBerry phones, they feel smaller. It shouldn’t take a BlackBerry veteran user too long to get used to the updated keyboard and it should please new users as the keys are much bigger than those on Treo keyboard. The locations of letters, numbers and symbols have not changed from the BlackBerry 8700 series. But the menu controls and directional controls have changed from the 8700 series. Gone is the side jog wheel that has lived on BlackBerry devices for generations, instead the BlackBerry 8830 features a trackball d-pad that’s also on the BlackBerry Pearl and the BlackBerry 8800. You will move the cursor or browser selection using the trackball, and takes action or make your selection by pressing down the center of the trackball. The BlackBerry menu key and escape key flank the trackball; and the call send buttons lives to the left of the menu key and the call end button lives to the right of the escape key. While the keyboard is easy to use in light, it’s hard to see in the dark. The trackball has a bright white backlight and it’s a beacon in the dark, but the QWERTY keyboard has dim blue backlight even at 100% brightness that makes the keyboard hard to see in the dark while obscuring letters under good lighting conditions. Let’s hope that we see future BlackBerry devices moving away from the dim blue backlight and toward the white backlight used on the 8800.
You will find the left convenience key at the same place you’d expect and it can launch applications (such as Voice Command) or functions (such as add a new contact) you assign it to. Along with the convenient key, you will find a 2.5mm stereo headset jack and an USB-mini USB charging/syncing port on the left of the device. The 2.5mm headset jack works with the BlackBerry wired headset, unfortunately that’s not included in the package. We tried a few pair of non-BlackBerry specific stereo headsets with phone, but didn’t have any luck finding one that’s compatible with the jack. You will find the volume up and down button on the right side of the BlackBerry.
The power button sits on top of the device on the left. Pressing the power button will turn on the screen backlight and pressing and holding the button will turn on or off the BlackBerry. Like the Treo smartphones, the BlackBerry has a mute key on top (right side) as well, and you can turn the sound off by pressing the mute key. Pressing and holding the mute button will also put the device in standby mode which can prevent accidental dialing; however when a phone call comes in while the device is in standby mode, the phone will ring and the screen will turn on. Between the power button and mute button, you will find a speaker grille and you can turn on the speakerphone by pressing the speaker key on the QWERTY keyboard (it shares the key with $ symbol). The battery lives under a door on the back and next to it you will find the hot swappable microSD card slot.
Before dual-network phones, CDMA users were locked out of GSM/GPRS networks that dominate Europe and most Asian countries. World travelers often had to resort to other options when they traveled abroad. “World edition” CDMA phones changed that by adding a GSM/GPRS radio to CDMA phones which means you can use the phone on CDMA networks in the US and on GSM networks when traveling overseas. And just like dedicated GSM phones, you will need to pay attention to which GSM bands your world edition phone supports as the world doesn’t run on the same band. The BlackBerry 8830 works on Verizon’s digital dual band 800/1900 MHz CDMA network in the US and dual band 900/1800 MHz GSM/GPRS networks overseas. The 900/1800 MHz GSM bands are available mainly in Europe, Australia and Asia, and are not available in the US. So you won’t be able to insert your AT&T or T-Mobile US SIM and use the phone in GSM mode in the US. In fact, the phone is SIM locked, and it can only use a Vodafone SIM (Vodafone is a large European GSM carrier that happens to own a significant interest in Verizon Wireless). That means no popping in a local pre-paid SIM when traveling abroad to save on call costs. But it also means you’ll get seamless BlackBerry data, including that beloved push email when abroad, thanks to Verizon Wireless and Vodafone’s turnkey setup.
Along with the BlackBerry 8830 release, Verizon launched its Global BlackBerry service plan that allows you to use the phone roaming on GSM bands overseas. Upon signing up for the $64.99/month Global Service, you will get the SIM card and detailed dialing instructions, a calling card to call back to the US for Verizon’s 24/7 help desk. For data, you get EVDO support on CDMA networks and GPRS on GSM. That $64.99 gets you 500 megs of data/month while overseas and you'll pay by-the-minute roaming rates for voice calls (rates vary from country to country, so visit Verizon Wireless web site to see rates). The Verizon’s Global BlackBerry service ensure that you will get your push email in over 90 countries (as of this writing, Verizon plans on increasing that number). You can make voice calls in over 150 countries by Verizon’s count. When you insert the GSM SIM card, the BlackBerry will automatically enter Global Roaming Mode and search for a GSM signal. When you remove the SIM, the phone will search for a CDMA networks only. When using the 8830 with Verizon’s SIM, your phone number remains the same for both CDMA and GSM networks.
Reception on Verizon is good using the BlackBerry 8830. It gets full signal strength in well-covered areas and half strength in spotty areas. Voice calls have good quality with clear voice and loud volume. Voice through the built-in speakerphone is also clear and loud, making the BlackBerry a good choice for conference calls via the speaker. The BlackBerry 8830 supports popular phone features including call waiting, multi-party calling, call forwarding, speed dial and more. Like the BlackBerry 8800, the 8830 bundles VoiceSignal’s excellent Voice Command software that allows you not only to make calls via voice dialing, but also to check battery status, signal strength and more. Voice dialing using the Voice Command works very well and you don’t need to pre-record voice tags. Voice dialing over Bluetooth headsets also works well. Since we didn’t have the pleasure of traveling overseas during the review period, we could not test the GSM functions on the BlackBerry 8830.
We noted that the phone's ringer was unusually quiet, even at the highest volume setting.
Horsepower and Performance
The BlackBerry 8830 has an ARM 9 processor running at 225 MHz, while the BlackBerry 8800 features the Intel XScale 312 MHz processor. Despite the slower processor speed, the device performs most tasks with good speed. The BlackBerry turns on reasonably fast, web pages load fast, music and video play well and opening attachments is a breeze. The BlackBerry 8830 comes with 32 megs of RAM and 64MB of flash memory. Before loading data and applications, the 8830 has 20 megs of free storage, which is a bit less than the 8800.
To expand the storage space for data (but not application installation), the BlackBerry comes with a microSD card slot and you can use up to 1 GB cards to store your data (though we tested it with a 2 gig card that worked fine). The card is located under the battery door and next to the battery. The microSD card is hot swappable, which means you don’t need to take out the battery nor shut down the phone to gain access to the card.
Display, Gaming and Multimedia
The BlackBerry 8830 has a QVGA (320 x 240) TFT display that’s the same as the BlackBerry 8800’s. The screen is capable of displaying 65k colors and icons, games, images and video clips look color saturated. The screen is very bright at 100% setting but some themes including the default theme might make the screen seem dim. Though the BlackBerry 8830 has a light senor for the brightness setting for the backlight, you can manually adjust the brightness in the Options menu. The default backlight according to the internal sensor is a bit dim and obviously you’ll get better battery life if you don’t keep the screen at 100% all the time. The screen is viewable outdoors, more so than Windows Mobile Professional devices and the Palm OS Treo models.
The Media Player application is the same one that featured on the BlackBerry Pearl and the BlackBerry 8800. The media player plays MP3, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+ and WMA files. You can use the microSD card to store music tracks and the BlackBerry 8830 plays music from card fine. Like the in-call voice, the music quality is good through the built-in speaker. Unlike the BlackBerry 8800, the BlackBerry 8830 from Verizon doesn’t include a wired headset. We tried three 2.5mm stereo headsets on the BlackBerry 8830, none works correctly with the device.
The Media Player can also play video in MP4, H.263 and Simple Profile WMV formats. Video playback is smooth and sound is in sync with video even at QVGA resolution. Though the media player on the BlackBerry is quite picky about video encoding particulars. The BlackBerry desktop software can help convert both audio and video files to the formats that the device can play. For a complete audio and video conversion guide visit this page on RIM’s web site.
BlackBerry veterans should be happy to know that the BrickBreaker game is once again included with the device. The game runs smoothly and looks good on screen. The trackball works well with arcade style games.
The BlackBerry has integrated Bluetooth v2.0 and supports Hands-free, mono Headset, Serial and Dial-up Networking (DUN) profiles and Object Exchange for vCards. We tested the smartphone with several Bluetooth headsets including the Cardo Scala-700 and the Plantronics Discovery 655 Bluetooth headsets. The BlackBerry had average incoming sound quality via the Scala-700 headset; clear enough for phone conversations with occasional digital noise mixed with voice. Outgoing voice has trouble with the DSP on the Scala as most of the ambient noise such as bird chirping and cars passing turned into generic noise that intrudes into your conversation (we’d rather have our call recipients hear the birds and cars instead of loud digitized noise). The range is very good on the Scala by Bluetooth headset standards, reaching over 20 feet. The Plantronics Discovery 655 Bluetooth headset fared better in the voice quality department with better incoming voice and better DSP results that reduced ambient noise instead of adding more noise to your phone call. The range on the Plantronics Discovery 655 however is shorter than the Scala, reaching just over 15 feet before you hear crackling sounds (the Discovery has short range with most phones). Voice Command over Bluetooth works like a charm on all the Bluetooth headsets we’ve tested, and you can dial numbers and perform all the commands using the Bluetooth headsets with ease.
DUN support is turned on and you can use the phone’s EVDO connection as modem for your notebook. In addition, you can use the Bluetooth connection on the phone to send ringtones, vCards and more. Bluetooth v2.0 does add some speed to file transfer compared to older Bluetooth versions.
Like the BlackBerry 8800, the BlackBerry 8830 has a beefy 1400 mAh Lithium Ion battery (C-X2). As we noted in the BlackBerry 8800 review, it is a good idea to have a large battery to power the big display and the GPS radio in addition to the cell phone’s wireless radio. The battery life for the BlackBerry 8830 has dropped a bit compared to the BlackBerry 8800 in claimed talk time and standby, though the claimed battery life for the 8800 is a bit over estimated. You get considerably longer battery life if you use the phone on GSM/GPRS networks than on CDMA networks. The claimed talk time on GSM is 5 hours while on CDMA you only get 3.6 hours. The claimed standby time on GSM is 16 days vs. CDMA’s 9 days of standby. The battery life on CDMA is still a bit shorter in our tests for both talk time and standby. If you talk on the phone for 40 minutes a day, visit web sites for 45 minutes, play music and video for an hour while doing your push email throughout the day and have Bluetooth on, you will want to charge the device daily on CDMA.
The BlackBerry comes with an AC charger that has three types of prong adapters for world travelers. You can also charge the phone using the included mini-USB cable through your computer which is much slower than charging from the AC outlet.
Like the BlackBerry Pearl and the 8800, the BlackBerry 8830 has a built-in true function GPS (as opposed to 911 emergency GPS) and comes with maps of North America, though Verizon has disabled the GPS in BlackBerry Maps. You can access the maps and navigation functions by launching the Maps application. The BlackBerry comes with North America maps (US and Canada) powered by Tele Atlas and it offers a large of number of POIs (Point of Interest). The navigation services provide turn-by-turn directions, though not as full-featured as the BlackBerry 8800 which can access the GPS and offers real time traffic, route planning preferences and 3D map views. We tested it with Google Maps for the 8830, and the application was able to access the GPS but was forever stuck at "updating location" (it did ask permission to access the GPS and warned us when the signal was too low, but still couldn't get a position once we went outdoors and got a signal).
Top view of the BlackBerry 8830.
The push email services on the BlackBerry 8830 are excellent: reliable and easy to use thanks to the setup wizard. BlackBerry push email users can either connect their devices to their corporate enterprise email servers or if their companies don’t have the service, they can use Verizon’s BlackBerry services. If you need to access your email overseas in GSM mode, you will need to sign up with Verizon’s Global BlackBerry Service plan. You can integrate up to 10 email accounts on the BlackBerry and yes, you can use those email filter and search functions we’ve all come to love. The BlackBerry enterprise server software provides support for Microsoft Exchange, Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise email accounts and allows you to set up personal email accounts outside of corporate servers. For first time BlackBerry push email users with IT support, the BlackBerry 8830 offers a user-friendly setup wizard that walks you through setting up push email accounts on the device. You can view most common file formats received as attachments on the BlackBerry including office docs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint), image files and other media files. You can’t edit office documents as there is no office software bundled with the device, but you can install 3rd party software for that function. In addition to email, the BlackBerry also supports SMS, MMS and IM (BlackBerry Messenger).
For PIM functions, the BlackBerry bundles Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Memos, Alarm and Calculator. The address book supports groups, search and is integrated many applications on the device including GPS navigation, web browser and email. You can store up to 8 phone numbers and a BlackBerry PIN, two street addresses, email, URL, notes and assign caller ID and ringtone. It doesn’t have some of the fine touches found in the Treo 700p’s contacts database, such as turning zip code field into number-only so that you don’t have to hold the Alt key, but it’s a powerful tool nonetheless. The Calendar offers monthly, weekly and day view along with appointment list and more. It also has strong integration with the email application, for example you can receive and initial meetings in email based on your calendar items. You will find similar integration in Tasks and Memos. If you have a memo item on your list, you can bring up the menu in Memo and forward it via email application. Other useful tools include Password Keeper, calculator, Alarm and quick access to connection settings, keyboard lock and more.
The full-sized BlackBerry got a great makeover: slim and attractive, shiny and classy at the same time, and a very useable QWERTY keyboard and device controls. The second full-sized BlackBerry to sport this new design offers strong features to compete with Palm, Windows Mobile and Symbian smartphones. The BlackBerry 8830 offers something special for CDMA users who travels overseas: a GSM radio that allows them to use the same device and roam on GSM networks to make calls in over 150 countries and to receive emails in over 60 countries. As with the BlackBerry 8800 for GSM-only users, the BlackBerry 8830 should be a natural upgrade for enterprises that seek more security in the new BlackBerry server software and for users who want to expand memory with the newly added microSD card slot. Besides the excellent push email services, the built-in GPS with BlackBerry Maps and Bluetooth 2.0, the sleek look alone will get you interested. If you are a BlackBerry veteran, the new design should give you a much needed phone fashion update.
Pro: World phone with dual network support is ideal for Verizon customers who travel abroad. Sleek and modern design will turn heads. The device is slim and light by BlackBerry and smartphone standards. You get the great push email experience with attachments, filtering and search functions. You also get a good set of software including messaging (IM included), PIM, Maps/GPS and desktop syncing.
Con: The keyboard could use a better backlight. Verizon's disabling of the GPS means that the other 3 major carriers version of the BlackBerry are a better choice if you need GPS. The battery life isn’t as good as the GSM version of the phone. With Bluetooth v2.0 it begs for more profiles such as A2DP for playing music via Bluetooth stereo headset. Can't use the SIM of your choice when overseas for cheaper voice calls.
Price: $299.99 with 2-year new activation after a $100 rebate; $520 to $549 without a new contract.
Display:2.5” landscape 65K color TFT LCD. 320 x 240 resolution.
Battery:1400 mAh lithium Ion battery, rechargeable and user replaceable. On GSM/GPRS: claimed talk time is 5 hours, claimed standby time is 16 Days. On CDMA: claimed talk time is 3.6 hours, claimed standby time is 9 days.
Performance:Intel ARM 9 processor, 225 MHz. 64 MB flash memory.
Size:4.49 x 2.60 x 0.55 inches. Weight: 4.6 oz.
Audio:Built-in speakerphone, mic and Stereo headset jack. Media Player included for your MP3 pleasure. MIDI, Polyphonic ringtones supported, has vibration mode.
Phone:Dual band 900/1800 MHz GSM/GPRS networks; dual band 800/1900 MHz CDMA 2000 1X EvDO networks.
Networking:Bluetooth v2.0. Supports Hands-free, mono Headset, Serial and Dial-up Networking (DUN) profiles and Object Exchange for vCards.
Software: BlackBerry icon-based User Interface. BlackBerry push email client. BlackBerry IM client. VoiceSignal voice command software, BlackBerry Maps, media player for your MP3 pleasure and video playback. PIM apps include address book, calendar, tasks and memo. Also Alarm, calculator, Password Keeper included, no voice notes. BrickBreaker game is bundled. BlackBerry Desktop software for PC included for syncing and software installation.
Expansion:1 microSD slot. RIM states it's compatible with cards up to 1 gig in capacity, but 2 gigs worked fine in our tests.
In the Box:The BlackBerry 8830 with battery, an AC charger with international adapters, USB cable for syncing/charging, swivel leather case, documentation kit including BlackBerry 4.2.2 desktop software CD and User Guide, VZAccess Manager CD and a quick reference guide.