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BlackBerry Curve 8530 review: BlackBerry Curve 8530

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7.0

BlackBerry Curve 8530

The Good

The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 has 3G and GPS support, which the T-Mobile version did not. The compact smartphone also offers Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and a 2-megapixel camera.

The Bad

The smartphone feels a bit cheap in the hand and has a low-resolution screen. You can only save apps to the phone's main memory.

The Bottom Line

While we're not huge fans of the design, the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 is a good choice for first-time smartphone buyers and offers more than its GSM counterpart.

Editors' note: Portions of the Feature section were taken from our review of the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520 for T-Mobile since the two smartphones have similar capabilities.

As the CDMA kin to the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520, the RIM Curve 8530 for Verizon Wireless is more of an entry-level device, so you won't find some of the higher-end features found on the BlackBerry Tour, such as world roaming capabilities and a high-resolution display. However, the Curve 8530 certainly brings some worthy upgrades to the aging Curve 8330, including a next-gen processor, an optical trackpad, and dedicated media controls, and one key feature that even the Tour lacks: Wi-Fi. The phone's design isn't our favorite, but it offers more than T-Mobile's version of the phone and costs $30 less at $99.99 (with a two-year contract), making it an incredible value for first-time smartphone buyers.

Design
The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 for Verizon shares a similar design with its GSM counterpart, the Curve 8520. For this review, we'll concentrate more on the different features and performance of the Curve 8530 but you can find more information about design in our full review of the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8520 for T-Mobile as well as our hands-on photo gallery of the BlackBerry Curve 8530.


The BlackBerry Curve 8530 is compact in design but feels a bit cheap in the hand.

Verizon offers the smartphone in black or smoky violet and ships with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

Features
Despite being more of an entry-level device, the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 comes with a good set of features, more so than its T-Mobile counterpart. As a phone, it offers a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging with threaded chat view. You can also add Verizon's Visual Voice Mail service for an additional $2.99 per month. There's also a link to MyVerizon to get information about your account, such as voice and data usage, account balance, and features. Other Verizon services available on the Curve 8530 include VZ Navigator, V Cast Music, and VZ Navigator.

The phone's address book is only limited by the available memory and has room in each contact file for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home addresses, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo, group ID, and/or custom ringtone. A shortcut to VzwTones is loaded on the device so you can download more ringtones to your device. Aside from the address book, other personal information management tools available on the Curve 8530 include a calendar, a task list, a memo pad, a voice recorder, and a calculator.

The Curve 8530 is Bluetooth-friendly with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth headsets, hands-free kits, audio/video remote, serial port, and dial-up networking. Unlike the T-Mobile version, the Curve 8530 has GPS/A-GPS, 3G, and Wi-Fi. We're certainly happy to see Verizon bringing more Wi-Fi-equipped devices to its lineup as it provides another way of getting online. Now, if only RIM would release a better BlackBerry browser with easier navigation and more features to complete the package. The smartphone is running BlackBerry OS 5.0, however, so there are some slight improvements to the browser, such as quicker page rendering and speed improvements because of faster JavaScript and CSS processing.

As with all BlackBerry models, messaging is the Curve 8530's strongpoint. It can sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise server, offering support for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise, to deliver corporate e-mail in real time. With BlackBerry Internet Service, you can also access up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts. The smartphone also comes preloaded with several instant-messaging clients, including Yahoo, AIM, Windows Live, Google Talk, and BlackBerry Messenger.

There is a built-in attachment viewer, so you can open Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, and GIF files. In addition, the device ships with DataViz's Documents to Go Suite Standard Edition (you'll need to upgrade to the Premium Edition if you want the ability to create new documents), but you can download more productivity tools, games, travel aids, and much more from the BlackBerry App World. Just be sure to keep tabs on the device's memory (256MB flash memory; 256MB RAM), as you can only save apps to the phone's main memory.


The Curve 8530 features dedicated media controls on top of the device.

The phone is equipped with a microSD expansion slot located behind the battery door and it can accept up to 16GB cards, so that should give you plenty of space to store multimedia files. The Curve 8530's media player supports MP3, WMA9/WMA9 Pro/WMA10, AAC-LC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, and MIDI music files, and MPEG4, WMV2, H.263, and H.264 video clips. The photo viewer also supports BMP, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and WBMP files.


Picture quality was pretty disappointing.

On back, you'll find the smartphone's 2-megapixel camera, which has a 5x digital zoom and video recording capabilities. Picture quality was pretty poor. Indoor shots came out dull and dark and had somewhat of a pinkish hue.

Performance
We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO) RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 in New York using Verizon service, and call quality was mixed. On our end, we enjoyed clear audio with plenty of volume and very little background noise or voice distortion. We also had no problems using an airline's voice-automated response system and didn't experience any dropped calls during our testing period. However, callers reported muffled sound quality and had to ask us to repeat ourselves several times. The situation was the same when we activated the speakerphone; while we could hear our friends just fine even on a noisy street, they said voice quality was garbled. On a brighter note, we had no problems pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

Despite the clunky navigation of the BlackBerry Browser, Verizon's swift 3G speeds made it easy to access sites. CNET's full site loaded in just 32 seconds while CNN and ESPN's mobile sites came up in 10 seconds and 8 seconds, respectively. We also downloaded a 2.39MB song from V Cast Music, which took 56 seconds.

The smartphone's general performance was snappy. It was performed most tasks with very little delay. We only had one uh-oh moment: after ending a phone call the screen froze halfway when trying to go back to the Home screen, but it returned to normal after about a minute. This seemed to be an isolated incident, as it didn't happen again during our review period and we didn't experience any system crashes.

Music playback was quite impressive over the phone's speaker with robust volume and without sounding too tinny. Of course, with the built-in standard 3.5mm jack, you're also free to plug in your favorite headphones or earbuds without dealing with a cumbersome audio adapter. In addition, the external media controls on top of the device make it easy to control the player without having to look at the screen.

The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8530 features a 1,150mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 4.5 hours and up to 10.5 days of standby time. The Curve gave us 5.5 hours of continuous talk time in our battery drain tests, beating the rated talk time by an hour. FCC radiation tests, the Curve 8530 has a digital SAR rating of 1.31 watts per kilogram and has a M4/T4 Hearing Aid Compatibility rating.

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7.0

BlackBerry Curve 8530

Score Breakdown

Design 6Features 8Performance 7