Gadget Tech

PDA Built For Speed

The BlackBerry 8700g

The BlackBerry 8700gT-Mobile USA Inc.'s new BlackBerry 8700g from Research In Motion Ltd. is certainly a looker. But what's it packing behind its stylish makeover? Answer: Speed.

For starters, the 8700g is powered by an Intel PXA901 XScale processor running at 312 MHz. It's got 64MB of flash memory, 16MB of synchronous dynamic RAM and runs on T-Mobile's EDGE (Enhanced Data Rate for GSM Evolution) high-speed network.

The 8700g borrows some of its styling from the slimmer, more phonelike BlackBerry 7100 line, but it retains the traditional blocky BlackBerry shape and ease of use. The quadband GSM/GPRS phone can work overseas and supports Bluetooth 2.0.

At 4.7 oz., the 8700g is just a tiny bit lighter and smaller than the BlackBerry 7290, which weighs 4.9 oz. Its 35-key backlit QWERTY keyboard is slightly smaller too, and the keys are closer together. I found it OK to use, but good luck to folks with larger hands or those who are used to the older-style keyboard, because this one is pretty tightly packed.

More impressive is the 8700g's bright, 65,000-color, 320-by-240-pixel QVGA display. A new built-in light sensor automatically adjusts the screen's brightness, depending on the ambient light.

RIM has expanded instant messaging options beyond BlackBerry Messenger, adding support for AOL Instant Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger and ICQ. You can also download Google Talk and send messages via Short Message Service and Multimedia Messaging Service.

So, what about e-mail, BlackBerry's bread and butter? Of course, the BlackBerry 8700g supports push e-mail and access to corporate data via BlackBerry Enterprise Server for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino and Novell GroupWise. Personal accounts can be configured with the BlackBerry Internet E-mail application to retrieve mail from services such as Yahoo, AOL and Comcast. Yahoo mail users now get real-time mail delivery.

I found that Web browsing and downloading applications over the T-Mobile EDGE network on the 8700g was indeed zippy. As a phone, the 8700g performed fine. Calls were clear, and the speakerphone was impressively loud.

BlackBerries are known for long battery life, and the 8700g is no exception, even with the bright new screen and beefy wireless features running. It's rated for four hours of talk time and 16 days of standby.

The 8700g comes packaged with a travel charger, a holster, a headset, a USB cable and a CD containing BlackBerry Desktop software. T-Mobile is hawking the 8700g for $299 with a two-year service plan and $349 with a one-year plan.

Whopper Of a Flash Drive

The Kanguru Flash Drive Max

The Kanguru Flash Drive MaxGenerally, you don't think "supersize" in relation to a flash drive, a.k.a. the "storage on a stick" that has replaced floppies, CDs and other removable memory.

But it looks like Kanguru Solutions in Millis, Mass., is now home of the whopper, having unleashed the Kanguru Flash Drive Max in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB versions. The storage capacity isn't the only thing oversized about these drives. They're priced at $800 (16GB), $1,500 (32GB) and $2,800 (64GB).

At those prices, obviously, this line is not geared toward the crowd toting around a few files on gizmos dangling from key chains and neck straps. A company spokeswoman confirmed that this product is aimed at business and government users looking for large amounts of storage in a small device. The drive is about the size of a pack of gum -- larger than some other flash drives but still pocket-size and ultraportable.

Aside from the whopping amounts of storage, the Flash Drive Max sports NAND flash memory, USB 2.0, 9MB/sec. read and 5MB/sec. write speeds, and a write-protect lock. It works with Windows 98 Second Edition and higher, Mac OS 8.6 and higher, and Linux kernel 2.4.1 and higher.

In most cases, you can just plug in the Flash Drive Max and the system will recognize it. The exception is Windows 98 SE, which requires a driver download. Using the included Kanguru-Shield security software (Windows only), you can format the drive, partition it or make it bootable, as well as password-protect either the full drive or individual partitions. Flash Drive Max supports FAT, FAT 32 and non-traffic-sensitive formatting.

If the Flash Drive Max is too rich for your budget or overkill for your needs, Kanguru has also released a new flash drive that's about the size of a quarter. This Kanguru Flash Drive also comes bundled with the KanguruShield software and is available in capacities ranging from 512MB ($33) to 8GB ($400).

Wand-Size Scanner For Road Warriors

The DocuPen RC800

The DocuPen RC800Seeing as the paperless office hasn't quite materialized, scanners continue to be standard workplace equipment. That's great if you happen to actually be in the office, but say you're meeting with a vendor at a trade show, you've signed a contract, and you need a copy to take back to your boss or office.

That's the kind of scenario that Planon System Solutions Inc.'s DocuPen RC800 ($300) is aimed at simplifying. Forget running around the showroom floor to find a copier or fax machine. Instead, whip out the wand-size DocuPen, place it on a sheet of paper, and slowly slide it down the page.

The file is stored either on the device's 8MB of flash memory or on an optional microSD card.

The RC800, which is shaped more like a wand than a pen, stands out as a portable full-page color scanner. It will scan in four modes: 24- and 12-bit color, gray scale and monochrome.

The RC800 is a model of compact design, weighing only 2 oz. It's a slim 8.9 in. long and has a girth of 0.5 in. Tiny rollers along the bottom edge help to guide the unit down the page.

The RC800 is powered by a lithium-ion battery, rechargeable via the included USB cable. The package also includes a leather carrying case, a CD that contains drivers and manuals, and DocuPen and Nuance PaperPort LE software to handle optical character-recognition tasks. It requires Windows 2000 or higher.

Note that this device doesn't need to be connected to a computer to scan, so it doesn't require you to tote around a laptop. It may seem a little crazy to spend $300 for a gizmo just to scan documents. But if you or your colleagues are out of the office more than you're in, and portability is your goal, the DocuPen is definitely worth a look.

Each week on, freelance writer and technophile Michelle Johnson reviews high-tech hardware that can make work lives easier, more productive and sometimes more fun. Here we present reviews abridged from her recent online columns. For more mobile and wireless coverage, visit


Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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