RIM broke away from its standard QWERTY designs by releasing the BlackBerry Torch, the company’s first attempt at integrating a touchscreen with a keyboard. Although it may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, the Canadian firm saw firsthand how successful the touchscreen/QWERTY combination could be and has now introduced its first touch and type device, the BlackBerry Bold 9900.
The new touchscreen feature may ruffle some feathers among ‘Berry traditionalists, but RIM is keen to remedy this by blinding the doubters with its most impressive Bold specs to date. But can change be a good thing?
RIM has been shouting about the BlackBerry Bold 9900’s new looks and with good reason! It has taken a step away from the safe all-black exterior and got itself some striking stainless steel sides, not dissimilar to those found on the iPhone 4. It makes the Bold 9900 look a lot sharper and the high-gloss glass-weave battery cover gives the otherwise plain back panel a bit of edge. The QWERTY itself was a pleasure to use with the keys light to the touch and nicely spaced out to make typing a breeze.
As you would expect from a Bold device, the 9900 has a solid, premium feel and although it’s slightly bigger than its predecessor (probably to accommodate its larger screen), it’s the thinnest BlackBerry smartphone yet at 10.5mm thick.
As we already mentioned, the Bold 9900 has a bigger display at 2.8-inches which was a sensible move by RIM in order to make the touchscreen more usable. The handset is kitted out with Liquid Graphics software, powered along by the latest version of BlackBerry software OS 7, and the quality of the resulting visuals is superb thanks to its fantastic 287 dpi resolution. BlackBerry promise the touchscreen delivers a “fast, smooth performance for highly responsive touch-based navigation” and they certainly don’t disappoint as the screen was extremely responsive. This was particularly impressive when it came to browsing as the images displayed were crystal clear. Being at the smaller end of the touchscreen scale, using the display effectively does require a good aim, however the Bold 9900 still comes with a trusty optical trackpad to offer an alternative way of navigating around the phone.
Power and Operating System
RIM has upped the processing power significantly on the BlackBerry Bold 9900 as it sports a 1.2GHz processor. While it would be nice to see a dual-core smartphone from RIM at some point, the Bold 9900 was more than adequate when it came to processing performance and we didn’t experience any lag when using it, something which should satisfy even the most impatient user. This is partly thanks to it having the newest BlackBerry operating system on board, BlackBerry OS 7.
Superficially, OS7 is very similar to OS6 except for the menu icons, which have been given a funky makeover to bring them up to date. As well as providing a faster user experience, OS 7 also brings a few enhanced features to the table including a voice-activated universal search and BlackBerry Balance, which separates the user’s work and personal content on the handset, meaning you can check in with the office when you like without spoiling your fun.
Internet: Another thing BlackBerry OS 7 promises is an improved browsing experience and it certainly delivered the goods. Due to the small display, you’ll need to zoom into web pages in order to read text, but the pinch to zoom function was very responsive and pages rendered in an instant. The browser doesn’t have Flash support though so you’ll have to get your video fix via the dedicated YouTube app. The BlackBerry Bold 9900 also has 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, as you’d expect from a device of its standing.
Camera: The Bold 9900 packs a 5 megapixel camera with autofocus and LED flash. The picture quality was impressive with images crisp and colours vivid. We finally get HD video recording at 720p too.
Other tech specs:
- Music player – Supports MP3, eAAC+ and WMA files
- Video player – Supports MP4, WMV, H.263 and H.264 files
- NFC support
- 8GB internal memory
- 768MB RAM
- MicroSD card slot that supports cards up to 32GB
- GPS with BlackBerry Maps
- MicroUSB port
- Full version of Docs to Go
We had very few gripes with the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and it ran like a dream. We’re still not 100% convinced on the whole touch and type thing though, as a 2.8-inch touchscreen might prove a struggle to use for those lacking slender digits. While the optical trackpad can get users over that hurdle, it sort of defeats the point of the touchscreen.
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is arguably the best Bold handset to date. It oozes quality and this is evident in its premium build and easy to use QWERTY keyboard. However, thanks to a killer combination of a 1.2GHz processor and BlackBerry OS 7, RIM has really stepped things up a notch with this handset and has somehow managed to better what was already a top-notch device. Whether you’re looking to get your first BlackBerry or to upgrade your current one, the Bold 9900 won’t disappoint.