The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9780 updates the popular Bold series with BlackBerry OS 6, bringing with it such improvements as a more-capable browser, enhanced multimedia capabilities, and a refreshed interface. It's a good device to be sure, but we'd be lying if we said we weren't disappointed by the lack of hardware upgrades. You do get a higher-megapixel camera and double the flash memory, but otherwise the Bold 9780 is largely like the Bold 9700 in design and specs. As such, if you're coming from the Bold 9700, we don't see a real compelling reason to upgrade since you'll be getting a BlackBerry OS 6 update in the future. However, if you're coming from the Curve or looking to get your first BlackBerry, the Bold 9780 would certainly be a solid choice. The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9780 is available in either black or white and costs $129.99 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate.
The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9780's design will be instantly familiar to BlackBerry owners, particularly Bold 9700 users since the two smartphones are pretty much identical. They're the same size at 4.29 inches tall by 2.36 inches wide by 0.56 inch thick and 4.3 ounces. It's a comfortable fit as both a phone and messaging device, with a nice soft-touch finish along the sides and textured battery cover.
The screen measures 2.44 inches diagonally and has a half-VGA (480x320 pixels) resolution. Though it's not an upgrade from the previous Bold, the display remains sharp and clear, as we were able to easily read e-mails and view media. That said, we did have to zoom in on Web pages to read text because of the display's smaller size.
As we noted in our review of the BlackBerry Style, BlackBerry OS 6 works well with non-touch-screen devices, even though the interface was designed with touch screens in mind. With the optical touch pad, it's easy to move through the various menus and select items.
Below the display, you get the traditional talk and end keys, back button, BlackBerry menu shortcut, and aforementioned touch pad. Along the sides are a few more controls, including a volume rocker and a user-defined convenience key on the right and another customizable shortcut, a Micro-USB port, and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the left. Though they're hard to see, there are mute and lock buttons on top of the device. You can find the camera and flash on back, and the microSD expansion slot behind the battery door.
Again, there isn't any notable difference between the keyboard on the Bold 9700 and the Bold 9780, which is fine by us since we like it quite a bit. The rectangular buttons are a good size, but users with larger thumbs might have some problems. However, the keys feature a slight ridge, making the buttons easier to press and helps reduce mispresses.
T-Mobile packages the BlackBerry Bold 9780 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a belt holster, a 2GB microSD card, a wired stereo headset, and reference material.
The main draw of the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9780 is that it ships running BlackBerry OS 6, RIM's major revamp of its mobile operating system. This means that in addition to the user interface changes, you're also getting an improved Web browser, enhanced multimedia features, and universal search, among other things. We'll highlight some of these features here, but for a more in-depth look at the software, please check out our hands-on look at BlackBerry OS 6.
As a phone, the Bold 9780 offers quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging with threaded chat view. Bluetooth 2.1, 3G support, Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), and GPS are all onboard. In addition, the Bold can make calls over a Wi-Fi network. Note that there is no additional charge for this feature but the minutes are deducted from your regular voice plan.
One area where BlackBerry has always excelled is messaging, and the Bold 9780 is no different. The smartphone can sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), with support for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise, to deliver corporate e-mail in real time. Of course, the enhanced security features--remote wipe, device and SD card encryption, and transport encryption--are another reason BlackBerrys remain so popular in the corporate environment.
For individuals and small businesses, RIM offers BlackBerry Enterprise Server Express, which is a free service that provides corporate e-mail access and other advanced BlackBerry features. You can also access up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts via BlackBerry Internet service. For quicker communication, there are a handful of instant messaging clients preloaded on the device, including Yahoo, AIM, Google Talk, and, of course, the popular BlackBerry Messenger.
For the social butterfly, Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter are all included on the device, and the new Social Feeds feature in BlackBerry OS 6 allows you to get all your updates in one place. There's also an RSS feed aggregator, where you can view stories from your feeds, as well as add and manage your RSS subscriptions.
As we noted earlier, BlackBerry OS 6 brings enhanced multimedia features, including a more attractive media player with a Cover Flow-like interface. You get basic functions, such as shuffle and repeat modes and on-the-fly playlist creation, as well as some headset EQ settings and the ability to turn a song into a ringtone. The player supports MP3, AAC/AAC+/eAAC+, WMA, MIDI, and AMR-NB music files, and WMV, H.263, and MPEG4 video codecs. The Bold offers 512MB of flash memory (double that of the Bold 9700) but comes with a 2GB microSD card preinstalled; the expansion slot can accept up to 32GB cards.
One area where the Bold 9780 gets a bit of an upgrade is the camera. The smartphone features a 5-megapixel camera (the Bold 9700 had a 3.2-megapixel camera) with flash. There is no option to adjust the white balance or brightness, but you can select from 11 different scene modes that cover everything from close-ups to snow landscapes. Despite having autofocus, picture quality was slightly blurry and indoor shots looked a bit dim. Outdoor shots were more vibrant, but even so, we wouldn't say the camera is a reason to upgrade.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) BlackBerry Bold 9780 in New York using T-Mobile service and call quality was good. On our side, the audio was mostly clear. There was a bit of voice distortion on a couple of occasions, but overall, the audio was clear and there was little to no background noise to interrupt the flow of conversations. Friends were mostly happy with call quality, though a couple did note that the audio sounded a bit hollow.
BlackBerry Bold 9780 call quality sample Listen now:
Speakerphone quality was also hollow-sounding, but still clear. At the highest level, there was just enough volume to have a conversation in a room full of people. We successfully paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.
We got pretty reliable 3G coverage throughout Manhattan, though we did dip into EDGE a couple of times in the Midtown area. CNET's full site loaded in 25 seconds, and the mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 10 seconds and 6 seconds, respectively. YouTube videos took several seconds to buffer but offered synchronized audio and picture. Clips played back without interruption, but the video could get a bit murky.
Powered by a 624MHz processor, the Bold 9780 performed smoothly during our review period. There were minimal delays, as we were able to launch and switch between applications without problem.
The BlackBerry Bold 9780 ships with a 1,500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6 hours and up to 17 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests the Bold beat the rated talk time by 1.5 hours. In general, with moderate use, we were able to go a full day or a day and a half before needing to recharge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Bold has a digital SAR rating of 1.34W/kg and a Hearing Aid Compatibility Rating of M3/T3.