Aside from its sleek form factor, the 7100t's most notable feature is the 20-button keypad, which is a combination of a standard QWERTY keyboard and a more traditional cell phone keypad. We say it's a combination because rather than each character having its own key, each button has two or more characters that are accessed by pushing it several times, similar to basic text messaging on a standard cell phone. While the design ensures a trimmer keyboard size, we quickly found that typing messages involves a learning curve. To help, RIM includes SureType technology (which completes words for you) to streamline the text-entry process, but more often than not, it was simply faster to just type the words ourselves. We encountered another issue with the keypad; the 7100t doesn't use a standard cell phone layout, so when you enter passwords, you'll have to remember them as numbers instead. For instance, on a standard cell phone, the 5 key is also JKL, but on the 7100t, the 5 key is GH. We point this out as a minor nuisance that is easily overcome with increased use.
Included on the keypad is a shortcut to T-Mobile's T-zones and the Web browser, a button for shifting text, and Return and Delete keys. On the right side of the phone are a jog dial that scrolls through menu items and messages, and you can push it in to select a highlighted item. Additionally, there's an Escape key that takes the user back one page at a time. Though it's mostly easy to use, we found in some cases it was a bit sensitive, and we ended up selecting an item when we wanted to scroll past it. The 7100t also boasts a power button on the top of the case, an earphone jack and USB port on its left side, and a speaker on its rear face.The RIM BlackBerry 7100t's address book is limited by only the available memory. Each contact holds eight phone numbers, an e-mail address, and two postal addresses (an additional 250 names can be stored on the SIM card). You also can enter Web pages, personal information, and notes under each name, as well as customize other fields to your liking. Contacts can be organized into caller groups, but you can't assign ring tones, and there's no picture caller ID. Other features include a calendar, a memo pad, a task list, an alarm clock, 32 polyphonic ring tones, and a vibrate mode. While the 7100t has 32MB of internal flash memory, it lacks an expansion slot.
The inclusion of a long-awaited speakerphone was a definite plus, but we were disappointed by the integrated Bluetooth. Though the 7100t is one of a few BlackBerries to support Bluetooth, it can be used only to connect with a headset and not to sync with other devices. While we could also sync with our calendar and e-mail (see below), we nevertheless were puzzled why a business-friendly device such as the 7100t would boast such a high-end feature but limit its functionality.
Primarily an enterprise product, the 7100t easily connects to Microsoft Exchange and BlackBerry servers as well as Lotus Notes servers using the desktop redirector software. E-mail delivery is in real time, and both messages and the calendar can be synced to the device. If that isn't enough or if you don't work for a company that has BlackBerry Enterprise Server installed, you can opt for BlackBerry Web Client, which is included in the T-Mobile package service plan. It allows you to have e-mail messages wirelessly forwarded to your 7100t from up to 10 POP3 or IMAP4 accounts every 15 minutes.