RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520 Review
Traditionally RIM has catered to the higher end, but with their push into the consumer market the need for an entry level model was inevitable. Meet the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520, previously known as the BlackBerry Gemini. It offers a good form factor, solid but average specs and the wonderful QWERTY that RIM has been known for. The xx20 indicates that it has Wi-Fi, but on the cellular networks you’ll be putzing along with EDGE in lieu of 3G. One unique feature is the optical “trackball,” replacing the analog one we’ve come to know and love. The device has yet to be officially announced, but with the 85xx designation we expect it to be offered at a bargain price.
This new Curve follows the traditional Blackberry layout: the 2.64” screen sits above a full QWERTY keyboard, two convenience keys adorn either side and a simplistic back with the 2 megapixel camera at the top. It measures 4.29 x 2.36 x 0.55 inches, which makes it slightly thicker than the Curve 8900, but weights about the same (3.74 oz).
You can compare the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520 with many other phones using ourSize Visualization Tool.
The screen is unfortunately only 320x240, a noticeable downgrade from recent RIM units. It is still sharp and crisp though, and QVGA isn’t exactly poor. For an entry level unit it’s more than acceptable.
There is an undeniable plastic feel to this new Curve, though it doesn’t go so far as to feel cheep. The sides of the phone, and top and bottom of the back, all are finished in soft touch paint which gives it just a bit of grip and a good feel. The side keys (convenience keys on each side, volume rocker on the right) are all merely bumps as opposed to individual keys with the housing “stretching” to accommodate them instead of breaking. We’ve seen this from Motorola iDEN units before, and we like it.
The keyboard layout is the same as always. The one twist is that the trackball has been replaced with an optical trackpad. We’re not exactly sure why RIM made this move, other than to try something different. It took a bit of getting used to, but after cranking up the sensitivity we like it just fine. It’s not really different than the trackball though, so unless RIM is trying to increase reliability (an well documented issue) there doesn’t seem to be any advantage to one over the other.
The top of the phone offers the user media control buttons, the middle of which doubles as a mute button. The top left has a 3.5mm headphone jack and microUSB data/charging port. The back houses a simple 2.0MP camera in the soft touch area; there is no flash this time around. The battery door is pried off, there is no mechanical latch, and underneath is the microSD slot. Like the Pre and iPhone, the shiny black plastic is a fingerprint magnet but looks awfully pretty when clean.
The design may not be quite as high class as the flagship Storm, but it does not give the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520 away as an entry level device. The balance and weight is good, leading to a good in-hand feel. The optical trackpad gives it a unique twist. The display may not be able to match others, but its plenty good and don’t feel that it detracts from the overall design.