Inside the 8700 is an Intel XScale CPU running at 312MHz. This is a huge leap forward in processing power compared with the old 7290 and it’s very noticeable. The 8700 is very responsive and skips between menus and applications with missing a beat – plus there’s no need for a soft reset every so often as with some smartphone devices. You also won’t have any trouble travelling with the 8700 – it’s a quad band handset and should work pretty much anywhere. It also supports EDGE as well as standard GPRS, helping speed up those data services.
Unlike the 7100v, the 8700 sports a full QWERTY keyboard and it really is possible to achieve an impressive turn of speed when writing emails or notes. Obviously some of the keys double up for symbol inputs with the press of the “ALT” button, while on the left you’ll find that the numeric pad shares the keys with corresponding letters. When typing an email it’s necessary to hit the ALT button to access the numbers, but thankfully when you’re dialling a phone number these keys default to the numeric pad.
Of course there are still symbols that require you to navigate a specific “symbols” menu, and I was somewhat disappointed to see that the £ sign is relegated here. I was even more annoyed to see that the $ sign has been given its own key, showing that RIM is biased to those based in the North American continent. But then I actually pressed the $ key and was presented with a menu allowing me to assign a $, £ or € sign to the key as default. Once I’d selected the £ sign as default, it only took a single key press to produce it, no need to go to the symbol menu, no need to even hit the ALT key - well done RIM.
As with all BlackBerry devices, navigation comes courtesy of a jog wheel. I’m actually a big fan of jog wheels, and was quite disappointed when Sony stopped making mobile phones equipped with them. That said, there are instances where the wheel can be a little cumbersome. For instance, the basic BlackBerry home screen has rows of icons listing the services and if I want to access an icon two rows down, instead of just moving down twice I have to scroll across the entire two rows to get there. To be fair this is only a minor gripe, and RIM has pretty much solved this for me by offering different themes. By switching to a “List” theme the navigation becomes a simple vertical list, making the jog wheel the ideal navigation tool.