As with all BlackBerry models, messaging is the Curve 8530's strongpoint. It can sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise server, offering 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. The smartphone also comes preloaded with several instant-messaging clients, including Yahoo, AIM, Windows Live, Google Talk, and BlackBerry Messenger.
There is a built-in attachment viewer, so you can open Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, and GIF files. In addition, the device ships with DataViz's Documents to Go Suite Standard Edition (you'll need to upgrade to the Premium Edition if you want the ability to create new documents), but you can download more productivity tools, games, travel aids, and much more from the BlackBerry App World. Just be sure to keep tabs on the device's memory (256MB flash memory; 256MB RAM), as you can only save apps to the phone's main memory.
The phone is equipped with a microSD expansion slot located behind the battery door and it can accept up to 16GB cards, so that should give you plenty of space to store multimedia files. The Curve 8530's media player supports MP3, WMA9/WMA9 Pro/WMA10, AAC-LC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, and MIDI music files, and MPEG4, WMV2, H.263, and H.264 video clips. The photo viewer also supports BMP, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and WBMP files.
On back, you'll find the smartphone's 2-megapixel camera, which has a 5x digital zoom and video recording capabilities. Picture quality was pretty poor. Indoor shots came out dull and dark and had somewhat of a pinkish hue.
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 in New York using Verizon service, and call quality was mixed. On our end, we enjoyed clear audio with plenty of volume and very little background noise or voice distortion. We also had no problems using an airline's voice-automated response system and didn't experience any dropped calls during our testing period. However, callers reported muffled sound quality and had to ask us to repeat ourselves several times. The situation was the same when we activated the speakerphone; while we could hear our friends just fine even on a noisy street, they said voice quality was garbled. On a brighter note, we had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
Despite the clunky navigation of the BlackBerry Browser, Verizon's swift 3G speeds made it easy to access sites. CNET's full site loaded in just 32 seconds while CNN and ESPN's mobile sites came up in 10 seconds and 8 seconds, respectively. We also downloaded a 2.39MB song from V Cast Music, which took 56 seconds.
The smartphone's general performance was snappy. It was performed most tasks with very little delay. We only had one uh-oh moment: after ending a phone call the screen froze halfway when trying to go back to the Home screen, but it returned to normal after about a minute. This seemed to be an isolated incident, as it didn't happen again during our review period and we didn't experience any system crashes.
Music playback was quite impressive over the phone's speaker with robust volume and without sounding too tinny. Of course, with the built-in standard 3.5mm jack, you're also free to plug in your favorite headphones or earbuds without dealing with a cumbersome audio adapter. In addition, the external media controls on top of the device make it easy to control the player without having to look at the screen.
The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 features a 1,150mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 4.5 hours and up to 10.5 days of standby time. The Curve gave us 5.5 hours of continuous talk time in our battery drain tests, beating the rated talk time by an hour. FCC radiation tests, the Curve 8530 has a digital SAR rating of 1.31 watts per kilogram and has a M4/T4 Hearing Aid Compatibility rating.