This was something I posted elsewhere, but I thought it would be useful here to ... Smartphone Reviews forum
A Bold Review... From Someone Who Always Hated Blackberrys
This was something I posted elsewhere, but I thought it would be useful here to show how a 10 year user of Palm, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices finally fell for a Blackberry
Product Name: Blackberry 9000 Bold
Reviewer: Shaun McGill
In The Box-
BlackBerry 9000 Bold, Battery, Data Cable, Mains Charger (UK/EU/US), Stereo Headset, Pocket Case, User Guide, Software CD.
The stereo headset is an in-ear set up, which will please some and displease others. The resultant sound quality is excellent though, especially for music and video, so it is hard to fault them.
Everything else in the box, from the packaging to the case and cables, is fairly bland but more than functional enough to compliment the Bold styling. The case of course puts the Bold into standby when it is inserted.
When you first take the Bold out of the box it is a bit of a shock to see how wide it is. The back does not help on the styling front either, with a black ‘plastic’ leather look covering. Having said that, everyone I showed it to loved it? It does have a retro look to it, especially, from the back and I’m not convinced that this really works. Retro is cool, but it does depend on how retro you go- I would argue that the lack of colours and general nod to the business sector has been taken a step too far with the Bold. The Blackberry ‘Bland’ may have been a better choice of name.
The reason the hardware design irks me a little is because of what the Bold can do, but more on this later. The 2MP camera lens is housed in a square metal surround which looks as though it fell of a 1950’s toaster, and the embossed logo does not help. There are two shortcut buttons, one on each side, and the one on the left is particularly easy to press accidentally. The volume keys are fairly standard and the on/off key is included in the red end call button.
On the left hand side is a miniUSB charger and sync port which is good news and a microSD port. It is good to see such standard forms included, but it would be nice to see the charger/sync port on the bottom to allow for easier cradle manufacturing. UPDATE: From Peter- "Just to let you know, there ARE charging points for the forthcoming cradle on the bottom of the device as well as the miniUSB." The 3.5mm headphone jack will pose no problems and worked fine with my iPhone headphones and some others. Finally, there is a mute key at the top for meetings etc.
The main QWERTY keyboard is quite nice and does benefit from the extra wide format of the Bold. I wouldn’t class it in the same league as the Samsung i780, but it is up there with the Nokia E71 and Curve. There are some useful little tricks built in as standard such as holding a key to create a capital letter, and taking some time to learn the various shortcuts onboard will reap benefits very quickly. The trackball is superb and within minutes feels as natural as could be- the standard settings are just right, but there is an option to change these to suit your thumb speed. The only other buttons present are call start/end, escape and menu but that is about all you need.
Using the Blackberry Bold for the first time is an unusual feeling because it looks and feels quite dated compared to a Nokia E71 or Samsung Omnia, but there are advantages to the size. The screen is quite simply breathtaking. The richness and vibrancy of the colours lifts it well above many other devices on the market, indeed all that I have seen, and it works perfectly in all weather conditions. When I showed a work colleague a sample video they said “It’s like having your own personal TV!” and became rather excited. When I showed them a video on the iPhone they said “That’s quite nice.” It is hard to believe, but the Bold produces a better video experience than the iPhone (in my opinion) and needs to be seen to be believed.
Quad-Band GSM/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900MHz
3G/HSDPA connectivity for Internet Access
Integrated GPS navigation with BlackBerry Maps
1GB of on-board AES256 secure encrypted memory
High resolution VGA display (480 x 320)
2 mega-pixel camera
I will start with my first day which is often the point at which I throw up my hands and either hate or love a device. My experience with previous Blackberry devices has been poor and I have seen poor performance, due to lack of onboard memory, and a setup process that would challenge many technically gifted people. I am far from technical, so entered the process with trepidation.
I called Vodafone and asked for the Blackberry Internet Service to be added to my account. The cost was Ł5/month which is not too bad, but there are cheaper ways to get push email on other platforms. I went to the relevant link and was surprised to find that I could register straight away, and even more surprised that within 2 minutes of adding my Mail for Exchange and POP3 email accounts to the Vodafone site messages started arriving on the Bold. I am having a problem when opening Outlook on my PC in that duplicate messages arrive, but I suspect that is an easy problem to fix (anyone?).
Call quality is excellent and so is signal strength. Both are superior to the Nokia E71 and this surprised me a lot. The speakerphone is as clear as a bell and also better than the E71. 3G reception is also pretty good and I have managed a good lock in places that the E71 and N95 could not manage which must have a big impact on battery life. No longer is the Blackberry a poor ‘phone’ because the Bold proves otherwise in every department.
During the first two days, at no point did the Bold slow down or crash- there is not a lot of internal process memory present (1GB of internal static memory though), but it does not seem to matter. The processor is super fast and even the most intense of applications run without a glitch. From a performance point of view it has been hard to fault the Bold so far, but you will need to come back tomorrow to see if it continues to perform in such a positive manner.
Tomorrow I will be looking at each aspect of the Blackberry Bold from eBooks through to GPS and analysing how good a ‘PDA’ this smartphone really is.
How Flexible Is It?
The Blackberry platform has long been considered the top dog in the corporate world, and this is something that has confused me in the past. RIM cleverly aimed the devices, email services and billing squarely at corporations who needed their employees to be in touch all of the time, but for the rest of us it has been a case of average phones with limited features. Over time RIM has attempted to encroach on the consumer market and the Bold represents a giant leap in terms of how the Blackberry brand will appeal to the masses.
I am going to look at the Bold from the point of view of a seasoned smartphone user and see if it can cope with a multitude of high-end tasks, and still bring top of the range communication to the party.
On the PIM side the Bold does very well and the large screen certainly helps here. Contacts, Calendar, Tasks and Memos has all had an overhaul, but are not that different to what Blackberry users have been used to for many years. The ‘Zen of Blackberry’ is still firmly in place and this means that the user will experience super fast and efficient organisation whenever they need to. With the Bold, RIM has given the entire interface and overhaul and managed to bring it into 2008 without losing the good bits.
eReader does not currently support Blackberry phones, but MobiPocket does and I was surprised to see how well eBooks are displayed on the Bold screen. All in all MobiPocket at last feels as good as eReader when run on the Bold.
Finance is easily catered for using Ascendo Money which has proved itself worthy of the most complex of reporting and money management. The desktop application only adds to the ease of use and this is one of the best applications I have used to date on any system.
Video, as I said yesterday, is awesome on the built-in video player and there is no need for CorePlayer on the Bold. Some files will need converting, but even basic mp4 files play well on this device.
I found the included Memopad application to be quite basic, but a worthy application for keeping countless notes and ID’s in one place. The search function brings it all together nicely and is irreplaceable for me already.
GPS hardware is of course included in the Bold and Wayfinder Navigator surprised me by how accurate it was. It looks basic and the standard voice sounds like a 12 year old girl’s, but it is good enough for basic navigation. Because I am on Vodafone, it’s Sat Nav application appeared on the Bold within a day and I may as well have had Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles directing me for all the good it was. Blackberry Maps is included by default and sits somewhere in between the two- not too shabby, but not great either. There are other solutions available, but none of the big boys seem to want to join the Blackberry fold just yet.
What all of the above shows is that there is now a good range of third party software available for the latest Blackberry devices and in my opinion the selection is better than the Symbian side. Symbian still does not have a decent financial manager which is bizarre in 2008.
The Bold coped with every piece of software I threw at it and this soon offers reassurance to the user who wants to experiment a little. In the 4 days I have had the Bold, I have managed to cover all of my most basic smartphone needs with little financial outlay which is impressive.
Smartphone entertainment falls into three categories for me- music, video and eBooks. It is important for me to use a smartphone which can do all of them well and to date only the iPhone has rated excellent in all three areas.
Not for one moment did I expect the Bold to challenge the iPhone in any of these areas, but curiously it has. Video playback is sumptuous and the screen is the main reason for this- I have played a few films on the Bold already and enjoyed the experience more than on my iPhone. Some of you may not figure how this is possible, but it is and has shocked me somewhat.
Music playback is also, wait for it, better than the iPhone! The sound quality is stunning with decent headphones attached and only the user interface lets it down a little. It is super quick to navigate between songs and artists because it follows the standard Blackberry set up, but will not look ‘pretty’ enough for some.
eBooks look great on the Bold and the speed of page turning is very natural with the trackball, but it’s fair to say that the iPhone takes the crown in this department. I would still rate the Bold as better than almost any other phone I have tried in the eBook department.
The Camera is not too bad for a 2MP model, but the video recording could be better. All in all, I managed a few good snaps with it and it is passable as an add-on.
So, RIM has done a superb job on the entertainment side with the Bold, and I can genuinely see this replacing the iPhone for me- it is that good.
The Serious Bits
The good news story continues when we look at the practical parts of the Bold. Battery life is excellent, especially without 3G turned on, and it again outperforms the Nokia E71. Call quality and the speakerphone are the best I have heard, and the keyboard also gets better over time. As I have mentioned, the screemn works well in all weather conditions and this is the final part of the jigsaw for me. For practicality alone, the Bold is a star performer and with entertainment functionality as good as this the package is almost complete.
Ironically the bit that I hated at the start, the width of the device, is the reason it can compete with so many other smartphones. The entertainment experience is simply wonderful and the business side is just as effective as it has always been. RIM has enhanced the software interface from top to bottom and having 480 x 320 super bright pixels to play with makes this quite an easy task.
The large wide screen, swift keyboard and powerhouse performance make this one of the most impressive smartphones I have ever seen. I had problems with the Curve previously and hated the OS and hardware after a few days, but a few tweaks from RIM and hardware that performs ‘all’ of the time has made all of the difference in the world. The only negative is the price which will hopefully come down with time- the current price puts it a square Ł100 higher than a non contract iPhone 3G, and that is not easy to justify.
Recently, I said that “the Nokia E71 is the best smartphone I have ever used.” I now need to replace ‘is’ with ‘was’.
Build Quality (out of ten)- 8
Ease of use- 9
Screen clarity- 10
Value for money- 8
Total score (%)- 92%
Blackberry Bold Long Term Test: Two Weeks In
Yes, I still have the Blackberry Bold and it is proving to be a very different smartphone to the Palm, Windows Mobile and Symbian devices I have used previously. Let’s start with the issues I encountered at the start-
Duplicate Emails: New Blackberry users will no doubt find the initial set up of email to be a little strange. Everything is set up off of the phone by a BES or BIS service and this is a bizarre concept to someone like me who has been using MS Exchange with minimal problems on other mobile platforms. My first issue came because I would constantly receive duplicate emails of sent, received and even deleted items to the Blackberry when using Outlook on my PC. After much research I found a solution, but it is a little convoluted- I had to set up a new email account on the Vodafone Blackberry Internet Service, I then set up my MS Exchange account to forward all incoming emails to my new email account. Finally, I set up the Vodafone account to send emails masked as my MS Exchange account. This may sound strange, but it gave the same effect as if using normal MS Exchange and it is super quick.
I am still not convinced by the standard format of displaying messages, which is basically just a list, but it does not take too long to get used to it. I guess that there is logic to separating your mobile and PC emails in this way and not trying to replicate the Outlook experience on a smartphone, so the jury is out for me on this at the moment.
Application Memory: The lack of internal application memory concerned me a lot at first because I felt like I was using a Treo 650 or an early 64MB Windows Mobile device all over again. My concerns were fairly short lived once I realised how the system worked. At one point I was down to 2.4MB of free memory, but everything still worked perfectly. The next day that had popped back up to 14MB without my intervention, so it looks as though there is some kind of built-in mechanism to deal with this. It does, however, show how efficient the operating system is to cope with such little free memory.
Highlights: There have been a lot of highlights with the Blackberry Bold including an immense battery life, at least compared to other devices I have used, complete reliability, stunning screen, great keyboard and in general the overall performance. It has not missed a beat and works 24 hours a day with no issues at all.
I have thousands of songs and many videos loaded and these all play in outstanding quality. The external speaker is surprisingly good and the sound via headphones is even better. I am still finding it hard to grasp that a business-like device can do entertainment so well.
There’s not much I can add at this time except that say that it feels like a Palm OS smartphone with a re-styled operating system and hardware that actually feels and works like it should in 2008.
Last edited by stmcgill; 09-16-2008 at 10:44 AM.
Blackberry, Symbian, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android etc. etc.
WOW! That's all I can think to say right now. Thank you Shaun for the AWESOME review! Best I've seen so far! And very well written!
I look forward to more of your bold reviews
Thanks very much. This is related as well-
The Buying Experience: Full Marks to RIM
When you purchase a new smartphone you expect some fundamental things to happen- all of the equipment should work, the instruction manuals should be easy to follow and the included accessories should cover most of what you need to get started. Almost all new smartphones come with these basic parts in place, although there are a few exceptions. Now and then something happens that makes you feel wanted and part of a process rather than a transaction. Of course it is generally nothing more than marketing, but RIM has come up with a neat little trick which improved my perception of the company.
I joined the Blackberry Owners Lounge which is free and had to enter some details online. I ticked a few boxes to highlight the features and areas that I required more information on and then proceeded to have a wander around the online environment. I was quite impressed by the set up and forgot all about it until today.
Through my letterbox dropped a small magazine from RIM with “Activate Shaun McGill” typed in bold lettering on the front. At the top it read “Shaun can email surf chat message view listen text invite organise respond call download watch read achieve more.” This was an impressive start, but the entire magazine was printed in a way that is personal to me.
Every single page mentions my name and because I chose Vodafone as my provider there is also a handy list of contact details for Vodafone on the last page. The entire magazine is set up for the Bold and seemingly me
Obviously this is just a clever trick, but it is one that will impress even the most cynical of new purchasers. If I am impressed, anyone will be!
Blackberry, Symbian, iPhone, Windows Mobile, Android etc. etc.
Nice review there Shaun, well done. A bit surprised about Vodafone sat nav since it worked ok with me but I didn't test it extensively tbh.
I truly think that the Bold will last longer with me than my usual 6 months with handsets.
Excellent review Shaun my little review can go hide lol.
I am really impressed and for some reason love reading and reading reviews about a phone i use all day everyday
Thanks again, impressive writing.
Awesome review, makes me want to go out a buy a bold right now!
Dont sweat the small stuff, hell dont sweat anything!
go and get it its the most amazing device ive ever had !
~via BB (wap.pinstack.com)~
Thank you Shaun. Exceptional piece
Good looks on the review!
T-Mobile HTC Touch Pro2 & I'm not coming back! :D
Nicely done, Shaun! Really appreciate the concise review!
Wow! Great review. The best one I've seen.
~via BB (wap.pinstack.com)~
That was a nice review, especially coming from a non BB user. This would entice anyone who doesnt have a BB to at least consider the bold. I would love to hear from a BB user to see what they think. A lot of things you have mentioned is there in the curve (beside the killer processor speed), whether he knew it or not. And a lot of the issues (like duplicate emails) can be resolved with adjustment of the settings. Now, a review from an experienced BB user to us BB users about the bold can tell us THE DIFFERENCE between whats new and whats already out as far as BBs.
Nice review .
Altough my experience with the trackball is way different .
I've had a few different BOLDs in my hands already . And i must say the trackball performs worse than on a 88xx or 83xx phone .
It hurts my thumb even after using it for only 10 minutes .
I think this is due to the fact that the surface around the trackball doesn't slide as good as the previous phones . Also it feels like you have to 'press' the trackball more before it starts moving . All in all it feels like it is set too much down into the phone .
That's my opinion .
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