BlackBerry Bold 9700 review: Dare you go

GSMArena team, 8 December 2009.
Pages: 12345678

Tags: BlackBerry

Well-stuffed retail package

The BlackBerry Bold 9700 is not a cheap handset, so it should probably come as no surprise that its retail package is quite well stocked. We already put up an unboxing video here in our blog, so in case you're interested hop over - and don't forget the popcorn.

Back to the package contents, there's the mandatory charger inside, but it also come with three different adapters covering all the popular wall plug standards. No need to worry about keeping your device charged during your next trip from Europe to the UK or US. Just change the charger connector and you are good to go.

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The Bold 9700 is well-equipped, you get what you pay for

Moving on we have a nice leather carrying pouch and a handsfree set. You can use whatever headset you like, given the 3.5 mm audio jack on the phone. You will lose the remote functionality though.

Finally the BlackBerry Bold 9700 box contains a microUSB data cable and a 2GB microSD memory card. Of course there are also the usual guides and CD with software but they don't really count.

BlackBerry Bold 9700 360-degree spin

The BlackBerry Bold has lost quite a few inches from its waistline since last time we met. While the Bold 9000 was quite a handful at 114 x 66 x 14 mm, the Bold 9700 and its dimensions of 109 x 60 x 14 mm are comparable to its rival- the Nokia E72.

BlackBerry Bold 9700 is also lighter than the Nokia E72, if only by 6 grams. At 122 grams it most certainly won't let you forget that it is in your pocket but it won't be too much of a burden either. Besides, we believe that every phone belonging to the business category should give off that solid feel which those light all-plastic feature handsets simply cannot match.

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The BlackBerry Bold 9700 next to Nokia E72

Design and construction

With that many keys and mostly-plastic construction, the BlackBerry Bold 9700 will hardly win too many beauty contests. But the BlackBerry business charm is all there and as you know, brains and character still count.

The frame around the front panel looks like metal but the rest of the Bold 9700 body is all plastic and we really would have liked to see some steel.

In fact, we quite like the rubbery plastic around the edges of the rear panel, but the leather padding simply doesn't match. It was okay on the Bold 9000 back in the day but only because the whole rear was made of it. Anyway, the leather finish is a BlackBerry trademark and many users will appreciate the familiar look and feel. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all, very much so in technology too.

Display has shrunk but kept its brilliance

The display size is the first sacrifice RIM engineers had to make in favor of the more compact body of the BlackBerry Bold 9700. The device comes with a 2.44" TFT display, capable of displaying up to 65K colors.

The resolution however has been slightly increased to 480 x 360 pixels. That's a 4:3 aspect ratio, as opposed to the 3:2 screen format of the first Bold.

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The Bold 9700 packs one of the brightest displays we have seen

We really like the image quality of the BlackBerry Bold 9700 display. Its brightness and contrast are pretty great, comparable to the best TFT displays we've used. Undoubtedly, the high pixel density helps make pictures look more detailed and punchy too.

Sunlight legibility is another strong point of the Bold 9700 display. The colors are almost perfectly retained when the display is exposed to direct sun and usability isn't hurt one bit.

We would also like to mention that we find landscape displays way more natural to work with. Their rare application is explained by the limited available space but the Bold 9700 (just as the Nokia E72) demonstrates that even a compact device can have a decently sized landscape display as long as you are not wasteful with the space around it.

So small though it might be, the display on the Bold 9700 is just as impressive as the one on the Bold 9000. The increased resolution and of course pixel density are a good trade-off for the reduced diagonal.

Keyboard has the same fate

The full QWERTY keyboard of the BlackBerry Bold 9700 is next on our list. It uses a four-row layout, but again has been down-sized to fit the smaller body. We have to admit that we felt more comfortable with the larger keys of the original Bold and large-handed users might have some trouble with its successor.

However if your fingers aren't too big you might be able to achieve the same typing speed with a little practice. RIM have done an excellent job of optimizing the keys, placing small edges over each of them to make it easier to hit and minimize typos. It makes the keys feel perfectly spaced, and the typing speed is great.

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The Bold 9700 keypad is smaller than its predecessor, but still comfortable

Due to the four-row layout the numpad is accommodated on the left side of the keys, numbers sharing a bed with some of the letters. Toggling between the two is automatic when the context allows it or manual via the Alt key in all other cases. Of course a five-row QWERTY would have been better here but one can certainly live with the solution RIM came up with.

Apart from the space bar all keys are of the same size and are incredibly tactile.

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