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Review: Touch-Screen BlackBerry Storm Gets Mixed Verdict

Research In Motion's first touch-screen BlackBerry, from Verizon Wireless, boasts an ultra-fast Web browser and great multimedia. But the SurePress keypad takes some getting used to.

The Storm covers most of the BlackBerry basics well. One area where it fails to perform is with battery life. RIM claims that the Storm gets 6 hours of talk time. I completely killed the Storm's battery in a single day. It had a full charge at 8 a.m. and by midnight, the Storm was flashing "low battery" warnings at me. Granted, I used the phone a lot that day, but I expect busy professionals also would be using it heavily throughout the day, especially when traveling.

Aiming beyond just business users, the Storm includes the best multimedia feature set a BlackBerry has ever had. The 3.2-megapixel camera takes good pictures, the MP3 player is very capable, and watching videos on the luscious display is great.

The Storm's 3.2-megapixel camera outperforms the iPhone's in a big way. The autofocus and very bright flash go a long way toward making sure pictures turn out good. It may not be the fastest phone-based camera, but it does a solid job at capturing images. Same goes for video. The video footage I shot with the Storm was clear, free of jittery, herky-jerky movement, and free of ghosting or smearing. It beats the camera on the iPhone -- and the cameras on other BlackBerrys.

As for music, if you're an MP3 junkie as I am, the Storm has you covered. It comes with 1 GB of permanent memory and an 8-GB microSD card installed. That gives users 9 GB of storage for applications, media, and content out of the box.

Using the Roxio software that comes with the Storm, syncing music and playlists is a snap. You also can choose to drag-and-drop files directly from your PC, and RIM said that it will have a syncing client that is compatible with iTunes available in the coming weeks. With the full 3.5-mm headset jack, you can use most any pair of headphones you wish, and music sounded very good.

One of the Storm's best features is its display. It simply looks fantastic. It is highly readable even in direct sunlight. Verizon preloaded a movie trailer on the Storm and watching it on the Storm's big screen was great. If you need to kill some time, the Storm is a capable video platform and will get you most of the way across the continent before the battery dies.

About that Keyboard...

OK, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. What is it like to type on the Storm? Honestly, I can't stand it.

The Storm's display is touch sensitive for navigating the menus, swiping up and down and back and forth. In order to actually open folders or applications, you have to press the screen forcefully. The entire screen is one big button. You'll feel it click, giving you the physical feedback that other touch phones lack. This is fine for selecting applications and interacting with most of the Storm's features, but it just doesn't cut it when it comes to typing.

The Storm has a software version of RIM's SureType keyboard when the phone is held vertically. This means there are two letters per key, as on the Pearl or Pearl Flip. Perhaps it's because I am so used to being able to lightly touch the software keyboards on so many other phones, but physically pressing the Storm's screen down to type each letter was just tiresome.

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