Blackberry Bold Review

September 26th, 2008

Here’s RIM’s Blackberry Bold. It takes all the features of previous Blackberries and puts them into one device. It also adds a fantastic higher resolution display, a snazzy leatherette back and more memory.

With its tapered sides, rounded edges and leatherette back, the Bold fits nicely and feels nice in your hand.

The entire back is a battery cover. I usually think this is a bad idea because the cover becomes loose then the whole phone will feel flimsy but on the Bold, it’s not so bad. With its leatherette back and pebbled finish, the Bold’s back really wows people.

Back aside, the Bold’s best feature is on the front; I’m talking about its fantastic 480×360 display. It’s very sharp and makes for very smooth text, great browsing, videos, etc. The default theme doesn’t have that much colour – it’s basically black and white. This helps the Bold’s screen work well in bright sunlight.

The keyboard is excellent. Compared with the 8800, the Bold’s keys are slightly slanted towards the middle of the phone. It’s a small change but I find it helps you feel the keys better so you can type faster.

There are stereo speakers on each side. They’re pretty loud and sound good.

Love it or hate it, navigation is handled via the trackball. Personally, I don’t hate the trackball but I’m also not crazy about it. It does allow you to do some neat things like select text from the browser without requiring a stylus. It also gives you more than 4 directions of motion when you’re browsing.

On the left there’s a 3.5mm stereo headphone jack (you can use ‘regular’ headphones with it), mini USB slot (charging and syncing), micro SDHC slot. There is a 3.5mm headset included in the box. You also get a menu button.

The micro SDHC slot can be accessed while the rear cover is on but it can be difficult to remove memory cards. I’m currently trying to remove my micro SDHC card and it’s stuck.

As for USB speed I copied a 105MB worth of mp3′s (about 5MB each) to the built in memory and observed a speed of around 2.5MB/s – not bad at all. I got 1.25MB/s for the built in card. Keep in mind the lower speed could be a result of a slower memory card. I’d take the memory card out to test it in a reader but it’s still stuck.

On the right there’s a volume switch plus a camera button.

One thing missing from my Bold is the ubiquitous leather case or holster that always seems to come with Blackberries. I don’t know if mine was just missing it.

Features:

If you’ve never used a Blackberry before, here’s how they work in one paragraph: They’re really easy to use. You move around using the trackball and press in to select. The menu button usually brings up a program specific menu. Pressing end will take you back to the standby screen. Pressing menu from the standby screen will take you to the main menu. From there you launch programs. There’s a launcher button on the left side which you can use to quickly switch between programs.

The Bold’s bread and butter is its messaging features. It handle emails, SMS, MMS plus you can message other Blackberries by PINning them. All your messages can show up in a unified inbox plus there are separate inboxes for each type of message. There’s a biult in dctionary which yuo can use to spell chcek your messges. As you can see, I didn’t write this on the Bold.

In case you haven’t used a Blackberry before, a server actually retrieves your email and then pushes it to your device. You can either use a BES; Blackberry Enterprise Server or BIS Blackberry Information Services.

BES requires software you buy from RIM. It will sync the Bold with a Microsoft Exchange server – your emails, contacts, calendar stuff, etc.

BIS will check your POP or IMAP email and send any new messages to the Bold. If you’re using IMAP, I just want to clarify once more that you’ll only get new messages (as in you won’t get any messages that were sitting in your IMAP inbox already when you set the Blackberry up). So, if you’re an IMAP user then BIS isn’t that ideal.

The Phonebook is pretty standard. You can search it from the standby screen by entering part of an entry’s name or phone number.

The calendar has daily, weekly, monthly plus a view which shows all your upcoming appointments by date. Besides the calendar, there is also a todo list and a memopad.

The phonebook, calendar, todo list, memopad can all sync with your computer using Blackberry Desktop Manager. It’s included with the Bold plus it’s a free download from RIM.

One of the Bold’s new features is it’s html web browser. It’s much nicer compared to the older retro style browser.

When you view a webpage, it actually gets downloaded to another server, compressed and then sent to the Bold. This helps pages load faster.

The open address feature resembles a webpage. In it, it lets you enter URLs plus it gives you access to your bookmarks and browser history – very convenient.

The browser is a huge step up from before. I only have 3 complaints about it. While pages do load quickly, you can’t always scroll while it’s loading. My other complaint is that you can only browse one page at a time – there is no support for extra windows or tabs.

Lastly, I’m not sure if it’s due to the fact that the Bold is still a relatively new device or what but I found the browser to be very unreliable when it came to loading pages. HAlf the time, I could not get anything to load. At first I thought it was the Bold’s fault, then I thought it might be a network issue (Rogers in Canada). However, I took the Bold down to the ‘states and roamed on T-Mobile and AT&T and still found the browser to be unreliable so maybe there’s something wrong with RIM’s servers (remember, when you browse the web, pages go through them).

You can read PDF attachments. Like all phones, the Bold is horrible for viewing PDF’s as they’d look on a computer but there is a really useful text mode where it only shows the text and wrap it so that it’s easy to read. On some PDF’s this is extremely effective.

The built-in music player is pretty standard stuff too. Besides the usual ability to browse your songs by album, artist, etc. you can also search by title using the keyboard. It’s very convenient and fast – I like it.

You also get stuff like different equalizer settings (honestly I didn’t like any of them), a spacializer feature (didn’t like it either, made music sound more confusing).

When you listen to music, you’ll get a shortcut to the music player whenever you press the menu button. In lieu of dedicated media player buttons – pretty clever.

When you plug the Bold into an outlet, the clock application will activate. If you press in on the trackball you can set an alarm. I like this since many people use their Bold in bed. You can set your alarm and then go to sleep.

There is built-in GPS which will work even if you have no network coverage. Unfortunately the maps program requires a network signal to download maps. Go figure.

The built-in camera has a resolution of 2 megapixels plus a flash. You can activate it by pressing the camera button on the right side. It launches pretty quickly. Otherwise it’s nothing special. There’s a separate program for video recording.

RIM includes Documents to Go so you can edit doc, xls, ppt. This isn’t the full version so you can’t make new ones, just edit existing ones. The easy way around this is to create new Excel, Word and Powerpoint files and then email them to yourself. You can also download new blank ones here:

Word

Excel

Powerpoint

You can record voice notes plus there is voice dialing.

Passwords can be stored in a password protected area with Password Keeper.

Until recently, Blackberries have been synonymous with business. Well the bold has 4 built-in games and most of them are actually pretty fun. Besides Brickbreaker, you also get Word Mole (a game where you have to form words before time runs out), Texas Hold’Em King 2, Sodoku (crosswords for people with no imagination – just kidding) and Kondike. Word Mole and Sodoku are a lot of fun – Wheeeee!

There are weather and stock apps which let you check the weather/stocks from the main menu. You don’t have to open up a new program to view them.

One feature I really like about the Bold and Blackberries in general is that they allow you to see the current signal strength in dbm and not just bars.

Performance:

Sound quality was average. Incoming voices are slightly fuzzy and there is noticeable hiss. Outgoing sound quality is much better. It’s fairly natural sounding with just a bit of hiss.

For RF performance I tested the Bold against a n95 8GB. In HSDPA modem, the n95 8gb was slightly better holding onto a call where the Bold dropped it. In EDGE mode they were about equal.

Maximum earpiece volume is adequate.

Like most HSDPA devices, the Bold’s battery life in HSDPA mode isn’t so great. That said most users should be able to make it through the day with juice to spare – that’s good.

Conclusion:

It’s been a while since I’ve used a Blackberry, that said I enjoyed using the Bold. With the exception of the BIS/IMAP thing I mentioned, messaging on the Bold is straight forward and pleasant. While I’m not crazy about the trackball, it works well and the menu is easy to use and very consistant. I liked the way the music player uses the keyboard (how you can quickly search for songs). The html browser is a huge step up from previous ‘berries but the fact that it can only handle one page at a time plus the connectivity issues I experienced with RIM’s servers kind of ruined it for me.

The leatherette back is a real conversation starter. Everyone that has never seen a Bold before loved it.

The display is really nice and it’s high resolution is perfect for it’s size.

Yeah, despite the connectivity issues and average sound quality, I really liked the Bold. If you’re looking for a ‘berry and can fork out the cash – get a Bold. If you’re looking to upgrade your Blackberry and want a keyboard, the Bold is the one to get. It’s got all the features of the previous ‘berries plus an awesome screen and a slick back.

Howard Chui
09.25.2008

Entry Filed under: Phones

11 Comments Add your own

    billyan79  |  September 26th, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    I am a big Blackberry fan. But just came across this video when I was on YouTube. I’d be interested in finding out when this phone will be available.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2MBwR7qouw

    Anonymous  |  October 1st, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    how many times can they keep changing the date o

    Josh  |  October 4th, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    Its so pretty! Functionality is so hyped. Hopefully it comes to Verizon.

    Alphonse Ha  |  October 6th, 2008 at 1:12 pm

    Hi, thank you for the great review. I just have a question regarding emails on the bold.

    I am not familiar with Blackberry. Is it possible to sync the Bold with Outlook 2003? So that when you delete one email from the blackberry it will also delete it in the Outlook Inbox?

    From the information I gathered it is possible through BES but I can’t seem to find any information as to if it is possible without using BES?

    Thank you
    Alphonse Ha

    Seema  |  October 6th, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    I have a blackberry bold and I am using a Outlook Web Access email account at university. I have set up the email, but the phone never receives messages. I read the problems above. Also the OWA account doesn’t a option to forward email to say gmail.

    I have no idea what to do as I bought the phone to access my uni mails!

    ECee  |  October 25th, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    Guess what? I googled “memory card stuck blackberry bold”, and , I landed on your page!

    How did you get your microSD card “unstuck”? I’ve been trying to *gently* take it out.

    Solution?

    HowardChui.com: Batteries&hellip  |  November 4th, 2008 at 7:09 pm

    [...] Not quite sure if the BlackBerry Bold is right for you-read Howard Chui’s review of the device here. [...]

    eric golden  |  November 11th, 2008 at 1:14 am

    does anyone know on the blackberry bold when you assign a contact ringtone to a person when they send u a text message does it play their assigned ringtone or the default text message ringtone? the only phones Ive found that do this are the razor 2s

    D  |  November 19th, 2008 at 6:18 pm

    Good review! But the MicroSD card seems to work much faster for me!!

    Nathan  |  November 19th, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Yeah the MicroSD card seems to get stuck, but I’ve found that if you use your nail and pry at the part that sorta sticks up, it comes out.

    Also, the stock MicroSD card seems to be insanely slow – I think it’s actually LIMITED to 2MB/s. I’m using a 4GB SanDisk Mobile Ultra, and I think I’ve hit speeds up to like 15MB/s!! BlackBerry’s are insanely at sideloading movie and music. So awesome lol.

    deannatrois  |  November 19th, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    Received my bold last week. Been a bit busy so still figuring out how to use it. Just about managed to download my own ringtone for when phone rings (standard one is useless) but have yet to find out how to get different ringtones for text messages etc. As a new user can be confusing as to what the phone is trying to indicate has come in lol.

    Overall tho, these are teething problems. Had an N95 before and I’d never go back. Blackberry bold is far superior and I love it. Just wish I had time to figure out how to use the d*** thing he he!

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