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Smartphone Battle: BlackBerry vs. BlackJack

It's a cell-phone face-off -- who will dial 'V' for victory?

It's a dream match between two of the newest, sleekest smartphones available today:

Samsung's

BlackJack vs.

Research In Motions'

(RIMM)

new 8800 BlackBerry.

At stake in the showdown is no less than the national title of Best New Email Phone. So let's get to the hard-hitting qwerty-on-qwerty keyboard action.

In one corner, clad in a high-gloss black polycarbonate shell with chrome side rails, weighing in at a substantial 4.73 ounces, is the half-inch-thin BlackBerry 8800.

In the opposing corner, in rubberized black plastic, is the svelte BlackJack at 3.74 ounces, nearly a full ounce lighter.

Both phones work on the AT&T (T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report network, and to the casual observer, the differences may be a little hard to appreciate. The top half of each is a screen and the bottom half is a standard mini keyboard. But each device brings a different set of skills.

The 8800 BlackBerry is a top-notch email device, almost as good as its smaller kin, the BlackBerry Pearl.

The lightweight BlackJack, on the other hand, has speed on its side. The BlackJack works on 3G technology, a faster wireless Net connection. In practical terms, the BlackJack loads pages in about 15 seconds, which is about half the time the 2G-equipped BlackBerry takes.

Neither phone has a fantastic browser, but the BlackJack turns in the most varied performance. Some sites are viewable in their full-page glory. On other sites, the pictures crowd the text. Sentences may render vertically, each word stacked on top of another in long columns. And adjusting the BlackJack for a desktop view requires you to scroll side to side to see the full page.

The 8800 browser is significantly better, but not perfect. Most pages are presented with the right margin first then as you scroll down, the main body follows. It's functional for basic viewing but far from elegant.

Both phones leave you longing for the arrival of bigger-screen phones like the

Apple

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iPhone, which will presumably feature less-compromised mobile Internet viewing.

Battery stamina proves to be a whopping mismatch.

After 12 hours of fairly moderate use, the BlackJack was struggling along on lithium-ion fumes. Meanwhile, the BlackBerry 8800 went for two days, handling the same workload with ease.

Samsung and AT&T tacitly acknowledge the shortcoming by throwing in a second battery to help get you through a full day. It's a band-aid solution, though, and one that still involves prying open a particularly stubborn cover and having to restart the phone too often.

Neither phone has Wi-Fi, but the 8800 is loaded with a GPS chip and satellite navigation software from TeleNav. The program gives you live maps and spoken directions. This is a helpful feature, allowing you get reasonably reliable driving directions and find things like the cheapest nearby gas station.

The BlackJack flunked email in this trial. After two hours and two tries, a capable office tech-support staffer could not get the BlackJack to work with the company's

Microsoft

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Outlook system. But the phone did work fine with personal Yahoo! mail accounts.

The BlackBerry 8800, while far superior to the BlackJack on work email, isn't exactly flawless right from the starting bell. Getting the phone hooked up to the office's BlackBerry server is easy, but unlike the Pearl, getting a Web mail account set up for automatic delivery to the phone takes a couple of extra steps. The BlackBerry Pearl, for example, simply asks for an email address and password, and the service is initiated.

So the BlackJack is no match for BlackBerry for email, but it comes out well on top for photos. The BlackJack has a 1.3-mega-pixel camera, standard equipment for pricey phones. But unlike other phones, the pictures are relatively sharp and even with the optical zoom, the resolution is solid. Alas, the BlackBerry 8800 has no camera.

The BlackJack uses Microsoft Windows Mobile 5 for its operating system, and suffers for it. Freeze-ups? Yes, there were a few. One learns to expect hiccups from phones running on Microsoft's system, and that's usually what you get.

To be fair, probably not every glitch when launching a program or requesting a Web page is a Microsoft issue, but until another culprit is found, Windows Mobile 5 will have to take the blame.

Overall, the BlackBerry 8800 performs better than the BlackJack. During the few weeks of testing both phones, it was the BlackBerry 8800 that got used the most. (Blame the famously addictive BlackBerry email service that keeps you from putting it down more often.)

It also didn't help that the BlackJack was prone to poorly timed seizures and the limitations of a wimpy battery.

Both phones pack a lot of features and utility, but it's the BlackBerry 8800 that earns the title of champ.

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