BlackBerry Bold

GCN LAB REVIEW

BlackBerry Bold 9650 is an easy-to-use workhorse

New features, long battery life power RIM's latest model

Performance: A+
Features: B
Ease of Use: A
Price: B
Pros: Best keyboard in the review; best battery life.
Cons: Need to link instant messaging and e-mail.

With Version 5 of the Research in Motion Blackberry operating system, the Bold ushers in a new set of features that would make the traditional monochrome classic BlackBerry turn in its grave, including a high-end, 3.2-megapixel camera with flash and 3G, Code Division Multiple Access or Wi-Fi capabilities.

More smart phone reviews

Read the GCN Lab's reviews of the iPhone 4, the Palm Pre Plus, Sprint HTC Evo and the Samsung Captivate.

True to its core competency, RIM instilled the two most important BlackBerry values into this souped-up version: impressive battery life and the best-designed QWERTY keyboard in the roundup. As expected, the Bold lasted longer than any other device in the roundup, needing a recharge only once every three days. Much of that longevity is attributable to the efficient and small BlackBerry operating system, which is partially because the BlackBerry is more of a business person’s mobile device and therefore does not have as many bells, whistles and apps as its competitors do.

I even wrestled with including the Bold in this review because, by design, it is diametrically opposite to the Pre, iPhone or Evo, in a good way. The Bold never overheated, was the easiest to navigate and use for e-mail and now offers super-fast Web surfing. In many ways, it’s the perfect corporate mobile device.

RIM has made noticeable advancements in operating system navigation, particularly with the way the Bold's central toggle wheel is designed. The new design is more like a micro-touchpad and less like an actual wheel or ball, and it is perfectly calibrated so that you can easily navigate the operating system and select apps with minimal resistance.

Another powerful feature that is new to the BlackBerry is its instant messaging application. If your agency is anything like my enterprise, IM is the quickest way to get in touch with anyone. Using the real-time IM feature on the Bold is as easy as the IM tool on your computer — just launch the application, and you appear as available online in the corporate directory.

The only addition I hope RIM makes to the Bold IM application is the ability to expand the connection between IM and e-mail applications. For example, I had an IM session that contained detailed data regarding a project. It would have been ideal if I could have forwarded a transcript to an e-mail message and sent it to a vendor assisting us on the project.

Despite the retail price of $509 for the Bold, Verizon offers the Bold at $99 with a two-year contract. If you need a workhorse without the extra bells and whistles, the Bold is worth every penny.

Research In Motion, www.blackberry.com

About the Author

Carlos A. Soto is a former GCN Lab technology analyst.

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