BlackBerry Curve 8900 review: Curved right
Camera fails again
Much like the Storm, BlackBerry Curve 8900 is equipped with a 3.15 MP autofocus camera and a LED flash. However the imaging capabilities of the device are pretty limited with usability, image quality and functionality all below average.
RIM got things wrong with the camera interface of the Curve just as much as they did with the Storm. A status bar is appearing at all times hiding a good portion of what actually ends up in the picture. This means that proper framing is next to impossible.
The camera UI itself is pretty uncomfortable to work with as there are no shortcuts on the screen meaning that you have to dig in the menu to change settings. Not that there are too many settings you can apply, as those are quite limited.
The glimmer of hope here is image-geotagging, which allows you to automatically record your location in the images EXIF data.
The few other offered settings are: white balance, color effects and image stabilization. There is also the obligatory picture size and quality.
What bothers us even more than the interface is the picture quality of the BlackBerry Curve 8900. It is well below the average performance in the 3MP league. The amount of resolved detail falls seriously short of impressive. Probably part of the explanation is the extremely aggressive noise reduction applied, which eradicates all fine detail and gives the photos a distinct oil-painting look.
The phone also has a problem with corner softness, although not as bad as the Storm. The Curve 8900 images only tend to lose sharpness towards the left edge, the right one not nearly as bad. Contrast also seems somewhat better than the Storm but the dynamic range is below par. The color balance is generally a miss rather than a hit, although the phone manages to get them correctly on some of the photos.
Here go the sample photos so you can judge the image quality yourselves.
Truth be told, the camera is one of the most disappointing parts of the BlackBerry Curve 8900 and we can hardly find anything good to say about it. Definitely not a nice deal for people interested in taking nice photos with their phone, the Curve 8900 might do the trick only if you use it to take photos for your phonebook. The only consolation here is that one of the main competitors of the Curve - Nokia E71 - has a camera that's almost as bad.
Video recording as bad as it gets
If you thought the camera had it bad, the video recording will sure leave you speechless. The best the BlackBerry Curve 8900 has to offer is 240 x 180 pixel videos, which is nothing short of disaster if we're talking full-featured video recording. Other than that, it might just do the trick for MMS.
Videos are captured in 3GP format and can have color effects applied. The LED flash can also be set to work as a video light. Like it matters…
It might be about time the guys over at RIM had a serious look at their handsets imaging capabilities and did something about it. At this point they may as well have never bothered putting a camera on the Curve - or any other handset for that matter. We guess a proper shooter from BlackBerry is yet to come.
Connectivity: No 3G ruins the deal
Now this is the area where a second BlackBerry in a row fails to convince. While the Curve 8900 got the Wi-Fi thing right it fails big time with the lack of 3G. A BlackBerry handset without a BlackBerry data plan is as good as a 100-buck phone so you normally have one when you purchase it. So it is hardly a smart move by RIM to force you to use EDGE only.
The quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support secures global roaming but lacks the 3G speed, not to mention HSDPA. While the Wi-Fi will certainly make up for the lack of it when a hot spot is around and is the far cheaper option when traveling abroad, it is by no means a complete alternative.
Leaving the wireless connectivity aside for a while the BlackBerry Curve 8900 is equipped with a standard microUSB port that is used both for connecting to a computer and for charging. Once connected, you can sync your data with the mobile phone including your iTunes collection, save for the files that have DRM. You can even use the handset as a tethered modem.
Finally, the Curve 8900 comes with Bluetooth v2.0 that also sports A2DP and a microSD data memory card slot. The latter means that if you have a card slot at hand you might achieve the fastest data transfer rates on this phone.