/> ED I T O R S C H O I C E IN N O V A T IO N A W A R D
X

CNET editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 (T-Mobile) review: BlackBerry Bold 9900 (T-Mobile)

headshots_nicole_lee.jpg

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is the GSM version of the BlackBerry Bold 9930, and has essentially the same design and features save for a few changes depending on the carrier. The Bold 9900 for T-Mobile lacks the dual-mode GSM/CDMA chipset of the Bold 9930, but it does support T-Mobile's "4G" network. As you might expect, it also includes a few preinstalled T-Mobile applications. The rest of the phone is just as we described in our Bold 9930 review--it boasts a fantastic new design, a great feature set, the latest BlackBerry OS 7, and impressive performance. Unfortunately, T-Mobile has priced the Bold 9900 at a whopping $299.99, and that's after a $50 rebate and two-year agreement.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 (T-Mobile)
8.0

BlackBerry Bold 9900 (T-Mobile)

The Good

The <b>RIM BlackBerry Bold 9900</b> has a very polished design, with a svelte form factor, a sharp touch-screen display, and a wonderful QWERTY keyboard. Notable features include a 1.2GHz processor, the new BlackBerry OS 7, 720p HD video recording, and NFC support. Photo quality is excellent.

The Bad

The BlackBerry Bold 9900's call quality is slightly flawed. It's also very expensive when compared with similar handsets.

The Bottom Line

BlackBerry enthusiasts will love the BlackBerry Bold 9900, but its high price tag will be a deterrent to many.

Design
We won't dwell too much on the design portion of this review, but suffice it to say that the Bold 9900 mirrors the build quality of the Bold 9930. It's a marriage of high-quality plastic and stainless steel curves that results in a sleek and svelte premium handset. It's just as wide as the original BlackBerry Bold, which results in a larger display and roomier keyboard, and the 2.8-inch display is sharper and more vibrant than before. You can read more about its design in our review of the Bold 9930.

T-Mobile packages the BlackBerry Bold 9900 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a belt holster, and reference material.

Features
The Bold 9900 ships with BlackBerry OS 7, which doesn't look very different from OS 6, but does carry a lot of improvements under the hood. These include a new Liquid Graphics technology that the company says improves graphics and the responsiveness of the touch screen, a speedier Web browser with HTML 5 video support, augmented-reality apps, 720p HD video, voice-activated universal search, and NFC support. You can read more about OS 7 in our review of the BlackBerry Torch 9810.

Many of the Bold 9900's features are the same as the 9930's, so we'll focus on a few software differences in this review. T-Mobile has preinstalled a few apps on the Bold 9900, like the T-Mobile Mall and its own Web2go Web browser. We didn't notice too many differences between the T-Mobile browser and the default BlackBerry one--both loaded pages quickly and efficiently. There are a few menu option differences, but they're essentially the same.

Performance
We tested the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9900 in San Francisco using T-Mobile. Call quality was good, but not without its flaws. On our end, we heard our callers loud and clear, with no audible background noise. Voice quality was a little bit distorted, however.

Callers could hear us clearly as well, but they reported a similar voice quality issue. They said we occasionally sounded a little crackly, as if we had a terrible sore throat. It was intermittent enough that it didn't bother us that much, but it was certainly noticeable. Speakerphone calls were quite good. Callers did report more of an echo effect, but that's not unusual.

RIM BlackBerry Bold 9930 call quality sample Listen now:

We were quite pleased with the fast data speeds on the Bold 9900. However, they were more typical of 3G speeds rather than the 4G speeds that T-Mobile claims. We loaded the mobile CNET page in around 11 seconds while the full CNET site loaded in around 30 seconds. We had no trouble loading YouTube videos or HTML 5 videos, though we did have to suffer through a few seconds of buffering.

The Bold 9900's 1.2GHz processor makes it much faster than its predecessors. Navigation felt smooth and quick, and launching apps was zippy as well.

The BlackBerry Bold 9990 has a rated talk time of 6.6 hours and up to 12.8 days of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the Bold 9930 has a digital SAR of 1.12 watts per kilogram.

Conclusions
There's no question that the BlackBerry Bold 9900 is the best OS 7 handset that RIM has debuted. With its premium design and truly great QWERTY keyboard, it's clear that RIM paid attention to these details when developing the handset. The 1.2GHz processor is also a treat, as are the 720p HD video recording and the various improvements of OS 7. Yet those looking for a dramatic change might be disappointed, as OS 7 isn't too different from OS 6. We would generally be okay with that, except that T-Mobile has priced the Bold 9900 at $299.99 after a rebate and two-year contract. Seeing as how many comparable Android handsets are selling for $50 or $100 cheaper, we just don't think the Bold 9900 is deserving of such a high price. We're sure many BlackBerry fans will happily pay the money for the new Bold, but those unfamiliar with BlackBerry will be tougher to convince.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 (T-Mobile)
8.0

BlackBerry Bold 9900 (T-Mobile)

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8