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BlackBerry Curve 3G review: BlackBerry Curve 3G

BlackBerry Curve 3G

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Nicole Lee
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Nicole Lee

Former Editor

Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.

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5 min read

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7.7

BlackBerry Curve 3G

The Good

The RIM BlackBerry Curve 3G has a slim profile, a responsive optical trackpad, and external media keys. It also has Wi-Fi, stereo Bluetooth, GPS, 3G, and a 2-megapixel camera.

The Bad

The RIM BlackBerry Curve 3G is almost identical to its predecessor save for a few changes. The photo quality is poor as well.

The Bottom Line

Though we're disappointed that the RIM BlackBerry Curve 3G didn't have more improvements over its predecessor, it's still a decent upgrade with the addition of 3G and GPS. Plus, it's quite affordable for an entry-level smartphone.

Even though we liked the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520 that was released for T-Mobile last year, the lack of 3G and GPS was disappointing. Fortunately, RIM has rectified that with its successor, the RIM BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300, which has support for T-Mobile's 3G network as well as GPS. It also offers a number of other improvements that we saw in the Curve 8530, like the 624MHz processor and 256MB internal memory. Admittedly, we're a tad disappointed that the rest of the handset is unchanged; the hardware is almost identical and the features remain largely the same. Still, the Curve 3G does make for a great entry-level smartphone, especially as it is only $79.99 with a new two-year service agreement.

Design
A lot of the BlackBerry Curve 3G's design strikes us as de ja vu; it looks and feels very similar to its predecessor, the Curve 8520. Its measurements are about the same--4.3 inches long by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick--and it weighs around 3.6 ounces as well. It has the same 2.4-inch display, the same media keys at the top, and, of course, the same QWERTY keyboard.


The RIM BlackBerry Curve 3G has an optical trackpad and a rather flat navigation array.

One of the minor design differences the Curve 3G has over its predecessor is that the optical trackpad is a touch more raised and rounded, which is a design tweak we like. We found it really responsive as well. Another change is that the 8520 had barriers separating the navigation keys, whereas the Curve 3G's navigation array is completely flat without any sort of division. We preferred the former, as it was a little easier to navigate by feel, but we weren't too turned off by the new design, either. Yet another minor change is that the back of the Curve 3G has is a texturized rubber, so it doesn't slide around when placed on a smooth surface, plus it offers a better grip when held.

Aside from that, the rest of the phone's controls and buttons are identical to its predecessor, so we'll point you to the review of the BlackBerry Curve 8520 for a more detailed design overview.

The BlackBerry Curve 3G comes with an AC adapter plug, a USB cable, a wired headset, a mini CD, and reference material.

Features
The RIM BlackBerry Curve 3G comes with BlackBerry OS 5, but RIM has said that it can be upgraded to BlackBerry OS 6, which we think will be quite an improvement. OS 6 will add a revamped home screen, universal search, easier access to messaging features, a new Web browser, and more.

It has the usual phone features like speakerphone, voice dialing, conference calling, speed dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. It also has a variety of instant messaging options like BlackBerry Messenger, AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, Windows Live, and so forth.

The Curve 3G continues the BlackBerry legacy of strong e-mail options with the ability to sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise server in addition to other corporate e-mail systems like Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, and more. You can also add your own POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail information, and it's smart enough to figure out settings from popular e-mail services like Gmail and Yahoo Mail.

The address book is limited to available memory and the SIM card can hold about 250 more contacts. Each entry has room for several numbers, e-mail addresses, and street addresses. You can assign a caller group, a photo for caller ID, and custom ringtones. Other tools include the calendar, a task list, a memo pad, a voice recorder, and a calculator.

Unlike its predecessor, the Curve 3G has GPS/A-GPS, 3G, and Wi-Fi. It also has Bluetooth with support for A2DP stereo streaming. Mobile professionals will also appreciate the addition of document viewers that can open and edit Microsoft Office, Corel WordPerfect, and PDF documents. You can download more productivity tools and other apps from the BlackBerry App World. The phone has 256MB of flash memory (256MB RAM), but it also has a microSD card slot that can accept up to 16GB cards.

If you're tired of all work and no play, the Curve 3G also comes with a few multimedia options. There's a music player that supports MP3, WMA, AAC, and MIDI file formats, and a video player that'll play MPEG4, WMV, H.263, and H.264 video files. There's also a 2-megapixel camera on the back, which is very similar to the one on other 8500 series BlackBerry devices. It has 5x zoom and a camcorder built in.


The RIM BlackBerry Curve 3G's 2-megapixel camera doesn't take very good photos.

We were rather disappointed with the picture quality. Lowlight photos were darker than we expected, and images were blurry and pixelated, with dull and muddy colors.

Performance
We tested the quad-band (GSM850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE/UMTS 1700/2100) RIM BlackBerry Curve 3G in San Francisco using T-Mobile's service. We were very impressed with the call quality on the whole. We had very clear audio on our end with little background noise or distortion. Voice quality sounded natural, and we were pleased at how close to landline quality it was.

Callers said the same thing for the most part. They said we sounded crystal clear with great volume and little to no static. In fact, when we turned on the speakerphone, callers said they didn't hear that much difference in our voice quality. We paired the smartphone with the BlueAnt Q2 without any problems.

We also enjoyed great 3G coverage from T-Mobile. The signal strength was good and the speed was satisfactory. We loaded CNET's full site in around 40 seconds and the mobile version of CNN and BBC in just 15 seconds each.

Though the 624Mhz processor doesn't sound like much, we experienced very snappy performance. Transitions were smooth and launching apps only took a second or so.

Music playback was also surprisingly impressive. The sound quality over the speaker had a good volume, though we still thought it was tinnier than we would like. Since the phone has a 3.5mm headset jack, we certainly encourage the use of a headset rather the speakers. We're especially grateful for the media player buttons on the top so we could control the music without having to unlock the phone.

The RIM BlackBerry Curve 3G has a 1,150mAH lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 4.5 hours and up to 19 days standby time. It had a talk time of 5 hours and 5 minutes in our tests. According to FCC radiation tests, the Curve 3G has a digital SAR of 1.12 watts per kilogram and has a M4/T4 hearing aid compatibility rating.

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7.7

BlackBerry Curve 3G

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8