BlackBerry Bold Preliminary Review

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Editor’s Note: This preliminary review was written based on just a few days of experience with this smartphone. A much more comprehensive review is available here: BlackBerry Bold Review

AT&T is going release the BlackBerry Bold tomorrow, finally ending the long wait for this smartphone.

RIM BlackBerry Bold 9000The good news is this device has been worth the wait. I’ve had a Bold for a couple of days now, and this is far and away the best BlackBerry I’ve ever used.

The New Definition of Professional Looking

RIM has dramatically improved the looks of its devices in recent years, and the Bold is a new high point. It’s rounded corners and leather-covered back make it somehow both professional and sexy.

And the higher-resolution screen is great, too.  The Bold has a 320-by-640-pixel display, which is at least twice the resolution of the earlier RIM models, like the Curve.

After a couple of days of trying out the keyboard, I have no complaints. I’ve never found a thumb-board that I thought was a joy to use, so “satisfactory” is a good score for me.

Rather than just pictures, I put together a short video showing off the Bold’s good looks.

Hardware Preview

HSDPA, At Last

The BlackBerry Bold is the first model from RIM with HSDPA, the version of high-speed wireless networking used by GSM carriers. This is welcome news for AT&T customers, but isn’t going to impress Verizon or Sprint users, as their BlackBerries have had equivalent data transfer speeds for a long time. But like I said, AT&T customers are going to enjoy a noticeable speed increase when accessing web sites.

And the Bold’s web browser is a pleasant surprise. I’ve used some miserable browsers on BlackBerries over the years, but this one is significantly improved. It’s not amazing or cutting edge by any stretch, but it’s more usable than the browser on any BlackBerry I’ve seen before.

This smartphone is also one of the first from this company with Wi-Fi. RIM has had problems with integrating Wi-Fi into its devices, and unfortunately the Bold doesn’t appear to be any different. I was able to connect it to my wireless router, but when I turn cellular-wireless access off, I’m not able to exchange data over Wi-Fi. I suppose it’s there when HSDPA is operating, speeding wireless transfers up, but it’s not easy to tell. I’ll keep researching this issue, and talk more about it in the full review.

Productivity and Fun

BlackBerries have always been useful, but it wasn’t until recent years that they started to become fun, too.

Software Preview

At the top of the “Useful” list is the Bold’s support for push email. Messages can come from a company’s BlackBerry Enterprise Server, but AT&T also offers a version of this service for consumers, too.

One of the best new features is the bundled version of DataViz Documents To Go. This is a suite of applications for working with Microsoft Office files. It does a decent job of letting you see files in their original format, and edit them, too. It doesn’t support all the formatting options Word does, but if you edit and re-save a document with formatting DocsToGo can’t display, the unsupported formatting won’t be affected.

In the “Fun” category, the Bold’s HVGA display really shines when you’re playing movies. I loaded a microSD card (not included) with a bunch of MP4 files, and sat back to watch some video. It can also play MP3s, the better to help keep you entertained on a boring trip.

The video at right shows gives a very brief demonstration of some of this devices’ software. 

Preliminary Conclusion

As I said, I’ve only had this smartphone for a couple of days, and it takes me longer than that to properly evaluate a new device and write a full review.

But my first impressions of the BlackBerry Bold are almost universally positive. It’s easily the best-looking keyboard-based smartphone on the market, and the software it includes makes it the best BlackBerry yet.

I’ll have a more complete review of this model available soon. This will include the features I didn’t bring up in this one, like the Bold’s GPS receiver and Bluetooth support, and more about its camera.

Update (Nov. 4): The BlackBerry Bold is available now on AT&T’s website. The base price is $550, but that drops to $400 with a two-year contract. In addition, AT&T is offering a $100 mail-in rebate, bringing the cost down to $300.



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