BlackBerry Bold 9780 review: Business as usual

GSMArena team, 21 January 2011.
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Tags: BlackBerry

Well packed, that's for sure

Say what you will about the BlackBerry smartphones, but there is no denying that they come with some of the best retail packages in business. The Bold 9780 makes no exception Ė it covers all the basics (a charger, headset and a microUSB cable) and throws in a few nice extra items on top.

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The well-geared box

You get a 2GB microSD card as well as a leather case. The high-quality case is a nice bonus.You canít detach its belt clip, but itís a nice case anyway.

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The leather carrying case

The usual paperwork is also in the box, but that earns the 9780 no extra points.

BlackBerry Bold 9780 360-degree spin

Just like the 9700 before, the Bold 9780 is a very compact device. At 109 x 60 x 14 mm, it might not be the tiniest (and certainly not the slimmest) phone around but itís impressively comfortable to hold in hand and easy to slip in a pocket too.

We think itís easy for a QWERTY messenger bar to get away with the extra millimeters around the waistline. The 122 g of weight are quite reasonable too. You know Ė we have a thing for heavy, well-built handsets but the BlackBerry Bold 9780 is by no means overacting. Anyway, if you prefer lighter handsets, the Curve 3G 9300 is perhaps your kind of BlackBerry phone.

Design and construction

The BlackBerry Bold 9780 is not a crowd pleaser. But it certainly has the BlackBerry business charm that rates higher than the classic kind of good looks.

The phone is solid but quite friendly Ė with soft-touch rear surface and virtually no metal on the body. It is probably important for the Bold to set itself apart from steel messengers by Nokia. Whatever the reason though, the combination of leather and soft-touch plastic is great to handle too.

Pretty decent display and great keyboard

RIM is known for making solid displays without going to extremes. You wonít be getting 4 inches of Super AMOLED or Retina from the Canadians. But you can be certain that the Boldís 480 x 360 pixel screen will have decent image quality and good performance outdoors.

Indeed, the 2.44Ē unit is identical to the one found on the Bold 9700 with good enough contrast and relatively low reflectivity. The problem is that the rest of the world is moving forward, which is causing the BlackBerry HVGA+ units to fall down the ranks.

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The 2.44Ē display is better than what most competitors have to offer

However within its own QWERTY messenger candybar league, the Bold 9780 screen/keyboard combo is among the best.

And having mentioned the keyboard, we have to say that itís where the BlackBerry pedigree counts the most. Despite having a lot less space to work with than the very first BlackBerry Bold 9000 unit, the keyboard of the 9780 is impressively comfortable.

The keys are small but carefully sculpted for great tactility - only users with very large hands might have trouble adapting to it. The four-row layout seems the excellent balance between functionality and ergonomics.

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The QWERTY keyboard is way more comfortable than its size suggests

The numbers are sharing keys with some of the letters and you need to press the alt key to use them at times but thatís no biggie. And youíd be glad to know that whenever the context allows it, the switch is automatic.

The rest of the controls

Right between the Bold 9780 display and keyboard there are four keys around a centrally placed trackpad. The trackball days are long gone, but the responsive trackpad makes sure you wonít miss them. We tend to do things faster with a trackpad and with a minor tweak in the settings menu we had no troubles with accuracy either.

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The responsive trackpad does most of the navigation

The other controls here are the Call, End, Menu and Back buttons. Large size and solid press, those are no trouble to use either.

We conclude our trip around the BlackBerry Bold 9780 front panel at the top, where we find the traditional status LED and the earpiece.

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Thereís an earpiece and a LED status light on top

On the left we come across the 3.5mm standard audio jack, the standard microUSB port and a convenience key Ė a customizable shortcut. The key is preset to launch Voice-commands but you can change it to whatever function you want.

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The unprotected audio jack and microUSB ports are above the left convenience gkey

The right side of the BlackBerry Bold 9780 features the volume rocker and the camera key. The camera key is another convenience key. Being a two-step button, the role of a camera key suits it best but you can assign it with another function.

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The volume rocker and the other convenience key

Unfortunately, the shooting with the Bold is confusing. On one hand, the camera sensor orientation demand that you hold the phone in portrait orientation to make landscape-oriented shots. On the other hand, the camera key is on the side, more suited to your thumb than your index finger. It just feels awkward. Using the trackpad as a shutter key is a lot more natural but then it doesnít have the half press functionality to lock focus without shooting.

Like most of its siblings, the BlackBerry Bold 9780 has the trademark invisible keys on top. One mutes the handset or pauses the currently running track, while the other handles the locks and unlocks the handset.

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There are a couple of invisible keys on top

Itís pretty plain at the bottom, the microphone pinhole being the only element of interest.

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The microphone pinhole is at the bottom

Flipping the Bold 9780 over brings us upon the 5 megapixel camera lens and its accompanying LED flash. The camera is the only hardware change the new Bold brings over the 9700 so its performance is quite important for the overall rating of the device. Weíll see how it lives up to our expectations later in the review.

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Thereís the usual stuff going on at the back: camera lens, loudspeaker grill and LED flash

The other thing of interest at the back is the loudspeaker grill. Itís centrally placed between the camera lens and the flash.

Under the rear cover lies the impressive sounding 1500 mAh Li-Po battery. It is quoted at up to 528 hours of stand-by or 6 hours of talk time. Normally we are used to seeing spectacular performances from BlackBerries with similar batteries, but this one was only good for just under than three full days of moderate use (about fifteen minutes of telephony and 45 minutes of using the other phone features a day).

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Taking a peek under the hood: the microSD card slot and removing the battery

At first we suspected a faulty unit as the Bold 9700 lasted about twice as much. User reviews all over the internet report similar performance so it might have something to do with the new OS and its power efficiency methods.

The other thing of interest under the battery cover is the microSD card slot, which has no trouble handling 32GB memory cards.

Itís hardly breaking news that the BlackBerry Bold 9780 has excellent build quality. The rear cover fits tightly, no creaks or any other disturbing sounds when handling the phone. The surfaces are pleasant to touch and we have no reason to doubt the handsetís durability.

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The Bold 9780 feels great in the palm of your hand

The general ergonomics are pretty good too. The device is compact enough to allow single-handed operation and the keyboard is great for typing. You will need to put both hands into action to achieve the best possible speed though.

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