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BlackBerry Bold 9700 review: BlackBerry Bold 9700

While it's hard to recommend it as an upgrade to current Bold owners, the 9700 is an outstanding phone in its own right and is still among the best handsets for business users.

Joseph Hanlon Special to CNET News
Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies.
Joseph Hanlon
5 min read


Look closely, you'll need to differentiate the latest Bold from one of the few BlackBerry phones released in 2009, the Curve 8520. Both phones share the same physical footprint (109x60x14mm) and represent manufacturer Research in Motion's shift away from a central jogball for navigation instead adopting an optical touchpad, positioned below the screen. The differences are in the details; the Bold 9700 carries over particular design traits of its predecessor, but with a stainless steel running around the edge of the handset rather than the glossy black plastic finish on the Curve.


BlackBerry Bold 9700

The Good

Sleek, sexy design. Stunning display. Excellent performance. Easy set-up. Good battery life.

The Bad

Keyboard feels cramped. Optical trackpad won't be to everyone's liking.

The Bottom Line

The Bold 9700 improves on the traditional BlackBerry form factor with its smaller, lighter shape and size. While there are a few quirks to consider, the 9700 stands out as one of the best smartphones of 2009.

The size of the new Bold is then significantly smaller than the Bold 9000 released last year. To accommodate its smaller size the screen and QWERTY keypad are also smaller too, but not by much; the new display measures 2.4 inches diagonally, while last year's was 2.6 inches. With that said, the display is still one of the best in the business, and its 480x360 resolution has a higher pixel count than previously, making the text and icons on-screen razor sharp and crystal clear.

The smaller keypad may be of more interest to large-fingered business people — each key is definitely smaller, but they are still uniquely shaped to provide definition between each key and the key beside it. We've found it difficult to type with two thumbs quickly without making numerous mistakes, and it will probably take some practice to improve, even for current users of last year's Bold.

On the back of the phone you'll find a 3.15-megapixel camera in the same position where last year's Bold had a 2-megapixel module. Underneath the battery cover it still has the same textured, faux-leather finish, which is a small touch we like. The microSD card slot is under the battery cover, but you don't need to remove the battery to locate it, so you can hot-swap cards without shutting down. There's also a 3.5mm headphone jack on the top left-hand side of the handset, an important inclusion for those who use their phones as their media players.


If you've been following the progress of BlackBerrys this year you'll know that this is the first in its family of phones to feature HSDPA data speeds all year — the Pearl Flip, and Curves 8900 and 8520 were all 2G handsets (and the 3G BlackBerry Tour wasn't released in Australia). The Bold 9700 sports 3.6Mbps downloads and Wi-Fi for web browsing, with the ubiquitous Bluetooth (A2DP) and USB connections included.

Our review handset reports that it is running version of the BlackBerry OS, and though a year has elapsed since the release of its predecessor, we're finding it really difficult to spot any significant improvements in the software. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, the Bold 9700 runs extremely well and RIM has obviously taken an "if it's not broke, don't fix it" attitude to software for this year's releases.

If you're unfamiliar with the latest version of the BlackBerry OS you can expect everything you should need for remote business communications, as well as a little play time with a decent media player. Email is, as always, the core strength of the Bold 9700, but you can also read Office documents (or compose and edit them too for an extra cost), plus you can connect to your office intranet using its VPN client.


For the most part, the new BlackBerry Bold performs superbly. Menu navigation is slick and its response to input is immediate. The time taken to launch an app varies depending on what is required, but moving between folders is absolutely seamless. We did notice some considerable lag spikes, but they seemed to be confined to times when the battery was nearing depletion and we're guessing the Bold might use a power-saving setting that sacrifices performance at the end of the battery cycle.

Web browsing on the Bold is fine for surfing most of your favourite sites; catching up on the news, watching YouTube videos, etc, but we did notice the Bold struggling to render certain pages correctly — CNET Australia's desktop site doesn't display all elements of the page, showing some areas of the page as black when they should be white. On other sites you might also notice text spilling over from one column and across the text in an adjacent column.

Call quality is good across all of our tests, though the earpiece speaker is quieter than we'd like it to be at full volume. Reception strength is good, though it is worth noting that Telstra is yet to announce the Bold as a member of its Blue Tick club (as it did with last year's Bold), which means the 9700 might not be suitable for customers outside of metropolitan areas or large regional hubs. Battery life is rated at six hours of talk time using 3G and its 1500mAh battery should be good for a couple of days between charges depending on your usage patterns. If you don't intend to use the web browser frequently, consider turning 3G off and enjoy two or three times the battery life.


The BlackBerry Bold 9700 retains the excellent standard we experienced this time last year when we reviewed the Bold 9000, but it improves on this formula in such subtle ways that it will be hard for current Bold users to justify an upgrade. Its smaller, tighter design is welcomed, and in our opinion it is a more attractive handset overall, but without significant software improvements the user experience is very much the same.

As we said earlier in the review, this is not a bad thing. RIM has chosen not to deviate from its successful smartphone model and the result is easily one of the best smartphone experiences available at this time, especially for those who aren't tempted by the flood of touchscreen handsets we've seen this year. If sending and receiving email is still on top of your list of priorities, the BlackBerry Bold is still the best in show.