The new Blackberry Bold 2 is not a revolutionary update to the original Bold 9000, but the new model improves on the original with significant refinements that will make T-Mobile BlackBerry users very happy, especially since it’s the first Blackberry to support their 3G network. What is really nice about the Bold this time around is that both AT&T and T-Mobile are getting it at the same time, there are no exclusives. Thank goodness! We’re so sick of carriers getting exclusives over one another, and if AT&T got one more great smartphone exclusive we just couldn’t bare it.
Design and Build Quality:
The Bold 9700 has a slimmed down size and formfactor compared to the original. The Bold 9700 measures 4.3 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches in comparison to the original Bold’s 4.5 x 2.6 x 0.6-inch measurements. During its time off, the device has also dropped .5 ounces and weighs 4.3 ounces compared to the Bold 9000’s 4.8 ounces. The build quality of the Bold 9700 feels very good. Its new form-factor also seems more slick and refined, and even less masculine. The infamous leather finish on the back of the Bold is still there and is still a really nice touch.
Gone is the trackball from the original Bold 9000, in its place is a new optical trackpad which was first used on T-Mobile’s Curve 8520. The optical trackpad took some getting used too; especially after having been accustomed to using the the trackball on my Curve 8900 but I really – really like it. It makes operating the device and menus much less strenuous. You really reap the benefits of the optical trackpad when viewing web sites, since its now much easier to move around in all different directions without tediously rolling a trackball under your thumb. The trackball was also notorious for breaking, so now there is one less hardware issue to worry about.
The device has a 480 x 360 resolution compared to the Bold’s original 2.6″ 480×320 resolution. Overall, the Bold 9700’s display is excellent, and very colorful, making video playback very pleasant as well as viewing photos.
Since the Bold 2 is smaller in size, its keyboard keys are also smaller and more cramped than the original Bold. Unlike the Curve which has some spacing between each key, the Bold’s keys are all squeezed in tightly up next to one another and they have a squishy feel when you’re typing. The Bold 9700’s keys also retain the raised edges of its predecessor. The smaller keyboard means that people with bigger fingers and long nails might struggle with the keyboard. I personally find the typing experience on the Bold comfortable, but my co-editor preferred the feel of the Curve 8900’s keyboard which had smaller sized, harder keys with more space in between each key.
Performance and U.I.:
The 9700 runs the new BlackBerry OS 5.0 very snappily thanks to its 624mhz processor. We didn’t notice much lag at all when multi-tasking. The 5.0’s U.I. isn’t a drastic change but it provides pretty noticeable speed improvements and some perks like an improved web browser.
The 9700 comes with Dataviz Documents To Go which lets you view Word, Excel, and Powerpoint Docs. A full suite of IM apps are also included – there is a dedicated app of reach major IM platform AIM, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger and ICQ. You can run IM applications in the background and receive notifications of new messages with a small icon on top of the screen just like you do when new emails come in. It would be much easier if they included a multi-service IM client, but there is always the BlackBerry App World for you to download apps from later. But oddly enough BlackBerry App World didn’t come preinstalled, so we had to download it and install it on our own. The device also comes preloaded with 5 games including Soduku, and of course brick-breaker.
First off, navigating web sites is now so much more enjoyable using the optical trackpad! Testing the 9700 in New York City, using T-mobile’s 3G network we experienced the following loading times:
13 seconds for NYTimes.com (mobile version)
10 seconds for CNN.com (mobile version)
1:10 seconds for ChipChick.com
2.8 seconds for Google.com (mobile version)
7 seconds for YouTube (mobile version)
16 seconds for ESPN (mobile version)
17 seconds for TMZ.com
35 seconds for SmashingMagazine.com
44 seconds for Bensbargains.net
Overall, T-Mobile’s 3G network seems pretty speedy, but we recommend using the Opera web browser to really take advantage of T-Mobile’s 3G network
Call quality on the Bold 9700 is very, very good. And is a big improvement over previous BlackBerry models that we’ve used. In New York City so far we’ve only been greeted with 5 bars, but we’ve yet to travel outside of Manhattan where T-mobile’s coverage is generally very good, we also haven’t experienced any dropped calls. Except that last night T-Mobile did experience some outages in NYC.
When you’re in a call, there is a special option to “Enhance call audio”. Even when set to the default Normal quality, call quality is very good. The other two options include Boost Bass and Boost Treble of your voice. Callers on the other end said that Boost Bass made them hear me more clearer and crisper and Boost Treble not only made them hear me sound clearer and crisper, but it also made me sound louder to their ears, so much so that they had to turn down their handset’s volume.
The device has support for T-Mobile’s @Home service. For $9.99 a month this service will give you unlimited calls whenever you’re on your home Wi-Fi connection or at a hotspot.
Like the previous Bold, the 9700 is a decent multimedia machine. Videos playback nicely and audio sounds good on the 3.5mm headphone jack. The device supports MP3, WMA, AAC, And OGG music files, as well as MP4, DIVX and WMV file support to 640×480 in resolution. There is a 2GB microSD card included to get you started on saving docs. Unfortunately even the mobile version of YouTube doesn’t work to well with the BlackBerry’s browser even when connected via Wi-Fi. If you’re looking for video entertainment on the go, the PrimeTime2Go video app for $9.99 a month will give you access to many popular TV shows like Heroes and CSI, but only over Wi-Fi. There are also other great apps like Slacker which works great for with the BlackBerry when you want to listen to music on the go.
We’ve only been using the Bold 9700 for a few days, and so far the battery has lasted through a day of average use.
Camera and Video Camera:
The 3.2 megapixel camera captures great shots, much superior to most of the smartphones out there with good color reproduction, even in dimly lit rooms. Videos are also good quality but have a low 480×352 resolution.
The BlackBerry Bold 9700 isn’t a massive upgrade from its predecessor, it’s more about making refinements to an already great workhorse of a smartphone. The handset still can’t compete with the multimedia chops of the iPhone, and even of the latest Android devices, but it’s still a super reliable business smartphone. The Bold will be available from T-Mobile soon for a $199 with a 2 year contract. If you are looking to retire your older BlackBerry, you should definitely consider giving this one a whirl.
Update 12/28/09: The BlackBerry Bold 2 for AT&T is currently available for $o.o1 from AT&T at Amazon with contract. Or you can purchase it for $499 without a contract. T-mobile customers can get it for as low as $99 with a contract, or $529 without a contract.
Better camera than the original Bold, excellent display, optical trackpad makes operating the device much more enjoyable, great call quality with call enhancement feature, snappy performance, great build quality and form-factor, solid multimedia device, visual voicemail is always a nice touch
Keypad is smallish and might be difficult to use for bigger fingers, BlackBerry’s built-in web browser doesn’t do T-Mobile’s 3G network justice, BlackBerry App World still doesn’t come close to the AppStore, and the device still doesn’t come close to the iPhone’s multimedia capabilities
Update 09/27/11: You might also want to check out our BlackBerry Bold 9930 Review