BlackBerry Bold Preview

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Update: This preview was written based on limited experience with this device. A much more in-depth version, based on extensive use of this model, is now available: BlackBerry Bold Review

RIM recently unveiled the BlackBerry Bold, an upcoming smartphone that will offer a number of firsts for this long-running product line.

In addition to being the first BlackBerry with the 3G standard HSDPA, it will have a higher-resolution screen than any previous RIM model, and much better support for working with Microsoft Office files.

Last night, I was able to spend some time a pre-release unit, and I wanted to share my first impressions.

Some Bold Design Choices

The Bold appears to have been designed around its half-VGA (480 by 320 pixel) screen. This is big enough to make this device a good option for mobile video, and will certainly make reading long emails easier.

BlackBerry Bold

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To make room for this relatively large display, this smartphone is noticeably bigger than any other recent BlackBerry.

It’s surprisingly light, though. And the extra width means there’s room for a generous size keyboard. In the limited time I had for testing, I found the Bold to be easy to type on without making mistakes.

I like the looks of this device, and the leather covering on the back is a nice touch.

This will also be the first model with BlackBerry 4.6, a new version of this operating system. This has some nice improvements to the looks and feel.

It will use a 624 MHz processor, and I found performance on the pre-production unit to be very snappy. It had no problems quickly opening and playing a video full-screen.

In addition to its other firsts, the Bold will be the first from RIM to support tri-band HSDPA high-speed networks, GPS *and* Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g). I didn’t get a chance to test this device’s wireless capabilities out yesterday, though.

Office Documents On the Go

I have long been amazed by the primitive support BlackBerries offer for working with Microsoft Office files. The viewer on current RIM models is lightyears behind what’s available on other smartphones.

But that’s all about to change; DataViz Documents To Go will soon come standard on BlackBerry models, including the Bold.

To me, Docs To Go is the gold standard of mobile Office suites. It displays Word Documents, Excel spreadsheets, and PowerPoint presentations almost exactly as they appear on a desktop.

But BlackBerry users should be aware of one thing: the version that will come bundled with their devices will allow you to view and edit files, not create them.To get the ability to make new Office files, you will need to buy an upgraded version from DataViz.

If you frequently collaborate on documents over email, all this should be music to your ears. I haven’t been able to test this version of DocsToGo yet, but the one for Palm OS works very well.

Preliminary Conclusion

BlackBerries have always excelled at mobile email, but have been lackluster in other areas. Still, RIM has been making strides to remedy this in recent years, and the BlackBerry Bold is a  strong  step in this direction.

This smartphone will debut later this summer. At this point, the only wireless carrier that has committed to offering it is AT&T, but I expect it to be widely available by this fall.

Photo Gallery:

BlackBerry Bold
  BlackBerry Bold

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BlackBerry Bold
  BlackBerry Bold

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Images and Video by Kevin O’Brien

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