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BlackBerry's Bold 9930 is the best Bold yet, but is that enough?

RIM's BlackBerry Bold 9930 is an undeniable improvement over its predecessors, with a sleek and slender design and a stunning touch-screen display. It also ships with a speedy 1.2GHz processor, a 5-megapixel camera with 720pHD video recording, and OS 7, which brings a new Liquid Graphics technology, voice-activated universal search, augmented reality apps, an improved browser, NFC support, and more. Yet, is it all enough to satisfy its high price point?

We've had the pleasure of playing around with the Bold 9930 for a day or so, so we'll cut to the chase: the BlackBerry Bold 9930, and by extension, the Bold 9900, is the best Bold handset BlackBerry has ever made. It is a wonderfully sculpted device that marries curves with stainless steel, and high-quality glossy plastic with soft touch bezels. We admittedly rolled our eyes at RIM's claim that it is the thinnest BlackBerry ever, but the device's slender profile does add to the phone's sleek and elegant aesthetic. We're also very happy that RIM has widened the body of the Bold 9930 back to the way it was with the Bold 9000, allowing for a wider display and a much roomier keyboard.

Speaking of the display, the screen on the Bold 9930 is another feather in RIM's cap. It is really quite gorgeous. The 640x480 pixel resolution might not seem like much, but cram that into a 2.8-inch display and the result is really sharp and smooth graphics. OS 7's new "Liquid Graphics technology" contributes to the vibrancy and fluidity of the touch screen as well. Oh yes, did we forget to mention that the Bold 9930 is the first ever Bold to have a touch-screen display? Truth be told, we prefer our touch-screen displays to be much bigger than this, and indeed we did run into some accuracy problems at times. Still, we did find it much faster to scroll along really long Web pages instead of just struggling along with the optical trackpad.

The keyboard on the Bold continues to be top-notch, and the one on the Bold 9930 is perhaps the best BlackBerry keyboard we've ever had the pleasure to use. As we mentioned, the wider body of the Bold 9930 allows for a more spacious keyboard. The keys themselves are also larger than before, and are substantially raised above the surface. As a result, the keyboard is actually a lot more tactile than the one on the Torch 9810, which is quite thin and flat by comparison.

At the time of this writing, we're still running through a few tests, but suffice to say we're quite impressed with the Bold 9930's 1.2GHz processor so far. Navigation seems speedy enough, and we experienced little to no lag when launching and switching between applications. OS 7 is unfortunately quite similar to OS 6 in terms of the user interface, so there's not much new there. However, there's quite a number of OS 7 improvements under the hood. It brings the aforementioned Liquid Graphics technology to the table, as well as adding voice-activated universal search, 720p HD video recording, augmented reality apps, and NFC support to the Bold 9930. The Web browser on OS 7 also now has a just-in-time JavaScript compiler that should result in much faster page loading, and support for HTML5 video (Flash lovers are out of luck, however). The Bold 9930 also ships with updated versions of BBM, the Facebook app, the Social Feeds app, BlackBerry Protect, BlackBerry Balance, and a premium version of Docs to Go. You can also play around with Wikitude, which is one of the aforementioned augmented reality apps that lets you know of nearby friends just by using a camera and a magnetic compass.

Aside from the usual Verizon bloatware like V Cast Video and V Cast Music, RIM has also added a decent music player on the Bold 9930, which is complete with a Cover Flow-like interface. Other media apps include Slacker Radio, a podcast app, and YouTube. The Bold 9930 has 8GB onboard memory but supports up to 32GB microSD cards. On the back of the phone is a 5-megapixel camera lens and an LED flash. Other features of the phone include WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and the usual email and PIM tools like the calendar, tasks list, and so forth. The Bold 9930 is a dual-mode CDMA/GSM phone so you can use it with Verizon while you're in the U.S. and with any GSM carrier when you're abroad as long as you have a SIM card.

As much as we like it though, at the end of the day the Bold's design is more evolutionary than revolutionary. As we mentioned, OS 7 is not terribly different from OS 6, and we don't think the additions are quite enough to win over the iOS and Android faithful. But perhaps the worst sin is its price. $249.99 is expensive for any smartphone, much less a handset that is not much better than its competition. Still, the Bold 9930 is indeed the best BlackBerry of the year, and that could be enough for BlackBerry loyalists to pay the price.

We're working hard on writing up a full review of the Bold 9930 and will post it later today. We'll link to that once we're done.