BlackBerry Bold 9000 review: Berry with guts
We've seen fuller boxes
BlackBerry Bold 9000 comes in a retail package, which would have passed as decent had we not seen the Storm's extra gear. We don't get it why the business flagship didn't receive the same treatment at its touch sibling.
What the Bold lacks compared to the Storm is the 8GB microSD card (replaced by 1GB), the microUSB cable and the clever dual DC charger that can take both American and European connector.
The Bold comes with a nice leather carrying pouch but, unlike the Storm, omits a cloth for polishing the screen. A handsfree is also included but it's one-piece, so alternative earphones on the same remote is not an option. At least this time RIM have included some extra custom-fit ear buds so you can pick the right ones for you.
Finally, you get a CD with some arguably useful PC software and the usual paperwork.
BlackBerry Bold 9000 360-degree spin
At 114 x 66 x 14 mm, the BlackBerry Bold 9000 sure is a handful. It is visibly wider and slightly taller than the Curve 8900, which we found to be just the right compact size. Squeezing the Bold in a pocket is certainly harder but thanks to its relatively slim waistline not impossible. Yet this might be a fair price to pay for the larger display and the roomier keyboard.
The weight of 133 grams is also something to be considered. It is barely acceptable considering there is no metal used on the body of the device. On the other hand, the solid weight in your palm implies class and sophistication.
Design and construction
We guess there are enough people out there who think the number of keys on a QWERTY messenger is on the verge of good taste. But hey, since the Curve the distinct BlackBerry charm is no longer a euphemism for big bland and corporate. So, let's see how the BlackBerry Bold 9000 fares. We need not forget though that the Bold precedes both the Storm and the Curve 8900, so the different design choices are understandable.
The BlackBerry Bold 9000 has its own approach to styling but is definitely something you won't mind being seen with. The glossy black front is pretty pleasing and the faux leather at the back doesn't look offensive as we feared having seen it on official shots only.
If there is anything wrong with the design it would be the profile of the Bold, which is by no means as sharp and neat as the Curve 8900. The wide and erratic line of the chrome frame on the left take out some of the appeal and the extra few millimeters of thickness don't help too much either - nor does the fact that the chrome-like frame is actually plastic.
The other part of the Bold we are not particularly fond of is the top of the device, which is nowhere near the Curve 8900 and its stealthy buttons masked under the surface.
The front panel of the BlackBerry Bold 9000 is pretty standard for the class. The QWERTY keyboard and the landscape display atop are pretty much set in concrete. We'll get back to those two elements a little later as they do deserve their own quality testing time.
The other things to note up front are the status LED and the earpiece at the top, as well as the control and navigation pad in the middle. Built around the company trademark trackball it contains four amply sized and solid keys.
The trackball itself is the usual impressive performer that handles great and responds sweetly to every flick of the thumb - jumping items on screen and in menus with just the pace and bounce that you would expect. And in case you think otherwise - its speed can be configured to suit you better. The controls around it (Call, End, Menu and Back) provide nice press feedback and will raise no usability issues.
The left side of the Bold 9000 features one of the loudspeaker grills, the 3.5mm standard audio jack and the standard miniUSB port (as opposed to the microUSB variety found on the BlackBerry Curve 8900 and Storm 9500).
Here are also the left convenience key (assigned by default to voice-commands) and the microSD card slot, with the latter hidden under a stylish plastic lid.
Unfortunately, this particular microSD card slot is one of the greatest usability letdowns in the handset. It is so poorly designed that we doubt anyone at RIM ever got to actually test it. The card sinks too deep and ejecting it is quite a hassle. But even if you do manage to have it pop out you stand no bloody chance of taking it all the way out smoothly. We guess the plastic lid is a major part of the problem: it looks quite stylish but hinders usability big time. It's fixed to the case on both ends and thus impossible to get out of the way for a secure grip on the deeply buried memory card.
To make matters worse the BlackBerry Bold 9000 couldn't deal with a 16GB microSD card. In fact it could barely handle an 8GB, starting to lag so much that working with it was barely possible.
On the other hand user reports all over the internet suggest that the Bold 9000 has no problem handling the 16GB cards just as RIM claim. We therefore suppose that what we are experiencing is a unit-specific problem, unlikely to appear elsewhere.
Moving on to the right side of the BlackBerry Bold 9000, we come upon another loudspeaker grill, the volume rocker and the other convenience key. By default it is set to launch the camera but you can assign whatever function feels more appropriate. By the way, both convenience keys are fully programmable.
At the base of each of the sides are the two connectors for the desktop charging dock that you can purchase separately.