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BlackBerry Bold 9700 Review

What Mobile
March 1, 2010

The original Bold was the first entrance into the world of 3G for Research In Motion (RIM), and it wasn’t actually that long ago. Just over a year, in fact.

In reality, a BlackBerry never really needed high-speed data, because the overheads for sending and receiving email are so low. It’s still the only device that quickly gets email and lets you manage attachments, or forward large emails, without having to download the whole message first.

Documents are re-formatted to keep the sizes down and there was the option of Wi-Fi for when you were at home, the office, or your local Starbucks.

However, in recent years, people want to download music, stream videos and look at websites that take an age to download. The Bold solved this problem, but came at a price; a large size and very disappointing battery life.

The latest Bold is more akin to the Curve family, and is actually slightly smaller than the 8900, yet it has the addition of 3G, the fastest processor yet used on a BlackBerry and OS 5.0 as standard.

Older devices (including the original Bold and Storm) will be getting 5.0 as an upgrade in due course, but this will be the first model to have it straight out of the box.

The screen is smaller than the original Bold, but it hasn’t lost any of the detail. The resolution is the same, making the pixels even finer than before – and this makes reading text or looking at pictures an incredibly nice experience.

The camera has been given an upgrade to an autofocus 3.2-megapixel sensor and it still has a flash. It continues to record video too, but imaging isn’t really its strongest point – and it really, really struggles to work in low-light conditions.

You’ll also notice the removal of the Trackball, replaced instead with the Trackpad that was first used on the budget-friendly 8520. With the superior screen, it actually works a lot better – especially in the web browser where it makes navigation a lot easier than before. You can adjust the sensitivity and very quickly, you’ll have it on the highest setting and fly around the menus.

A lot of the improvements on the fifth edition of the operating system are to found in the email client, with improved searching features, but there are many enhancements for people who use the consumer BlackBerry service. There’s now integrated synchronisation with Google contacts, and improved security for setting up traditionally web based email services. You can now set apps to trusted status to avoid giving permission to go online every time you start them up.

The web browser is optimised to render pages quicker, while there are further subtle changes throughout, including threaded SMS conversations.

World of Apps

BlackBerry’s application store is growing all the time, and besides the expensive apps for niche business needs, there are plenty of free ones to choose from. The first one you’ll probably be installing is the Facebook client, which is possibly the most comprehensive one out there, alongside the iPhone version.

There are also free Twitter clients (ÜberTwitter comes highly recommended), weather forecast apps and free, ad-supported, games. Unlike an equivalent Nokia Eseries device, a lot of features (like auto switch off/on and advanced calendar functions) are standard, removing the need for costly third-party add-ons.

With the phone being smaller than the first Bold (it could almost fit inside the Bold casing), the keys are smaller, but the ridges make it easy to press them confidently. With automatic punctuation and clever shortcuts for entering text, it’s far ahead of other messaging devices.

The other improvement that will possibly appeal most is in the battery department. Despite having a much faster  (624MHz) processor, it happily lasted for 2-3 days, which was a significant improvement over the original, battery-eating Bold.

And, odd as it may sound to wait until the end to say it, it also looks to me like the best BlackBerry ever made. That’s me sold.

 

VERDICT

The first Bold was big and had a battery that needed daily charges, but it was still the best BlackBerry model in the range; thanks to the beautiful high-res screen and an almost perfect keyboard. It didn’t have the best camera and the 3-megapixel camera here isn’t much better, but the new Bold has solved everything else. It’s smaller, yet the keyboard hasn’t been compromised for usability, and the battery life is vastly improved. It looks nicer, has a nippy 624MHz processor, BlackBerry OS 5.0 and all this adds up to the ultimate email device. RIM, we love what you do!

 

PERFORMANCE
*****

FEATURES
****-

USABILITY
*****

 

 

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