BlackBerry Bold – Brief Hands On Impressions

One of the joys of going to school in Waterloo, home of Research in Motion, is the opportunity to see just about every new BlackBerry device before they’re publicly available. A couple days ago, I finally got my hands on a BlackBerry Bold. I only had a few minutes with it, but I was able to test out most of the defining feature differences in the Bold. If you’re looking for a detailed breakdown and review with tons of photos, I’ll unhesitatingly point you to CrackBerry.com. However, if you’re looking for another person’s impressions, read on.

Upon holding the device, the two most obvious differences from the Curve are the display and the width. I use a Curve and after handling both of them, one after another, I felt that the Bold was distinctly wider. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; I had no trouble holding onto the device. One handed operation may be slightly more difficult (I can reach the opposite side of the Curve with my thumb without issue, but the added 5mm or so could make a difference).

Of all the mobile devices I’ve used, the Bold’s display is most comparable to the iPhone’s in quality. The display is much closer to the protective covering over it than most devices, making the screen look more like an image than an actual display. The iPhone’s display also has this effect. Furthermore, the higher screen resolution (480×320) is evident even in the menu. Don’t expect anything too fancy in terms of the OS. Option menus are still mainly text-based.

I was a bit worried about the Bold’s keypad when I first saw leaked images. After hearing horror stories about the BlackBerry 8800’s keypad, I expected the worst from the Bold. However, after punching out a couple lines of text on the device, I come away with the opinion that either 8800 users were grossly exaggerating the issue or the Bold’s keypad is not like the 8800’s at all. If anything, I liked it a bit more than my Curve’s keypad. The grouped keys don’t exhibit the slight wiggle of the Curve’s keys. Additionally, both the trackball’s and keys’ presses are a bit more cushioned than with the Curve. Where there’s a distinct ‘click’ with the Curve, the Bold’s feels more refined and firm. I like it. The call, menu, back, and end buttons are also much improved from the small-ish size on the Curve.

I didn’t get a chance to try out the browser, but I was told that it features a significantly improved browsing experience. As well, navigating through the menu and starting/switching applications felt snappier. I didn’t see any loading animations and  starting the camera module took only about a second. The device itself also felt very solid. There were absolutely no creaks in the casing (it had a smooth battery cover, not the advertised ‘pleather’ pattern), despite being a pre-production unit. The 8800/Curve was a big styling step from the 8700 series and prior models and the Bold takes it to the next level.

So, what’s the final word? I’m seriously considering an upgrade from my Curve to the Bold. Throwing together the significantly improved display, faster processor, and new OS, the Bold is a significant change over the Curve, despite being of a similar form factor. Anyone looking for a well taken care of BlackBerry 8310? 😉

4 thoughts on “BlackBerry Bold – Brief Hands On Impressions”

  1. Contrary to your experiences, I’ve had extensive experience with the 8800 as I was at RIM when it was still a secret device. The cushy keys were soft and had a little give and wiggle, similar to the 8100. I personally preferred this to the 8300 and 8700. I felt that it allowed for a faster typing experience, and you didn’t have the stupid constant clicking sounds. From the screenshots and photos, it seems like RIM has passed along the keypad to the Bold as well.

  2. “Of all the mobile devices I’ve used, the Bold’s display is most comparable to the iPhone’s in quality.” I think the Bold’s pixel density is twice that of the iPhone – same display ratio in half the space.

  3. Richard – Yeah, I think that may be what I was getting at. The keys of the Curve make the device, well, far from discrete when in use. I definitely prefer the lack of sound from the Bold’s keypad.

    Tom – Yes, of course, I was trying to get at the nature of the display, as in the iPhone is the only other device that I’ve seen that places the display so close beneath the protective covering. I think even with the iPhone’s 3.5″ display, the pixel density is high enough that one isn’t able to tell much of a difference anyways.

  4. Some of my readers keep complaining about the keypad which is just orrible with some keys which actually pop out of their shells. Good for you! As far as I am concerned I am waiting for the next Palm Pro (iphone resolution quality, wifi, gps and other cool stuff to play around!). I am a big fun of Palm OS which has never betrayed me!

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