Review: BlackBerry Curve 8330 | Page 2

The procedure for setting up the Curve to use it as a modem with a Windows laptop varies from one cellular provider to another. Ask your operator for detailed instructions. If that fails, surf the Web for instructions. Telus was able to provide us with easy-to-follow directions that worked perfectly.

As a starting point, you have to ensure that the BlackBerry modem drivers and the latest version of BlackBerry Desktop Manager (both included in the software bundle and installed by default) are active on your computer. You'll also have to create a new dial-up network connection in Windows, likely with some non-default configuration options, and then key in a telephone number, which will be different for each carrier.

We were pleasantly surprised by throughput on the Telus EV-DO network, which is now available in large and most mid-size Canadian cities - ditto for EV-DO from U.S. carriers. With three of five connection bars showing on the Curve's screen, we measured throughput using online Internet connection speedometers. Download speeds ranged from 700 kilobits per second (Kbps) to 1.2 megabits per second (Mbps). Upload speeds were a little disappointing - in the 150 Kbps range.

This was adequate for viewing the smallest size of video available at sites we tried. We also tested it with Skype, the Internet phone service. The calls we made were not among the best Skype connections we've ever experienced, but perfectly tenable.

The catch, of course, is that you may pay through the nose for data - especially when roaming. Verizon partly solves the problem with unlimited voice calling and data packages, starting at $130 a month.

Yes, that's still expensive. But if you're a road warrior who only needs an Internet connection for e-mail, light surfing and to tap into a corporate database, the Curve and one of Verizon's Nationwide Email Calling Plans may be the only phone and Internet service you'll ever need, rolled into one.

The Telus Navigator application - similar if not identical to the Verizon VZ Navigator - worked well. The GPS receiver connected as quickly as any we've tested recently, faster than some. Downloading maps and directions was quick. But then we were using the fast EV-DO network. Download speed might well prove a problem when you're only in a 2G or 2.5G coverage area.

The Networks in Motion maps and interface are good, but this package does not offer three-dimensional maps, which were available on earlier BlackBerry GPS applications we tried. It's not a deal killer, but unfortunate.

GPS on cell phones seems like a great idea, but the economics of getting it from a cellular carrier again throws into question whether all-in-one devices are really the way to go.

The cellular carriers claim their solutions are cheaper than others. It's true that you get the hardware - GPS receiver, screen, computer processor - included in the price of the phone. The least expensive dedicated portable navigator today costs about $150.

But with a dedicated navigator you get the software and maps included and if you never upgrade the maps, you don't pay anything more. With VZ Navigator and other cellular GPS solutions, you pay by the day or month. Verizon charges $2.99 per day or $9.99 for unlimited monthly use.

If you do want an all-in-one device, though, the Curve 8330 is a pretty good one. It offers BlackBerry's unbeatable e-mail experience, a great interface and a Swiss army knife's worth of functions - music and video playing, still and video photography, phone, broadband modem, GPS navigator. Who needs anything else?

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