After leaving a rather sour taste in our mouths with the Torch 9800, RIM is bringing its BlackBerry 6 operating system to the Bold line. Typing on the BlackBerry Bold 9780 is a joy, but, like a square peg hammered into a round hole, the OS can't really shine on a device with no touchscreen. The Bold 9780 is available on contract for around £25. SIM-only prices start at around £400.
Back to the old school
Keyboard-loving BlackBerry fans who dutifully purchased the excellentback in 2009 will probably be eyeing the 9780 with intense interest. Although the BlackBerry Torch 9800 was the first device from RIM to boast version 6 of its operating system, we're willing to bet that many hardcore devotees passed on purchasing it because of its sliding form factor and reliance on touchscreen commands -- two elements that don't exactly fit in with the company's ethos. The 9780 is therefore the first 'traditional' RIM phone to get the BlackBerry 6 OS, but by sticking to convention, the company has missed out on the opportunity to keep up with its rivals.
From a physical standpoint, the 9780 is almost identical to its predecessor. There are subtle differences -- including a slightly different faux-leather pattern on the back -- but for all intents and purposes, this is last year's fashion masquerading as today's trend. Not that there's anything especially wrong with that, of course. The 9700 was quite a looker, and this updated version retains the sleek lines, robust build quality and that gorgeous Qwerty keyboard.
Any review of a BlackBerry device simply wouldn't be complete with some mention of its keyboard. Thankfully, the example sported by the 9780 doesn't disappoint. It's exactly the same as the one on the 9700, and as anyone who has used that particular device will tell you, that is most certainly an encouraging thing. Although the sheer volume of buttons crammed into such a small space is initially intimidating, it doesn't take long for you to fall in love once your fingertips touch the keys. It's easy to see why BlackBerry's line of products is so heavily favoured by mobile email users, because tapping out an essay-like message on the 9780 is almost as natural as using a full-blown computer keyboard.
Despite being the spitting image of the 9700, the 9780 does feature some internal enhancements. The most notable is the 5-megapixel camera, which offers up far superior shots than its forebear. We were genuinely impressed by the quality and honestly weren't expecting so significant an improvement. Sadly, the same can't be said of the phone's video-recording prowess, which is sketchy at best. Those of you expecting RIM to jump on board the increasingly popular 720p-capture bandwagon are going to be severely put out by the 9780's blocky and jerky footage.
One element of the phone's specification which hasn’t changed since the 9700 is the CPU, which remains locked down at 624MHz -- this is comparable to most low-level Android devices these days. Thankfully, the amount of on-board RAM has been doubled to 512MB, and this seems to have a dramatic effect on overall performance. Using the phone is a smooth and trouble-free affair.
BlackBerry 6 and the 9780: The odd couple
As we've already mentioned, the 9780 eschews the touchscreen revolution entirely -- navigation is handled by a capacitive touchpad, just as was the case on the 9700. It's incredibly sensitive and takes some getting used to, but on the whole it performs admirably. In saying that, the combination of this interface with the BlackBerry 6 OS -- which, lest we forget, was designed to function with the Torch's touchscreen -- throws up some quirks. Selecting the app or icon you want is a counter-intuitive process, and it's clear that many operations would be better executed if you could just stab them with one of your digits.
Thank goodness, then, for the ability to explore your entire phone using BlackBerry 6's powerful Universal Search tool. Always within reach on the home screen, this feature grants near-instantaneous access to almost every facet of the 9780's functionality, and makes up for the shortcomings of the menu system.