Technology eReport
Volume 6, Number 3
September 2007

Table of Contents
Past Issues

ProductNotes
  BlackBerries for Sale!
BlackBerries RIM 8800 and 8100 (Pearl)

Reviewed by Jeffrey Allen

I admit to being a fan of the BlackBerry devices for many years. Although I have found cell phones that I have liked better, and PDAs that I have liked more, I have never found an email device that I thought as much of as the BlackBerry. Recently Research In Motion (RIM), the company that makes the BlackBerry hardware, released two new versions of the BlackBerry device, the 8100 (a.k.a. the “Pearl”) and the 8800. The new devices have somewhat different structures and serve different purposes, but both work very well. The Pearl presents the BlackBerry technology in the smallest package ever. Its big brother, the 8800, has some different features and, while a bit more svelte than some of its predecessors, looks positively large when sitting next to a Pearl.

Both of the new BlackBerries handle mail as BlackBerries traditionally have, that is to say, very well. Both use a small spherical navigation device located on the face of the BlackBerry instead of the side wheel used in older models. The small sphere looks like a pearl; a fact that inspired the name given to the smaller 8100. Both have lithium ion rechargeable batteries and very readable color screens. Both employ the traditional BlackBerry push technology that allows the device to collect your email on a more or less continuous basis throughout the day. Both start with 65 GB of memory and accept SD cards, allowing for add-on memory, storage of pictures, documents, and so forth. Both models also have speakerphones and allow voice-activated dialing. Both models provide the ability to synch with many popular calendar and contact management programs, including Microsoft’s Outlook and Entourage and Apple’s iCal and Address book. Note, however, that the BlackBerry software only runs on Windows machines, and using the devices with a Macintosh computer and Apple software requires the use of third-party programs such as Pocket Mac or Missing Sync.

Both models work with individual mail accounts and enterprise servers, allowing you to obtain company email as well as personal. Both also handle Internet access, instant messaging, and text messaging. Both will work internationally as well.

The things that differentiate the devices include:

1. Size: The 8800 has a bigger footprint, a larger screen, and weighs more than the 8100. The 8800 is 4.49" long x 2.6" wide and .55" thick, weighing in at 4.73 oz; the 8100 measures 4.2" long x .97" wide x .57" thick and weighs about 3.1 ounce. Both units fit comfortably in a jacket pocket, although the Pearl carries more easily there. I prefer the Pearl if I am going to carry it on my belt.

2. Keyboard: The 8100 has a Sure Type QWERTY-style keyboard that uses one key for more than one letter and sorts out the entries with Sure Type software (it really is interesting to watch what letters come up on the screen as the software re-evaluates what you are doing with each key stroke. Amazingly, it ends up right most of the time. The 8800 has a more traditional BlackBerry-style QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard is a bit narrower than older models, but the keys have a ridge, making them easier to strike accurately. Practically speaking, both keyboards work only as thumb boards or single finger hunt-and-peck boards.

3. Battery: The 8800 has a bigger battery that gives a bit longer life per charge (approximately 3.5 hours of talk time for the 8100, compared to 5 hours for the 8800). Both phones have Bluetooth built in, and the use of Bluetooth will limit battery power per charge.

4. Camera: The Pearl has one, and the 8800 does not.

5. Color: You can have the 8800 in any color you want, so long as you want black. You can have the Pearl in black, white, or red.

6. GPS: Both have a mapping function built in, but the 8800 also has a functional built-in GPS receiver, while the Pearl does not.

7. Modem: You can use the 8800 to get your computer online. The Pearl will not perform that task for you.

The Bottom Line: Both the 8100 and the 8800 work well and provide considerable functionality to the practicing attorney. If you do not desperately need a camera built into your phone, the 8800 offers a much more feature-rich package, and its larger screen makes it a bit easier on aging eyes. Despite the easier-to-carry nature of the 8100, I prefer the 8800. The choice reflects personal preference; you should be happy with either of these devices.

Photos courtesy of Blackberry, Inc.

FlipStart

Reviewed by Jeffrey Allen

If you want a compact computer as a traveling companion, you may want to check out the 5.9" x 4.5" x 1.6" FlipStart (1.35" thick when closed with the slimline instead of the standard battery). FlipStart offers a complete functioning computer in a very small package. It runs on a 1.1 GHz Intel Pentium M Processor (ultra low voltage) and comes with an Intel Enhanced Graphics processor. The FlipStart weighs 1.75 lbs. with the standard-sized high capacity lithium ion battery (1.5 lbs. with the slimline battery. The computer comes with a 30 GB shock-mounted hard disk drive and 512 MB of DDR2 RAM. You can get it with either the Windows XP Professional or Windows Vista Business operating systems. Given the memory limits, however, I would strongly recommend that if you get a FlipStart, you get it with Windows XP Professional and not Vista.

When you first see the clamshell design of the FlipStart opened up, you will likely conclude that it looks like a miniature laptop computer. In fact, it does look like one. When you open the shell you will find the computer’s main display, a 5.6" screen with 1024 x 600 wide SVGA resolution. Before you open it, however, you will see the FlipStart’s secondary external display, which allows you to see contact, calendar, and email information without even opening the computer case. The open case reveals the inputs available for your use. They include a miniature QWERTY-style keyboard that is more appropriately viewed as a thumb board. Unless you have amazingly small and thin fingers, you cannot touch type on the “keyboard.” You will find that input and use works best and easiest when you hold the computer so that it rests on the fingers of both hands and you use your thumbs to strike the keys. The FlipStart gives you the choice of using a touch pad or a track point for mousing around. You will find all the controls on the deck of the computer when you open the case. To facilitate use by the thumbs, you will find the left and right mouse click buttons on the left side of the computer and the track point and touch pad on the right. I found the track point difficult to control for fine movement. For me, using the track point for larger movements and the touch pad for finer movements worked acceptably well.

The FlipStart will keep you well connected. It comes with WiFi (802.11B/g) access, Bluetooth wireless, and Spring Mobile Broadband Network (EVDO Rev A) hardware installed (you do need to set up an account with Sprint to use it).

Now we get to the real question: what do you do with the FlipStart after you pay $1,999 to get one? Actually, that is the $1,999 question. The Pentium M has been an excellent processor, but it is not as powerful as the Core 2 Duo currently used in many laptop and desktop computers. A half a gigabyte of RAM weighs in on the low side of the memory spectrum, and a 30 GB hard disk, while relatively large for a computer this small, is relatively small by contemporary standards.

The FlipStart gives you a fully functional computer. It includes a port attachment that makes it easy for you to use it with a larger display and a full-sized keyboard. You will not want to carry those things around with you very often, so that really only works when you are at home or your office or some place else where you have access to such equipment. If you use it as a desktop substitute, you end up with an underpowered computer by contemporary standards. If you carry it primarily for email, then you need to compare it to the smart phones and PDAs, all of which cost much less, take up far less space, and weigh considerably less, thereby making them more portable and more affordable for email use. None of the smart phones or PDAs, however, give you fill computer functionality

The Bottom Line: I like the concept of the FlipStart, but its appearance does not excite me. It looks (and is somewhat) clunky due to its thickness. Although it may fit in the pocket of your coat, you won’t want to carry it there because of its weight. You will likely be much more comfortable carrying it in a briefcase or in a shoulder bag. I consider thumbboards acceptable for text messaging and some email use, but not for serious word processing. If you have reason to need a very compact, reasonably powerful portable computer, look at the FlipStart. If you want an email appliance and something that will allow you to do a little Internet browsing, you will probably find a smart phone/PDA such as the Blackberry, the Treo, or the iPhone more to your liking.

Note As of September 25, 2007, FlipStart has lowered its retail price to $1,499.00.

A New Perspective on Convergence: Samsung’s NV3 Camera and Media Player

Reviewed by Jeffrey Allen

Samsung’s NV3 camera gives you an ultracompact pocketable box packaged in an attractive brushed chrome and matte black metal finish and containing a 7.2 megapixel CCD, a 2.5" LCD display and a 3x optical zoom lens. The 3x zoom lens gives you effective equivalence to a 38-114mm lens range. The camera measures a 3.7" x 2.2" x 0.7" and weighs 5.7 ounces. The camera was released in late 2006. Current online pricing for the NV3 runs between $197.95 and $249.

Although the NV3 looks similar to many other pocket-sized digital cameras that have reached market from a number of manufacturers in recent years, it offers a novel approach to convergence. Clearly a camera by design, it also functions as a very competent MP3 player, a portable disk, a voice recorder, and includes the features of both a camcorder and a still picture digital camera. It also includes a text reader. As the camera has limited built-in memory, storage of more than a handful of pictures, use of the camera for multimedia storage, and so forth all require the addition of memory through the use of an SD card.

The camera’s antishake feature (advanced shake reduction or ASR) helps you maintain a stable image in lower-light situations when you do not want to use the built-in flash.

The NV3 also has built-in a red-eye correction algorithm, allowing you to cure that common defect in flash photographs with relative ease.

Unfortunately, the Samsung NV3 produces only so-so pictures, lacking the clarity, sharpness, and vibrant color seen in competitive units. Simply put, the camera takes adequate but unexceptional pictures.

The camera comes with built-in stereo speakers, which do a not-so-great job of handling music playback. You will get much better quality sound using the included earphones.

The NV3 comes with appropriate plugs adapters and cabling to allow you to charge it via an AC adapter or by plugging it into a USB port on your camera; a feature common to many MP3 players, but unusual for a camera. That may prove helpful, as the camera requires more frequent charging than many other similar devices in that its battery holds enough charge for about two-thirds of the average number of pictures recorded for other cameras in the category.

The Bottom Line: If you simply want a good, digital still camera in the $200–250 range, you can find better choices. If the idea of a camera that can handle still and video photography, doubles as an MP3 player, and can also function as a video recorder and a text reader excites you, then the NV3 uniquely gives you all of that and at a bargain price.

Jeffrey Allen is the principal in the Graves & Allen law firm in Oakland, California, with a general practice emphasizing real estate and business transactions, litigation, and ADR work as a mediator and arbitrator. A frequent speaker on technology topics, he is the special issue editor of GPSOLO’s Technology & Practice Guide and editor-in-chief of the Technology eReport. He regularly contributes to those and other publications. A frequent presenter at CLE courses for attorneys on technology and on substantive law topics, he also teaches business law in the graduate and undergraduate divisions of the Business School of the University of Phoenix and construction law and other topics at California State University of the East Bay. In addition, he is a solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales. You can contact Jeffrey via email at .

Neither the ABA nor ABA Sections endorse non-ABA products or services, and the product reviews in the Technology eReport should not be so construed.

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