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BlackBerry Bold 9700 review: BlackBerry Bold 9700

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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.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

8.8 Overall

Review Sections

Design

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.

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.

Features

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 5.0.0.321 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.

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