The front panel of the BlackBerry Bold 9700 also has a few other functional elements in addition to the QWERTY keyboard and landscape display. Here sit the traditional status LED and the earpiece.
There are also five controls below the display, the first of which is among the greatest changes introduced by the Bold 9700. There isn't a trackball this time, but a touch-sensitive trackpad instead. RIM have done a marvelous job with it and it easily matches their class-leading trackballs.
It handles wonderfully, responding perfectly to every flick of the thumb. Its speed and precision are so impressive that we guarantee that no Bold 9700 user will miss the trackball. They won't do for usability reasons, that is. We guess a part of us will pine for the old school coolness of a sharp and zippy trackball rolling under our thumb.
Anyway, there is barely room for comparing the touchpad of the new Bold to the one of Nokia E72. The BlackBerry doesn't have a D-pad to get in the way and is so much quicker that one can hardly think of the two devices as having the same kind of navigation.
The buttons around the trackpad (Call, End, Menu and Back) remain unchanged. They provide nice press feedback and raise no usability issues.
The left side of the BlackBerry Bold 9700 features the 3.5mm standard audio jack and the standard microUSB port plus one of the convenience keys. Its functionality is assigned by default to Voice-commands but you can change it to whatever you want. There is no cover over the microUSB slot so it might need some cleaning from time to time as dust accumulates.
Jumping to the right, we see the BlackBerry Bold 9700 volume rocker and second convenience key. Its default function is switching the camera on and this role suits it best. It is a two-step key, thus taking proper care of autofocus upon half-press.
Again the two connectors for the desktop charging dock that you can purchase separately are located at the bottom of the handset.
The top of the BlackBerry Bold features the Mute button and the lock key. Those are nicely masked under the surface. We are extremely glad that the Bold 9700 took after the Curve 8900's sleek top. The top side of the original Bold was one of the parts that we liked the least and it's good that the guys over at RIM have been paying attention to user feedback.
The bottom of the BlackBerry Bold 9700 sports nothing but the microphone pinhole.
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 comes with a 3 megapixel autofocus camera. There is also a LED flash which should assist low-light capabilities. The flash doesn't really perform miracles, but undoubtedly the package is much better than the meager 2 megapixel excuse for a camera that the BlackBerry Bold 9000 used to have.
The other functional element here is the loudspeaker grill which is located right between the camera lens and the flash.
Under the cover lays the impressive 1500 mAh Li-Ion battery. It is quoted as lasting 408 hours of stand-by or 6 hours of talk time, which is less than what we usually see from similarly large batteries on 2.44" displays. In reality its performance is pretty good taking the handset through about a week of moderate use (about fifteen minutes of telephony and 45 minutes of using the other phone features a day).
The other thing of interest under the battery cover is the microSD card slot, which this time has no trouble handling 16GB memory cards. However, taking a card out is pretty hard as you need to pull pretty strongly and you only have a small edge to grip.
The build quality of BlackBerry Bold 9700 is pretty good and we like it better than the original Bold. Adopting some of the latest Curve design solutions has resulted in a much sleeker and sharp-looking body.
And with the width reduced, the BlackBerry Bold 9700 is even easier to operate with one hand. Even single-hand typing is possible, although in this case it is admittedly much slower.