BlackBerry Bold 9700 (AT&T) review:

BlackBerry Bold 9700 (AT&T)

As far as wireless options, you get the full gamut. Bluetooth is onboard with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, serial port profile, dial-up networking, audio source, and AV remote. The Bold 9700 is equipped with GPS/A-GPS and supports AT&T Navigator service for voice-guided turn-by-turn directions. AT&T Navigator is free for the first 30 days but afterward, you will have to pay $9.99 per month to continue the using the service.

For browsing the Web, you have the option of Wi-Fi or 3G connectivity. BlackBerry OS 5.0 brings some minor improvements to the BlackBerry browser, such as faster JavaScript (now enabled by default) and CSS processing for quicker page loading and support for BlackBerry widgets, Google Gears, and real-time streaming. However, navigation is still clunky and browser tools are still limited, so this is one area where the BlackBerry lags behind the competition (e.g., Apple, Palm, Android).

The BlackBerry Bold 9700 features other forms of distraction, though. It has a capable built-in media player that supports MP3, WMA, WMA ProPlus, AAC, AAC+, and eAAC+ files, and MPEG4, WMV, and H.264 video clips. There's a search function, playlist creation, shuffle and repeat, and you get a full-screen mode for video playback. You can easily sync your personal library, whether it be through iTunes or through Windows Media Player with BlackBerry Media Sync, and now the BlackBerry Desktop Manager software supports both Mac and PCs. In addition, you can browse for new music and video via AT&T Music or AT&T Video.

Picture quality wasn't bad.

You can capture your own media as well with the Bold's 3.2-megapixel camera. It offers variable zoom, autofocus, a flash, and video-recording capabilities and the standard editing options as well as geotagging. Picture quality was decent; the camera took better outdoor shots than indoor shots. In terms of the latter, though the images came out clear, colors could have been richer and brighter.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; UMTS/HSDPA 850/1900/2100) RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 in New York using AT&T service and call quality was good overall. On our end, audio was mostly clear with plenty of volume and minimal background noise. There were a couple of occasions, however, where the audio cut out, but these were isolated incidents and didn't prevent us from continuing with the phone call. Friends were also fairly pleased with the sound quality, but they did say they could hear some crackling on their end.

Speakerphone quality was decent. There was plenty of volume but voices sounded a bit garbled or tinny at times. We had no problem pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

We saw some impressive speeds from AT&T's 3G network during our review period. CNET's site loaded in 40 seconds, and CNN and ESPN's mobile sites loaded in 8 seconds and 6 seconds, respectively. We were also able to download a song from AT&T Music in a swift 15 seconds and the Pandora app (379KB) from BlackBerry App World in 35 seconds.

In terms of general performance, the Bold 9700's next-gen 624MHz processor also kept the smartphone performing smoothly throughout our testing period. We experienced very few delays while using the smartphone in various capacities (e-mail, multimedia, and so forth). Speaking of which, the smartphone does quite a nice job as a multimedia smartphone. Though the built-in media player isn't very flashy, music playback sounded rich and had a nice balance of treble and bass across several genres, including hip-hop, classical, and pop. We also transferred an MPEG4 video from our personal library and enjoyed smooth playback with synchronized sound and picture. The picture was especially eye-popping on the Bold's gorgeous display. That said, the streaming quality of AT&T Video was a little choppy and blurry.

The Bold 9700 features a 1500 lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6 hours and up to 19 days of standby time. We are still conducting our battery drain tests, but we'll update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the Bold has a digital SAR rating of 1.55 watts per kilogram.

What you'll pay

    Visit manufacturer site for details.

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