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Comparison with the Palm Pilot

I've been a PDA fan for a long time. I started with a Newton 110, progressed to a Palm III, V, Visor Prism, Tungsten T and finally a Clie UX-50. Obviously, I like Palm OS quite a bit. My biases explained, let's proceed with the opinions.

7510 Hardware mini-review

The hardware is generally excellent. The screen in particular is outstanding. Transreflective, supremely readable in all lighting conditions including direct sunlight. Anti-glare coated, non-touch-sensitive. (All input is via trackwheel and keyboard). The backlight is dimmer than I expected, but well tuned to low-light situations. The keyboard also illuminates and is very usable in the dark. The unit is well-shaped and sits nicely in the hand. Great attention has been paid to ergonomics, and it shows. The keyboard is easy to use, and fairly fast once you've acclimated. The click wheel takes a bit more force than I'd like, and is awkward if used left-handed. It's primarily a right-handed device.

It's a bit thick at 1 inch, but I've gotten used to that. Since some of the additional bulk is a speaker for the speakerphone, it's at least useful. In other dimensions, it's comparable to older RIM units; quite reasonable. Marginal for large pants pockets, but outsized for a dress shirt. (Also too heavy).

The default battery is specified to last 75 hours of standby; I get more like 48. There is a higher-capacity battery available for $70 that claims 110 hours. I will probably end up getting one, just because the stock battery is too small.

Hardware - good things

  1. One feature I really like is the charger/computer connection. Unlike every cell phone maker on the planet, this uses a standard mini-USB connector to charge and sync! They include two cables in the box. On the plus side, this means you can leave the charger at home when traveling, and plug it into your laptop instead. On the minus side, it means you don't get an older-style cradle where the unit is plugged in as soon as it docks. Overall, I rate this as a killer feature. Additionally, the charger they provide has a standard full-size USB A connector on it, so I can also use it to charge other stuff.
  2. The USB charge interface has another side effect: When traveling, you can leave the charger behind and just charge from your laptop. Since I use this approach with my iPod and previous cell phone, I find it quite convenient. The only AC adapter I have to carry is the laptops'. It charges at half as fast while on the laptop - the adapter can deliver 1 amp, the laptop only 500mA.
  3. There's another clever feature I quite like with Blackberries. The holsters all have permanent magnets in them, so the unit can tell when its holstered. Based on this, it will use a different set of alarms (e.g. silent ring when holstered), auto-lock the unit if requested, and turn off the display. Brilliantly simple, and I wish other makers would copy or license the idea.

Hardware drawbacks and annoyances

  1. I wish that RIM would copy the dedicated applications buttons from the Palm. Those are a fast way to get to the most-used applications and would help usability.
  2. For some reason (Motorola, probably, who makes the iDEN cell gear) all Nextel phones have extensible antennas. Even this blackberry, which makes it notably more ungainly than its sleeker siblings. The antenna simply unscrews for replacement, which is good because its probably easy to break. Lever arms and all.
  3. In a feat of irony, the button for the backlight is not backlit. It is also flush with the surface, and therefore quite hard to find. Since the backlight timer is hardwired, this is often an inconvenience.
  4. No Bluetooth, and I miss it much. Found on the 7100t, so maybe RIM has seen the light.
  5. No camera, which is a bummer.
  6. I like the timed keyboard lock on my T68i, and miss it here. You can set it to lock when holstered, which is a half-way substitute.
  7. Ya know, I'm not looking for MP3 pop-tunes ringtones, but single-voice FM? Cheesy and lame.
  8. Expansion slot. There isn't one, so the lack of MP3 playback is less of an issue since there's no where to store them.

New hardware from Nextel: Blackberry 7520

One and a half lousy months after I got my 7510, Nextel discontinued it and introduced the replacement 7520. As you can see from the RIM specification page, it fixes several of my complaints.
  1. Brighter screen
  2. Double the memory (32 vs 16MB)
  3. Bluetooth (handsets only, alas.)
  4. Black instead of blue. OK, I don't really care about that part.
  5. GPS functionality
  6. Better ringtones. (Not sure about this, saw it on the BB forums)
Unfortunately, they wanted at least $200 to upgrade, so I'll keep the 7510 for the near future. Given the long list of improvements, its worth getting the 7520 over the 7510 if you can.

Extended-life battery

I went ahead and got the extended life battery. I can now go 2 days reliably, which is nice. Very little added bulk; the newer back actually makes it slightly easier to get out the holster. I don't know if the 7510 battery will work in the 7520.