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					BlackBerry Bold 9930 review
It's been something of a long time coming, this emboldened Bold. We got
our first glimpse of the thing in February, spent some quality time with
it back in June, and since then have sat around eagerly awaiting its
release. Now, here it is. From a distance, or at a quick glance, it looks
little changed from 2008's Bold 9000. But get closer, pick it up, and the
difference is astonishing.

RIM has gone to great pains to talk up this device's high-end design, its
luxurious stylings, its sophisticated aesthetic. We're far from Vertu
territory here, but the first time this phone hits your palm you know a
lot of people spent a lot of time making it feel just right -- even if it
still looks just the same. Of course, it's what's inside that counts, so
join us as we find out whether the soft and hard bits beneath the surface
can do the business too.
BlackBerry Bold 9930


While the old Bolds lived up to their name by being a little rounded,
kind of chubby, a bit bulbous, the new model is rather more svelte and
sophisticated. Looking purely at its face it's hard to detect that
anything has changed. You still have the same portrait QWERTY layout with
the same basic button scheme, but where once lived a trackball now an
optical trackpad sits. That's flanked by a solid bar of backlit
capacitive touch buttons, newly monochrome and flush with the display. A
curving bit of chrome separates those buttons from the keyboard, as

Pick the Bold up and turn it around a bit and the differences from
previous models become apparent. The extent is now a classy rim of
brushed stainless steel, one continuous band that we presume will offer
some serious drop protection -- though we succeeded in not verifying that
assumption in our time with this unit. That band is punctuated by ports,
controls and buttons as needed. Up top is a single lock button, while the
right side houses the phone's other controls. There's a volume rocker
with a mute button nestled in the middle, and further down rests the
Convenience Key, which by default activates the five megapixel camera. On
the left side you'll find openings for a 3.5mm headphone jack and a
micro-USB port, while on the bottom is a little, riveted inset that
provides something of a minor visual distraction.

Around the back you'll find another big change: an slab of composite
weave has replaced the Leatherette on the old Bold, ditching tactility in
favor of an extra bit of class. But, the soft-touch plastic that provides
the tapered edge, covering the gap between woven panel and stainless rim,
does feel a little bit cheap by comparison -- as a Mercedes CLS might
look a bit low-rent next to a Bentley Continental. Overall, though, it's
a solid, stately feeling phone that offers little visual presence but
plenty of good feel. And, at 10.5mm (.41-inches) thick, it's rather
svelte, too.
The thing you'll want to touch first is, of course, the backlit keyboard,
and we think you're going to like it. In fact, we'd go so far as to say
this is among the best physical keyboards ever found on a phone, if not
the best. It isn't substantially different than the old Bold, just a
smidge wider but using the same design of curved keys that are tapered,
each one subtly reaching up to meet your thumbs on either side. It's
definitely intended for use as a two-thumb affair, working best when
you're messaging with both hands, and when used thusly it'll easily keep
up with your most torrid BBM exchanges.

Around the back again, that hood-shaped wedge of carbon fiber-like
material serves as the battery door, and an integrated conductive loop
therein gives this thing the NFC chops its classmates the 9810 and 9850
lack. Lurking beneath here is a 1,230mAh battery, the same used on all
three new handsets but a bit of a step down from the 1,550mAh unit found
in the older, fatter Bold 9000.

Tucked beneath that is a microSD slot, where you can add up to 32GB of
storage to boost the 8GB that's built-in, and a SIM slot. You'll be
needing that to keep every one of this phone's radios singing, and there
are many in this chorus line. In addition to dual-band CDMA / EVDO
(800/1,900MHz) you're looking at dual-band UTMS / HSPA (900/2,100MHz) and
quad-band GSM / GPRS / EDGE (850/900/1,800/1,900MHz), plus 802/11a/b/g/n
WiFi at 2.4 and 5.0GHz. If you've got a frequency calling, chances are
this thing can answer -- unless it's 4G, of course.

Move past the radios and things look less spectacular, as this is
effectively a re-arranged version of the same hardware that's found in
its sibling Torch handsets. From that perspective these are all basically
the same phone, with a 1.2GHz processor, 768MB of RAM and so-called
"Liquid Graphics" engine that promises to deliver smoother, more engaging
performance. Did it? We'll see in the software section below.

BlackBerry Bold 9930 vs. Torch 9850 vs. PlayBook

Finally, when it comes to call quality, the performance here is top-
notch. While we find our handset to have average abilities when it came
to seeking out and hanging on to the signal Verizon is putting out, calls
always went through loud and clear. The speakerphone likewise will do
quite well for your next impromptu concall -- even in the big conference
room. You know, the one with the tired, faux-leather chairs and the
automatic projector screen that probably knocked the socks off of
potential clients back in the early '90s.


The new Bold offers a 2.8-inch LCD that may not be much bigger than that
found in previous Bold models but is at least higher resolution: 640 x
480. It's hard to get too excited about stepping up to VGA in 2011, so
forgive us if we're a little underwhelmed by the pixel count here, but
resolution is more than adequate. In fact, its 287dpi rating is mighty
close to the vaunted 300dpi supposedly needed to get us close to Retina
territory. Coming from a big-screened slate of a phone you'll feel
underwhelmed by the size here, but most BlackBerry users will appreciate
the extra pixels.

If indeed you can get past the size you'll agree this is a very, very
nice display offering plenty of brightness for sunny days, beautiful
color reproduction regardless of conditions and viewing angles good
enough to offer almost full-contrast -- even when you can see only a
sliver of the screen. It's quite a looker, just a shame it's so small.


Where before the camera was situated smack in the middle, the 9900 series
splits camera from flash, embedding the five megapixel sensor on the
upper-right (when facing away from you) and the LED flash on the upper-
left. When using the flash we found this created something of an
unfortunate shadow on the right-edge of whatever we were imaging at
close-range, but given this is an EDoF sensor you won't want to be that
close anyway. In theory the camera has clear focus out to infinity, but
the reality is EDoF makes macro shots impossible. In our sample gallery
you'll see up-close shots of the flowers are blurred, and while your
average executive won't be pulling this phone out of his trouser pocket
to catch a passing daffodil in bloom, he probably will want to take
close-up snaps of the business cards handed to him at last week's sales
mixer. The 9900's camera isn't particularly well suited for the job.

Take a step (or three) back, though, and you'll take adequate, though
washed-out images. Colors are muted and balance is straying to the warm
side, but the results are presentable even if they scream "this was taken
on a cellphone." Video is captured at 720p and that fixed-focus means you
won't have to worry about the lens hunting while filming. Stay a few
steps away and things stay sharp, but we did notice a lot of jiggle
distortion in the resulting footage, so you'll need a steadier hand than
we could manage when filming the sample above.

Also, there's no front-facing webcam, so don't hold your breath for video
chat here.
BlackBerry Bold 9930 Bold sample images

BlackBerry 7

Do you hate change? You are going to really love BlackBerry 7. The latest
flavor of the OS got bumped from a minor to a major update for reasons
that likely have more to do with marketing than hardware, but regardless
of how you spin it this Bold is running what is, ultimately, a tweak to
the BB6 that many of you know and have grown tired of. After playing with
and (mostly) loving the gesture-heavy interface slapped over QNX to power
the PlayBook we're naturally quite eager to see what's next for that
little OS. Sadly, we're hearing we won't see anything like that on a
phone until next year sometime.
So, for now, we're left with an OS that feels every bit the latest, minor
revision in a long, long history of minor revisions. BlackBerry OS is
showing its age in a not very good way. If you've been lately spending
your time coddling something running Android, iOS, webOS or Windows Phone
you're liable to feel like you stepped back in time a decade or so --
especially the first time you load up the browser, hit your favorite
website, and get treated to a shockingly minimalistic WAP rendering.

Despite that simple default rendering this is an all-new browser with
HTML5 support. It can handle just about anything the Web can throw at it
-- except for Flash -- and do so with aplomb. Even complex pages render
quickly and are smooth to navigate around. If you can manage to pinch on
this tiny display you'll be able to zoom in and out, and there's plenty
of elastic bounce should you scroll to any of a page's four extents.

The OS's integrated search function lets you quickly hunt through
contacts, favorites, e-mails, you name it. Now you can also search by
voice, a feature that we found to be incredibly accurate at identifying
whatever we mumbled into the microphone. The only drag here is that we
had to accept not one, but two incredibly long license agreements before
enabling that feature. In fact you'll be scrolling through pages and
pages of legalese just about every time you try doing something new on
your handset. That results in, needless to say, a somewhat unpleasant
user experience.

Finally, BB7 brings BlackBerry Balance to the mix, functionality that
allows you to keep your work stuff from your home stuff. This can help
you from losing your personal bits should an admin decide to remote-wipe
your handset but, more importantly for the BES jockeys out there, it
means users can be prevented from sending work information via personal
challenges -- like, say, forwarding your company's internal Q2
projections out to everyone in your neighborhood investment club. In
other words, it's a feature more intended for admins than those who are
administered, and so nothing to get too excited about. Unless, of course,
you're one of those admins.

If so, or if you are some other corporate user, as ever this OS offers a
great experience for business. Open a meeting invite and it's easy to
jump right into the concall from there. Should you put the other team on
mute you'll get a reassuringly highlighted red indicator on the screen
that's easy to see with a glance. (Important for those who like to do
their best Crow T. Robot impression when the discussion gets a bit dull.)

Ultimately, the OS is quick and easy to jump around in if you know what
you're doing, and if you're looking for productivity you can find it
here. But, if you aren't, or you don't know your way around the world of
BlackBerry, you'll find things ugly and unintuitive. There are too many
lengthy, scrollable menus, too many hidden collections of options, and
simply too little style to catch the eye of anybody who's been using a
modern mobile operating system.

If you're not sold on BB7, the application selection isn't liable to help
matters. App World does offer a healthy choice, but the most entries are
tiny little utilities with niche functionality that will leave you asking
questions like "Do we really need an app dedicated to scanning Air
Traffic Control at Ottawa International Airport?" In this case the answer
is yes, someone does, but we can safely say that we could do without 3D
Rollercoaster Rush Jurassic 2. This app is supposed to be the premiere
title to show off the phones' new Open GL ES 2.0 support, and it sure
does have polygons. It is also slightly less fun (and only slightly more
interactive) than watching a video of someone else riding a

In addition to proving that, yes, these phones can render 3D games, this
title helps to highlight an issue with all three: they offer only 189MB
of total storage for apps. It doesn't matter that this Bold has 8GB of
internal storage, and it also wouldn't help if you threw in a 32GB
microSD card. You'll still have just 189MB of space for all your apps. To
be fair, each app can take up no more than 7MB of this, and the vast
majority of App World selections are very small indeed, but this has
forced developers to make compromises. In the case of this game, you'll
have to download the app, install it, then launch it and wait while
another batch of data (17MB worth) gets downloaded to internal storage.
Even if you're grandfathered in to an unlimited data plan this step can
only be done over WiFi -- and in the end you have a pretty boring game.

If you're looking for more fun, you'll find a full install of Documents
to Go here, capable of creating and editing documents that fit the Word,
Excel, and PowerPoint styles.
BlackBerry Bold 9930 software

Performance and battery life


We can't say how much of this 9930's speed is due to the new hardware
within and how much instead is thanks to the revised software, but we can
say that this is a very snappy, responsive phone. It pops open menus,
launches apps quickly and, in general, keeps the hourglass on the shelf -
- where it belongs. A cold boot (after a pulled battery) takes a rather
painful one minute and 45 seconds, but after that you're looking at less
than five seconds to bring the phone back to life after turning it off.
More than acceptable.

We ran the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark and managed a very good
2,648ms, and when running the phone through our intensive battery drain
test the phone delivered an equally impressive 8.5 hours. (For reference,
the QWERTY HTC Status managed just 3.5 hours on the same test.) We
haven't had the chance to run our phone through too many charges but in
the time we've had with it we've been quite impressed by how that cell
fares in the real world too.

The BlackBerry Bold 9930 feels like the beginning of a transition -- the
last hurrah for an OS that isn't much longer for this world. Or maybe
that's just us being optimistic. We'd love to have been able to use this
phone with a more modern, more refined feeling OS, but as it is we have
some great hardware running software that just won't appeal to anyone who
has already left (or was never pulled in to) the BBM fold.

And maybe, for now, that's the best RIM can do -- stem the tide. The
company isn't exactly losing its customers, it just isn't growing as
quickly as the competition, and until it has a truly mainstreamable
operating system it never will. So, don't look at the 9930 as a phone
that'll end what ails RIM and introduce it into new markets. Look at it
as the best damn embodiment of what BlackBerry is today -- and then join
us all in crossing our fingers as we wait for the next release of
BlackBerry OS, which hopefully will bring something truly different to
the table.
Blackberry Bold 9930 review

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