The web browser on the BlackBerry Curve 8520 provides a very good experience when working with mobile sites, but switching to the full version makes the screen limitations very apparent. Still, as far as speed and ergonomics go, the browser scores high marks.
The QWERTY keyboard plus good address suggestions make for quick navigation and most pages are cached very well so they open very fast. The trackpad makes moving about the page effortless (as far as non-touch phones go anyway) and panning is fast, almost redraw-free.
The bad part - the QVGA resolution doesn't play well with the full desktop versions of websites. The lack of text reflow limits you to low zoom levels and the screen just can't render the small font well enough so you have to zoom in closer and scroll horizontally to read each line.
Still, panning is great thanks to the trackpad and the virtual mouse cursor. You just push it towards the border of the page. The precise trackpad makes text selection quite easy as well.
Page rendering is good, without major issues, but there are rendering bugs. We didn't see anything that would make a page unusable, but the Opera Mini 5 beta does a better job overall. And it can handle several pages too, which is invaluable to the multitasker.
By default, pages are loaded to fit the display width with the virtual cursor taking the shape of a magnifier. You then just click on the part you would like to read and it gets zoomed in to fill the screen. A press on the back key and you are back to the fit-to-width view. Rinse and repeat until done.
The lack of Flash support is to be expected in the BlackBerry Curve 8520. But it's the other software limitations that keep it down - text reflow especially is essential on small, low resolution screens so it really should have been included.
Much like its phonebook, the organizer of the BlackBerry Curve 8520 will hardly impress you with its look but it usually gets the job done. The treat here is the preinstalled document editor which allows you to handle documents straight on your handset and not only look at them.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves and take things one at a time. The calendar has monthly, weekly and daily view modes and allows easily customized events to be set up.
Mobile office is also very well stocked, with preinstalled applications able to open and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint files. Furthermore, document editing is also supported right out of the box, unlike most competing phones. Unfortunately, there is no PDF viewer preinstalled so potential users will have to get one themselves.
The organizer package also includes a calculator with a built-in unit-converter as well as a voice recorder and a Notes application. The handy To-do manager allows you to set-up and organize your upcoming tasks.
The alarm application fails to impress - it will only let you set a single alarm. It's quick to turn on but most of its settings can only be adjusted from the settings menu. There you can change the tone, snooze time and the volume, as well as the vibration intensity.
The clock also offers a bedside mode that turns off the status LED (unless you set it otherwise) and displays a large clock on the screen.
Finally, the BlackBerry Curve 8520 comes with a stopwatch and a timer. Both are accessed from the clock application and have the usual functionality.