RIM BlackBerry Bold review

Price when reviewed

It’s ‘Bold’, boasts ‘industrial design’, has ‘frets’ between the rows of its keys on the front. It seems that RIM has gone all Apple on us with the launch of its latest flagship smartphone. The Bold (also known as the 9000) follows major launches from Nokia, Apple and HTC in recent weeks, and it seems to have them all clearly in its sights.

It’s a strange tactic from RIM, whose handsets are principally targeted at business users, but it certainly makes a very good stab at glamming it up. The front panel is trimmed with aluminium, the screen is flat right to the edges and glossy, and the chrome ‘frets’ between each row of keys cap off the overall effect with a touch of luxury we’re not used to seeing in RIM’s business handhelds. It’s not as slim and narrow as Nokia’s E71, however, at a chunky 15mm thick and 66mm wide and the leatherette rear panel is an acquired taste. But the phone is surprisingly light at 136g and this almost makes up for the large size.

And we’re happy to report that the keyboard on the 8820, already the best QWERTY pad around, has been improved upon again here. The differences are subtle – the keys have been flattened a little on top, they have a more solid click to them and of course there are those silver frets between each row, which have the effect of spacing out the keys a bit more – but they add up to a much more comfortable typing experience. We were impressed at how good the keypad on the Nokia E71 was, but this is even better and you can get a real head of speed up on it.


The screen is another triumph of engineering and, according to RIM, is the source of the Bold name tag. It’s bright, exceedingly colourful and is very readable both inside and outdoors. Web pages and video look stunning on its half-VGA 480 x 320 resolution screen, and it presents the new baubles on RIM’s new-look interface (BlackBerryOS version 4.6) in the best possible light. And speaking of baubles, there’s much to like about RIM’s new front-end. It’s far slicker than the old version, with glowing, square iPhone-esque icons and transparency effects liberally sprinkled about.

Of course it couples those good looks with the usual BlackBerry strong suits – excellent ease of use, responsive and powerful search facilities, and push email via BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) or – on our test phone – BlackBerry Internet Server (BIS). With an enterprise implementation, the handset disappointingly can only be bound to a single BES account, but with BES and BIS setups you can add other additional third party email addresses, including Gmail, Yahoo or even Exchange via OWA.

But it’s not perfect: we found ourselves frequently staring at the hourglass as the Bold went about its business, and beyond the slick new look, there’s not a huge number of changes. Given the 624MHz processor inside, we’d expect fewer not more delays than with previous phones; a future firmware update should fix the problem.

The web browser, however, is a huge advance over previous BlackBerry browsers. As with the iPhone, Opera Mobile and Mini, and the browser on Nokia smartphones, the Bold’s browser renders web pages in full. You get an overview when a page is first loaded and, thereafter, a simple click is all that’s required to zoom in and out.

Office document compatibility is less impressive. Though DataViz Documents to Go is included, you have to pay extra to enable editing and document creation, and it doesn’t support Office 2007 documents either.

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