Research in Motion turned the corporate world on its ear with the first BlackBerry pagers, which gave middle managers the power to hound subordinates 24/7, no matter where in the world the expense account took them. Later, RIM grafted mobile phone capabilities onto its pagers, producing functional — if unlovely — smart phones that were able to plow through calls, e-mails, contacts, and calendars like Frankenstein knocking down a row of angry peasants. They were effective, but frighteningly blunt.

Now RIM has finally hit its stride. The BlackBerry 7780 is the first RIM handheld that can go toe-to-toe with such heavyweight smart phones as the PalmOne Treo 600 and not get knocked out of the ring right after the starting bell.

The most obvious improvements are that RIM has ditched its perverse attachment to navy blue in favor of a more professional-looking black plastic casing, and the addition of a larger screen. This 240 x 240-pixel square display is big enough to show a comfortable amount of text easily, and its backlight is bright, unlike the anemic one on the earlier BlackBerry 7230. The display is crisp and colors are rich.

The BlackBerry 7780 works admirably as a phone — either with or without the included headset — and the software painlessly syncs your contacts, calendar, notes, and to-do lists; it supports Outlook plus several other organizers. It delivers POP3 mail and SMS messages right to your hand.

Unfortunately, the BlackBerry’s browser is brain-dead. It can display WAP sites from within AT&T’s mMode universe, but it fails to display ordinary websites. According to RIM, enterprise users won’t have this problem. Nevertheless, the 7780 as offered by AT&T Wireless is useless as a general-purpose Web browser. This unacceptable shortcoming made us strip one star from the 7780’s final score. -Dylan Tweney

Best Feature: E-mail is instantly pushed to your handheld
Worst Feature: Crippled Web browser is limited to mMode sites

Research in Motion BlackBerry 7780
$550 with activation
Weight: 5 ounces
Size: 4.7 x 3 x 0.7 inches
Specs: 850/1800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS; 16MB flash memory plus 2MB of SRAM; USB 1.1; 240 x 240-pixel, 3-inch display with 65,536 colors; QWERTY keyboard; headset port;

* * * 1/2

Link: Research in Motion BlackBerry 7780

Link broken? Try the Wayback Machine.