Wi-Fi and GPS are also onboard. The integrated Wi-Fi (802.11a/b/g) provides an alternative method for surfing the Net so you don't always have to rely on 3G. You can manually add a network or the smartphone can automatically scan for available networks; our review unit had no problem finding and connecting to our wireless network. There are also Wi-Fi tools, such as diagnostics, DNS lookup, and site survey. The BlackBerry browser has always lagged behind the competition with poor navigation, but there have been improvements over the year. The Bold has a full HTML Web browser, and you can choose from various two views, such as Page View or Column View. In addition to zoom in/out functions, there's also an onscreen cursor that you can move in any direction and place on any part of the page where you can click a link. It's still not an ideal situation and the Web browsing experience is nowhere near the iPhone's, but it's better than previous BlackBerrys.
The GPS is both autonomous and assisted, using both satellites and cellular triangulation to find your position. You can get maps and text-based, turn-by-turn driving directions with apps like BlackBerry Maps and Google Maps for Mobile, but if you want any real-time tracking and voice-guided instructions, you'll have to use a location-based service. The BlackBerry Bold is set up to work with AT&T Navigator and AT&T Navigator Global Edition. Currently, you can get a 30-day free trial of the service; afterward, it will cost you $9.99 per month for unlimited access or $2.99 for one day. Also be aware that data charges apply for route information.
The BlackBerry Bold ships with the latest BlackBerry OS 4.6, bringing the aforementioned updated user interface as well as new functionality. E-mail, of course, remains the strongpoint of the BlackBerry Bold. It can sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise server, with support for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise, to deliver corporate e-mail in real time. With BlackBerry Internet Service, you can also access up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts. Like all recent BlackBerry models, the Bold has a spell-check feature that will look for errors in e-mails and memos, but not text messages. There's also an attachment viewer for opening Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, GIF, and more.
Given the business focus of the Bold, it's good to see that the smartphone now comes preloaded with DataViz Documents To Go Standard Edition, so you can now edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files as well. If you want the ability to create new documents, you will have to upgrade to the Premium Edition. We had no problems opening and working on Word and Excel documents, but we can't imagine doing more than minor edits on the Bold or any other smartphone for that matter. Other PIM applications include a Calendar, a task list, a memo pad, a voice recorder, a calculator, a password keeper, and more.
The BlackBerry Bold has plenty of multimedia options, and with the smartphone's brilliant display and awesome speaker, we think it's one of the main highlights of the phone. The built-in media player can play various music and video formats, including MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, and MIDI music files, and MPEG4, WMV, DivX4, XviD (partial support), and H.263 video clips. There's a search function, playlist creation, shuffle and repeat, and you get a full-screen mode for video playback. The included software CD also contains a copy of Roxio Easy Media Creator, so you can create MP3s from CDs and add audio tags. The Bold also works with the BlackBerry Media Sync application so you can load your iTunes library. The Bold has 1GB of onboard memory and 128MB of flash memory onboard, while the expansion slot can accept up to 16GB cards.
The BlackBerry is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera with flash, 5x zoom, and video recording. For still images, you have your choice of three picture sizes and three picture qualities. There are white balance settings and color effects that you can add to the image. Thanks to the built-in GPS, you can also geotag your photos. In video mode, your options are limited as you only get three color effects and two video formats (normal and MMS).
Picture quality was decent. Images looked sharp and clear, but colors were a bit pale and washed out. Unfortunately, video quality wasn't so great. There was quite a bit of pixelation (enough to be distracting) which was disappointing since other videos looked amazing on the Bold. This, of course, has more to do with the camera than anything else.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS/HSDPA 850/1900/2000) RIM BlackBerry Bold in San Francisco using AT&T service and call quality was good. Voices sounded clear on our end with very little background noise, and we had no problems using an airline's voice automated response system. Our friends reported similarly positive results with no major complaints. The speakerphone was decent. The sound quality diminished a bit, but we were still able to carry on conversations just fine. We didn't experience any reception problems or dropped calls during our review period, but we'll continue to test the phone and report any issues that come up. We successfully paired the Bold with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
The RIM BlackBerry Bold is equipped with a 624MHz Intel PXA270 processor, whereas previous BlackBerrys had 312MHz processors, so technically, you should enjoy smoother and faster performance. During our test period, we found this to be mostly true. There were just a couple of slight delays; for example, the smartphone had to think a bit before starting a slide show. However, for the most part, the response times were fast, whether we were working on a Word document or launching the media player.
Web browsing is probably the one area that could stand for some improvement. While the page load speeds were good, whether on 3G or Wi-Fi, the browser left much to be desired. There's a lot of switching views and zooming in and out to get to the right section of a page, so it's not as seamless of an experience.
The multimedia performance on the BlackBerry Bold is amazing. We were blown away (literally) by the amazing sound that came out of the phone's dual stereo speakers. We haven't heard such full sound from any smartphone before, offering a nice balance of treble and bass, and there's plenty of volume. Of course, we're delighted there's a 3.5mm headphone jack built in and you also get 11 equalizer settings to enhance the sound. Watching videos on the Bold is incredible, thanks to the half-VGA display. Playback was incredibly smooth with barely any blurriness.
The RIM BlackBerry Bold features a 1,500mAh lithium-ion battery with a rated talk time of 4.3 hours and up to 10.5 days of standby time. The Bold blew the rated talk time out of the water in our battery drain tests, lasting a total of 7 hours on a single charge.