BlackBerry Curve 8520 review: BlackBerry Lite

GSMArena team, 22 December 2009.
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Tags: BlackBerry

Introduction

With the Bold almost reaching perfection in the BlackBerry arts, new horizons need to be explored to keep the spark alive. The tall task to pioneer new territories (in BlackBerry terms anyway) falls on to the Curve 8520.

BlackBerry Curve 8520
BlackBerry Curve 8520 official photo

The new Curve has a price tag that's easier on the wallet and - coming from a BlackBerry - that's a welcome change of game plan already. But what makes this here Berry a shocker is… wait for it… music keys. Last time we checked features like that were teen geek stuff and we don't know many teens are walking around with a BlackBerry in their pocket. Well, it's certainly going to be interesting to see how BlackBerry's attempt to woo this new demographic will turn out.

Key features

  • 2.46" 65K-color TFT landscape display of QVGA resolution
  • Comfortable four-row full QWERTY keyboard
  • Quad-band GSM support, Wi-Fi connectivity
  • 2 megapixel camera with fixed focus
  • 512MHz CPU
  • BlackBerry OS v4.6 with responsive trackpad navigation
  • Hot-swappable microSD card slot (up to 16GB)
  • 3.5 mm audio jack
  • Decent audio quality
  • Nice web browser
  • Office document editor
  • Smart dialing
  • Dedicated music keys
  • DivX and XviD video support

Main disadvantages

  • Many features are unusable without a BlackBerry Internet Service account (plan)
  • BlackBerry OS offers basic text-only submenus
  • Mediocre camera performance and features
  • No FM radio
  • No 3G support
  • No TV-out functionality
  • Music keys are stiff and unresponsive
  • No built-in GPS receiver
  • Back panel is a fingerprint magnet

Most of the software-related shortfalls in the list above are shared by all other BlackBerries out there. The hardware disadvantages boil down to features that the 8520 needed to skip to fit budget. After all, the fancy stuff is in the more expensive 8900 Curve and 9700 Bold. So if you're already ok with the 8520 Curve specs and you want to go for a BlackBerry device and service, you won't find anything substantial to complain about here.

Obviously it took a few sacrifices for the Curve 8520 to keep that price tag within limits. The magnificent screen was ruthlessly trimmed down to the run-of-the-mill QVGA resolution. On a second thought though, that only puts it on a par with the screens on the Nokia E71 and E72 and we don't see anyone complaining about them.

BlackBerry Curve 8520 BlackBerry Curve 8520 BlackBerry Curve 8520
BlackBerry Curve 8520 studio shots

But how Blackberry and other makers define cheap are completely different things, so a commitment-free 8520 Curve fetches nearly the same as a Nokia E71. Now, that can't be too good for the BlackBerry, right - especially now that Nokia are offering their paid Push Messaging service in quite a lot of countries.

As we see it, the only way for the Curve 8520 to escape constant comparisons to its Nokia counterparts is to find some way to appeal to a wider market.

But frankly, we're a little skeptical whether one handset can convince the masses that BlackBerries are now as much about pleasure as they are about business. RIM have built a reputation on churning out no-nonsense corporate phones and it will take several more generations (and frankly, optimizations) for people to start seeing the company differently.

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