The keyboard also seems downgraded to lower quality plastic. Almost the entire keyboard rocks and wobbles when you press a key. Luckily, this has little impact on usability, and the Curve 8520 is just as good at typing as its predecessors.
On a different note, the tactility and press feedback of the keys is excellent. There is sufficient spacing between the different rows and columns.
With a four-row keypad the numbers had to be accommodated over some of the letters - the numpad is on the left. You will also have to use a two-key combo for all the punctuation, but at least there is no need for three-key combinations.
The optical trackpad sits between the display and the keyboard of the BlackBerry Curve 8520. Apparently the trackball is no longer an intrinsic part of the BlackBerry devices and it makes way for the extremely sensitive optical trackpads.
Those are quick, and despite the one on the Curve 8520 feeling slightly wobbly at times, provide great user experience. You can even customize the horizontal and vertical speed to best suit your taste (or thumb).
The menu and back keys and the two call management buttons sit around the trackpad. The End key doubles as a power button. None of these cause any obstacles to usability.
On top of the display we find the earpiece and the LED status light.
The left side of the Curve 8520 incorporates the 3.5mm audio jack, one of the "convenience keys" and the microUSB slot. There isn't any cover over either of the two apertures here so you might expect some dust accumulation in time.
By default the left convenience key activates voice commands but you can easily assign it a different task.
The same holds true for the other convenience key, which is located next to the volume rocker on the right-hand side of the 8520. By default it acts as a camera key but as there is no autofocus on the Curve 8520, it's not a two-step button.
There's hardly anything interesting at the bottom, the microphone pinhole being the only notable presence there.
The top of the 8520 Curve is where it gets interesting - here you can find the first-ever dedicated music keys on a BlackBerry handset. Their implementation is somewhat poor as they are really hard to press despite their large size.
The music keys have a pretty short stroke but getting a press accepted requires quite an effort. The middle play/pause key is the worst of the lot as you actually need to press only the middle part of the marked key. Definitely not cool!
The back of the BlackBerry Curve 8520 features nothing but the 2 megapixel camera lens . It is well recessed so you cannot scratch it unless you try really hard.
Removing the plastic cover reveals the microSD card slot and the 1150 mAh Li-Ion battery. The battery turned out quite a performer delivering almost identical performance to the Bold 9700 1500 mAh unit. We guess things like a lower-res screen, slower CPU and no 3G make up a nice recipe for longer battery life.
In a real life scenario the Curve 8520 lasted for about six days under relatively light use (about ten minutes of telephony and 40 minutes of using the other phone features a day).
Now join us on the next page to check out the software package that the Curve 8520 has to offer.