RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 Review

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Introduction and Design
We are reviewing the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 for T-Mobile. Note thatthe phone is also coming to AT&T in the followingweeks.

Introduction:

RIM reinvented itself in many ways when they released the BlackBerry Bold on AT&T almost a year and a half ago. It set the tone for how all of their future devices were to be designed. We got our first glimpse of RIM's transformation with the updated industrial design and interface on the Bold 9000 that continues to be a staple for the manufacturer. Fast forward now and RIM is about to release the successor to the Bold 9000 - the BlackBerry Bold 9700. The cosmetic resemblance is minimal when you look from afar and pit it against the other devices they've launched. Let's take a closer look into the Bold 9700's world and see how it will attract customers to its mesmerizing gaze.

The package contains:

RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700
Charger
microUSB cable
Carrying case
Stereo headset
microSD card

Design:

Upon closer inspection, it's relatively easy to see some of the design elements that were used in previous BlackBerry devices. It's your typical BlackBerry handset with a striking resemblance to the recent BlackBerry Tour 9630 – same keyboard and button layout. When you look at its design evolution from the original Bold 9700, it's almost unheard of to see any immediate connections to it – the only thing intact from the original is its leather like back covering. We enjoyed seeing the more pronounced polished chrome border brilliantly elevating the overall appeal of the phone. At the same time, the overall footprint has been reduced – making it one of the sleekest and compact BlackBerries we've seen to date. Being a quality product from RIM, you won't question its durability thanks to the superb materials and workmanship. At the same time, it feels lighter in the hand and won't require much room in the pocket. We can't tire and say it enough, but RIM really outdid itself once again with the BlackBerry Bold 9700.



You can compare the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 with many other phones using our Size Visualization Tool.

RIM does not deviate at all from their tried and true designs that make their handsets such a noticeable product. You'll be mesmerized by the gorgeous 2.44" TFT LCD screen that has a resolution of 480x360 pixels with support for 65k colors. Its rich color tones are accentuated with the bright and visible display. The smallest of text won't be a problem reading out due to the high resolution display - just like what we've seen on the Tour. Fear not about losing visibility when using it outdoors in direct sunlight, it's more than visible at all angles. The Bold 9700 does a good job of automatically adjusting brightness thanks to the light sensor.

At this point, we weren't surprised to see the Bold 9700's QWERTY keyboard be an exact duplicate to the one found on the Tour. The styling and layout remains intact with even the silver separators in place. Buttons are contoured to accommodate a left or right stance - so typing will be joy with even the cramped confines. However, we do notice that the backlighting is dimmer than the Tour's - so it won't have as much of a luminance factor in the dark. Overall, there isn't too much to complain about the comfortable and responsive QWERTY except for the fact that there weren't any innovations with it so it feels a bit stale at this point.



The most glaring cosmetic difference is the implementation of the trackpad as opposed to the trackball. It works surprisingly well and we were able to fit in right away - it's responsive and even works better than the trackball. The other hardware buttons surrounding the trackpad remain unchanged, but they have a more solid feel than the ones on the Tour - meaning they don't move around as much and stay in place.

The left side houses the left convenience key,  microUSB port, and standard 3.5mm headset jack - common features found on just every BlackBerry. The right edge ditches the styling of previous devices and adopts the rugged feeling keys on the Storm2 for the volume rocker and right convenience key. The top portion discretely hides the lock and mute buttons - just the same we've seen previously. Turning it over to its back, you'll find the 3.2-megapixel auto-focusing camera with LED flash - both surrounding the "BOLD" logo and speakerphone. One item we preferred on the Bold 9700 is the sliding mechanism to remove the rear cover opposed to the lifting motion used on the Tour. The large-sized battery will be exposed with easy access to the microSD slot located near the top.



RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 360 Degrees View:



The birth of RIM's platform transformation emanated from the Bold 9000's inception – it continues to live on in almost every BlackBerry we've seen since then. The BlackBerry Bold 9700 isn't an exception and continues to showcase RIM's platform in the form of the latest 5.0 version. Visually everything remains intact with very little nuances to make it even noticeable to the naked eye. One of the few things that everyday BlackBerry users will take note is the “*” symbol popping up in either your email or instant messaging icons to notify you that a new message has arrived. The media folder now breaks down the specific functions to subfolders to allow faster access directly from the main menu. Finally, there's the precision theme that rearranges the usual home screen look to a panel-like interface that displays information like messages, call log, and calendar – it's nothing impressive, but looks like RIM has broken out of their traditional mold. It's a small step in a new direction, but looks pale in comparison to what HTC's TouchFLO 3D or Samsung's TouchWiz interface offer. Navigating through the phone feels a lot faster and more intuitive – especially thanks to the responsive optical trackpad.



So what's new with the phonebook on the BlackBerry Bold 9700? Well, absolutely nothing because it's still the same that was first featured on the Bold 9000. There's a decent amount of information that you can place with each contact – phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, and web pages are all there. With its straightforward structure, the phone can hold an almost endless amount of contacts.



Like any BlackBerry, the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 supports a whole slew of messaging options. Standards like SMS and MMS are on board, as is support for multiple email accounts and BlackBerry PIN messaging.  Other preloaded IM clients are AIM, GTalk, ICQ, Windows Live and Yahoo Messenger allowing you to keep in touch with virtually anyone.



Email setup on the BlackBerry is about as perfect as it gets, we simply put in our email and password and that was it. Even with our uncommon work email we didn’t have to enter any server information. The push email arrived nearly instantaneously in our testing. With the BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) the user can have up to 10 email addresses on one device.



The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 continues the trend with its decent photo quality – it's nothing breathtaking, but it's sufficient for the average user. There isn't a bump in the camera and it retains the same 3.2-megapixel sensor found on the Tour. Running the application was quick enough clocking in at 2 seconds for startup and roughly another two for the auto-focusing to kick in and snap the shot. Colors didn't look as bright as we would've liked, but it does not deter from the overall look. There's also enough detail to make out in the image, but closer inspection will result in muddy images. It doesn't try to provide any additional new features and continues RIM's usual set of options in tweaking shots. Definitely it's better than most in its class but doesn't go further to really set the pace.




The Bold 9700 received a slight bump in its video capturing resolution over what's found on the Tour – it's now at 480x360. However, it's not a major difference in terms of overall quality from what we saw. For the most part, videos recorded were smooth with little or no choppiness as we transitioned from bright to dim settings. Colors had a normal tone to them while sound was flawlessly replicated. Again, nothing new implemented in terms of new features that we haven't seen before.


RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 video sample

The media player is good and simple to use, but not overly loaded with features. It supports folders, and will sort your music by Artist, Album and Genres. It also supports album art and playlists, which the user can create on the go, and the other options are Repeat and Shuffle. Audio formats supported are MP3, AMR-NB, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+, WMA and WAV, while the video formats are MPEG4, H.263 and WMV.  Although the relatively small dimensions of the screen may not make it the best option for watching videos, this is still a pleasing experience.  The included stereo headphones are pretty poor, but the 3.5mm jack means you can use any headphones you want.  With our higher quality headphones music sounded very good.



The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 is one of the most network-friendly BlackBerries out there, thanks to its quad-band (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) capability and tri-band UMTS (900/1700/2100 MHz) support. In addition, it features support for UMA calling, so adding T-Mobile's Unlimited HotSpot Calling for $9.99 per month to any voice plans starting at $39.99 will get you unlimited calling through a Wi-Fi connection.

By now, we know where RIM'sweb browser stands among the others littered across various platforms. With version 5.0 tacked on, we did notice some slight improvements in the speed department as pages loaded up. Scrolling is smooth with little rendering required for photos and text, but it's still nothing close to the experience that a WebKit based browser offers. And yet, it is an improvement over the experience we had with the original BlackBerry Bold 9000.





Performance:

Using it to place phone calls, we did notice some static noise on our end which was more pronounced when the volume was at its highest. However when placing it on a middle setting, the static sound was very faint; almost non-existent. Voices sounded normal both on our end and our callers. When using the speakerphone, we were surprised at how well voices sounded clear. The fact that the Bold 9700 is able to handle UMA calling makes it stand out among the current line of RIM devices – call quality was just the same. Other than the static sounds that we heard, we were pleased with the overall performance of the BlackBerry Bold 9700. We can definitely see the advantages that UMA calling will offer – specifically the solid connection when network coverage is poor. Let's hope we continue to see more phones in the future integrate this feature.

We know that T-Mobile's network wasn't to blame on the BlackBerry Bold 9700's poor network connectivity. Too many times while using the device in the greater Philadelphia area we noticed it losing connection to the network.

Placing the phone to automatic brightness, we were able to get a full two days use out of the Bold 9700 – this included heavy text and data usage during our testing. The 1500mAh battery matches the one found on the original, but falls a little short on what we got on the Bold 9000. Nonetheless, we're content that it is able to pull through for a couple days before requiring a recharge – we'd go as far as considering it slightly above average when comparing to the crop of other smartphones. RIM has the phone rated for 6 hours of talk and 456 hours of standby time.

Conclusion:

With so many current-generation BlackBerry devices available, it's really difficult to comprehend where the BlackBerry Bold 9700 fits in all of it. The original Bold 9000 really set the tone for the rest of RIM's devices to this point, but we feel that the Bold 9700 doesn't innovate RIM's stature. Sure we like the updated slim looks which make it one of the sleekest looking ‘Berry devices we've seen, but it's basically the same thing we've been seeing. The hardware, design and platform remain almost unchanged and we have a difficult time seeing customers choose this device over other ones that RIM has available. However, it does everything right like one would expect a BlackBerry to do, but we are just waiting for RIM to really take it to the next level with its next generation BlackBerry. If you're on the lookout for a RIM smartphone, then the Bold 9700 is a great option; but it isn't worth as an upgrade from a current-gen BlackBerry.

RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 Video Review:





Pros

  • Slimmer looks
  • UMA calling
  • Decent battery life

Cons

  • Unchanged design
  • Poor signal connection

PhoneArena Rating:

8.5

User Rating:

8.4
9 Reviews

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