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>> Hi, I'm Bonnie Cha, Senior Editor at cnet.com, and today we're taking a first look at the Rim BlackBerry Curve 8350i. This is actually a second look, since I briefly checked this out at Fall CTIA, but had the chance to check out the final product and wanted to give you some more details. The Curve 8350i is the first Nextel direct connect BlackBerry to come out in a couple years, so it brings some much needed updates and additions.
Starting with the design, it moves away from the clunkier design of the BlackBerry 7100i, it's a lot like the other BlackBerry Curve models.
Slightly thicker and heavier, but at least you get rid of the external antenna and you get a much better 2.4 inch QVGA screen that's sharper and clearer.
You also get a full QWERTY keyboard for easier messaging, and a trackball navigator for scrolling through and selecting menu items. If you've owned a BlackBerry 7100i, the trackball might take some getting used to, since it replaced the side scroll roll bit you might be accustomed to using.
On the left side there is a direct connect button here so you can easily make those push-to-talk calls. And while the Curve 8350i isn't as rugged as some of the other Nextel phones, it feels pretty solid and it has this rubber-like texture along the outer edges that makes it easier to grip.
As far as features, the BlackBerry Curve 8350i is the first push-to-talk BlackBerry to offer integrated Wi-Fi and Nextel's group talk feature,
which means you can have group conversations with up to 20 of your contacts. The phone also ships with a SIM card and it supports international connect, so you can have push-to-talk conversations with users in other countries such as Canada, Mexico and Brazil. Other improvements include an updated operating system that brings better productivity and multi-media options, including Documents to Go for viewing Word and Excel documents and a 2 megapixel camera with video recording as well as a music and video player. You also get a full html web browser as well as GPS and Bluetooth with stereo support. It's definitely stocked in the features department, but I was slightly disappointed by the performance. There's some lag when you're navigating through the menus or launching applications and the call quality can be a little bit hollow at times and I also had problems sending some emails. Overall the problems weren't crippling, but definitely something I noticed. Still, if you're a Nextel customer and you want a full featured Smartphone with push-to-talk capabilities, the BlackBerry Curve 8350i is a good fit. It's available now through Sprint Nextel for around $149.99 with a two year contract and after discount. I'm Bonnie Cha and this has been your first look at the Rim BlackBerry Curve 8350i.