BlackBerry Bold 9700

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BlackBerry has just launched their new Bold 9700, which is every bit as elegant as the original, the Bold 9000, with a few alterations to keep up with the times. Retaining RIM’s business like functionality the 9700 is also loaded with BlackBerry’s version 5.0 OS that promised to knock your socks off. If you’re considering switching over from whatever BlackBerry or other handset you’re using to the new Bold, here’s a closer look to help you decide.

Form Factor
It’s a BlackBerry so in the looks department nothing much has really changed. The essential design form is retained - Landscape display with a full QWERTY keypad, 3.5mm handsfree and Micro USB ports, Lock and Silent keys on top with Volume/Zoom and a voice command key on the side. A camera shutter release is also available but rather redundant. RIM has gone with an optical trackpad in the 9700 making the new Bold a little more versatile than its predecessor. The display resolution has also been upped to form a half VGA i.e. 480 x 320 pixel resolution to 480 x 360. It’s not much but it’s crystal clear and visually very comfortable even if the display size has been dropped to 2.44 inches.

The keypad is somehow not as comfortable as the 9000’s. The 9700’s will take a little longer to get used to. Unlike the original’s the numbers aren’t highlighted making it look a bit plain. The 9700, on the plus side is a little lighter and smaller than its big brother. It’s also a little sportier and on similar lines as the curve 8900. The Chrome finish is definitely better this time around and the elegant leather casing has given way to black plastic. However I can’t fathom why RIM thought it necessary to add the awkward leather finish to just the center of the removable rear panel. It doesn’t do much to improve the looks – it does just the opposite.

Nevertheless, the 9700 is a sleeker looking device and still manages to look as classy and professional as any of RIM’s other devices.

Features and Performance
Interface

It’s very difficult to find speed issues with BlackBerry’s OS but version 5.0 is something else and gives you the impression that it can run rings round the older versions. The 9700 is still using a 624MHz processor (same as the 9000), flash memory has been increased to 256MB but while the 9000 has 1GB of internal memory, the 9700 only comes with 256MB. Thankfully a 2GB microSD card is provided along with other goodies including BlackBerry’s leather Smart case and a very comfy handsfree kit. There’s hardly a substantial change in the UI’s layout so other than speed there’s nothing else worth talking about.

Media
Ever since the Bold 9000 ushered in the new range of cooler media rich BlackBerrys, the devices have been sought after for more than its business acumen. The 9700, though, has taken things up a notch. In the audio department, things are the same. Brilliant, clear tone quality makes for very comfortable listening. There’s a significant thump in the bass line and the EQ presets and Audio Boost options do nothing but enhance the overall audio experience. Unfortunately RIM has still not deemed it necessary to bestow BlackBerry users with an FM radio. The microphone has superb range for leaving voice memos.

A few more additions to the video codec support make the device’s video capabilities so much better. DivX and partial Xvid support ensures that drag and drop of files of almost all formats plays back smoothly. In fact a few files that didn’t play on the 9000 or Curve 8900 played seamlessly on the 9700.

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Connectivity
The Bold series signifies a full throttle connectivity class covering all bases. The 9700 therefore comes loaded with 3G support, BIS and BES connectivity and EDGE. Depending on your plan you’ll have access to all the bandwidth that your carrier can provide. Setting up emails for work or your personal accounts is quite easy once you’ve got the required settings from your office’s network administrator and your carrier of course. The browser is still as quick as ever but it’s still disappointing to find that Flash content is still unsupported. RIM seems to be at serious loggerheads with Adobe and just doesn’t seem to be giving in. On the plus side it does help render pages a lot quicker but with a great display and speedy connectivity not being able to view a website in its full glory can be a bit of a downer.

Other modes of connectivity include Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP. This makes wireless conversations and listening to audio worth investing in a good BT enabled headset. USB 2.0 ensures quick transfer of data between your PC and device for backing up data via the PC Suite or just copying media onto your card. A preloaded feature is provided for connecting to the BlackBerry App Store for downloading content for social networking like Facebook, Twitter, Gtalk etc. Sadly none of the Apps came preloaded on the device, except for BlackBerry’s own messenger service.

Another downside to India’s BlackBerry market is that the handsets that cost more are equipped with GPS, a feature that is rendered redundant since BlackBerry hasn’t launched Maps for India yet. The 9700 never came to me with a Maps option altogether. You’ll have to suffice with A-GPS and Google Maps. This is quite disappointing as Rim doesn’t seem to be too concerned about this.

Misc. Features
A Blackberry doesn’t shy away from the basics although sometimes it does seem a bit unfocused on the bigger picture. But the 9700 is well covered with basic mobile requirements like alarms, schedulers and document readers all present and accounted for. Of course you’ll still have to purchase the premium version of Documents if you wish to edit or create your own files. A PDF reader is still unavailable although you can open files in that format if sent as an attachment. A Firewall setting can be applied to messages, calls, BIS or emails too. It’s handy for keeping out those pesky marketers from calling, messaging or emailing with schemes you aren’t interested in.

Camera
The Bold 9700 is equipped with a 3.2MP autofocus camera, a full 1.2 megapixel more than the original. While the camera quality on the 9000 was quite good for 2MP, the 9700’s is a splendid upgrade. Images are crisp and even images with the flash in low light conditions looks quite good. The camera also allows you to geotag images and offers Close-up and Night mode settings as well as options for other White Balance settings.

Battery
BlackBerry claims that the 9700 is capable of dishing out 6 hours of talk time and although that is a wee bit exaggerated, that’s all it is, just a wee bit exaggerated. On an average, talk time crossed 4 hours and 50 minutes consistently. If you’re constantly downloading emails, checking mail and using the media player, the 9700 can easily go over a day and a half before the battery gets exhausted.

The Bottom Line
Here’s the ‘small print’, the Bold 9700 will set you back by a cool Rs. 31,990 (MRP) and of course if you happen to be from Maharashtra or MP add VAT to that. It’s a great handset if you’re a hardcore business person and are either upgrading to another BlackBerry or looking to get a new one. It’s definitely much better than the previous model but just a couple of steps above the much more affordable 8900 Curve. On the downside, RIM still hasn’t fixed a couple of issues that existed in the earlier model like including Maps without which GPS is quite useless. But if you are looking for a super-fast handset with fantastic multimedia capabilities and designed specifically for all your mailing needs, the BlackBerry Bold 9700 is just perfect.