It’s been just over a year since RIM updated their Bold line up and most of the updates we’ve seen before the Bold 9900 have been incremental updates, nothing that has really made me say “wow.” The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is RIM’s latest addition to their Bold family brining along a few much wanted and needed updates. Follow me after the break to read my full in-depth review on a device that could help RIM through their technology transition to the QNX platform.
- Overall design
From a design perspective RIM has truly hit home with the Bold 9900. The all new Bold features a strong industrial design with an attention to detail. The sculpted body has been outfitted with a stainless steel frame, providing the device with a look of sophistication and intelligence. Also you’ll want to notice that the Bold 9900 is RIMs thinnest BlackBerry smartphone to date, coming in at just 10.5mm thick. Not only does the thickness and sculpted curves of the new Bold put it ahead of the rest, but it also serves as an excellent stage for your hands to hold the device like it was designed for you and you alone.
• 115 x 66 x 10.5 mm, approximately 130 g
• 2.8″ capacitive touch screen display – VGA (640×480), 287 dpi resolution
• Ultra-easy QWERTY keyboard, optical trackpad
• 1.2 GHz Processor, 768 MB RAM
• 8 GB on-board memory, plus microSD slot supporting up to 32 GB cards
• NFC technology
• 5.0 MP camera, supports 720p HD video recording
• Orientation Sensor (Accelerometer), Digital Compass (Magnetometer), Proximity Sensor
• Built-in GPS / aGPS
• Dual-Band Wi-Fi® – 802.11 b/g/n at 2.4 GHz and 802.11 a/n at 5 GHz
• Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR support
• Wireless Network support:
o 9900: Tri-Band HSPA+, Quad-Band GSM/EDGE
o 9930: Dual-Band CDMA/EV-DO Rev. A, Dual-Band HSPA+, Quad-Band GSM/EDGE
• 1230 mAh removable, rechargeable battery
• BlackBerry 7 OS
* Features OpenGL 2.0 support for developers.
- BlackBerry 7 Operating system
With the introduction of the BlackBerry Bold 9900 RIM also introduced the world to its newest operating system, the BlackBerry 7 OS. The BlackBerry 7 OS is probably RIM’s fastest and most responsive user interface to hit a BlackBerry handheld. The new OS takes advantage of the built-in dedicated GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) to deliver what RIM has dubbed “liquid graphics”, definitely a deserving title. RIM has also given the BlackBerry 7 OS a much-needed visual upgrade, replacing the old dated stock icons with new colourful and fully redesigned icons. But while the performance of the new OS is quite evident, its hard for me not to think that this is truly just an upgraded BlackBerry 6 which is the same as the previous BlackBerry 4, 4.5 , and 5 operating systems. By RIM using the same core operating system, the legacy issues we’ve been seeing are still there as RIM pushes the aging OS further and further. Things like the infamous hourglass are still present, and while it shows up much, much less then on previous BlackBerrys, it’s still there reminding you of previous generations. Let me continue and break down different areas of the new operating system, follow me below.
- OS responsiveness and graphics
As I stated before, the BlackBerry 7 operating system is RIM’s most fluid and responsive OS they’ve shippied. With the operating system tapping into the new hardware on the Bold 9900 RIM has been able to provide a much-needed user experience upgrade. Things that would have previously taken minutes to complete now take seconds and can often be completed in the background as you power on to another task. One example of the new power would be after a reboot. Previous to BlackBerry 7, accessing your media stored on the external Micro SD after a device reboot would lend your BlackBerry useless as the device indexes the media to provide you with a better experience accessing your music. Well, with BlackBerry 7 you are now able to let the device index your media and still go in there and play the latest Justin bieber track, all while your Bold works in the background.
- Universal Search
Something that users of other operating systems have been spoiled with has now made its way to BlackBerry 7, voice search. On the Bold 9900, featuring BlackBerry 7, you are able to search your device with your voice and I must say it works very well. Even when I’m in a loud environment the voice search is still able to understand what I’m asking it to search for. Even though the voice search works quite well it’s not a feature I’ve found my self-using on a device like the Bold 9900. Why would I use a voice search when I could just type what I’m looking for into search, with the Bold 9900 it’s all about productivity and voice enable search just hinders it.
While voice search isn’t a feature i’ll be using on the Bold I found myself using universal search for everything from finding a contact, to opening an app, I just didn’t use my voice.
- Documents to Go Premium
One would expect that a BlackBerry, a device built around business users, would have a lot of business features. And while it does, one thing it’s always been missing was a fully featured document editor. Well with BlackBerry 7 (and QNX) that is a thing of the past. The new operating system features a fully functional copy of Documents To Go, an application that is fully compatible to Word, Excel and PowerPoint, letting you create edit and share documents from your BlackBerry 7 device. On the Bold 9900 equipped with a powerful processor and the docs to go suite searching a 500 page document is done in seconds and with ease, giving me more time to play some Roller Coaster Rush 3D.
Now this is where things really start to improve, and that is with the new BlackBerry 7 browser. I’ve been told by RIM that the browser that they’ve built for the Bold 9900 is about 40% faster than the one found on the Bold 9780 and about 100 times faster than the browser on any BlackBerry 5 enabled device. The new browser has eliminated almost all checker boarding, something that has pained BlackBerry users for years prior. Also, RIM has enhanced the HTML5 rendering engine giving you impressive results on webpages built on the new standard. While experiencing this new browser on a full touch device is a bit more enjoyable due to the extra screen real estate, this enhancement is a much welcomed addition to my BlackBerry experience.
RIM has packed the Bold 9900 with a 5mp in-field focus camera capable of recording video at 720p High-definition. Granted, the camera is only 5mp, RIM has managed to get a decent still picture out of this camera, just not the best at close up photos. To maximize the amount of room they had when designing the ultra thin Bold 9900 RIM opted to forego the auto-focus camera found in almost all of the devices running BlackBerry 7 and higher and replaced it with a new style of lenses that provides an “always in focus” picture. Through all my testing I found that in most cases the new camera performed quite well reproducing color and contrast as well as some of the mid range point and shoot devices. One area that the camera did fail in was any close up photography. During this review I tried taking a few photos of text, QR codes and flowers all will less than stellar results. But as a whole I don’t do a lot of close up photography with my cell phone, Id rather use my DSLR for those high quality shots.
If you’re looking for that retina busting ultra high-resolution screen you wont find it here, but that’s not what the Bold 9900 is all about. The Bold 9900 features a 2.7” capacitive touch and while I said this isn’t a “retina busting screen” that doesn’t mean the screen is anything shy of beautiful. Coming in at 640×480, the Bold’s screen and color reproduction are just beautiful. Looking at photos taken with the device or downloaded from FaceBook and Twitter are crisp, sharp and quite vivid.
If you’ve owned a BlackBerry before you’ll be no stranger the their world famous keyboard, a keyboard often reproduced but never replicated.
One thing I must say before I continue with my review of the keyboard on the Bold 9900 is that I was not a fan of the first generation Bold due to its size and lack of feedback, but with the Bold 9900 this is truly not the case.
On the newest Bold you feel as if you are connected to the keys on some sort of telepathic wavelength, and while it may sound crazy, if you’ve used the Bold 9900 yourself I’m sure you would agree. The keys provide you with a reassuring click to let you know that you indeed did hit a letter and can continue typing away. At times I’ve often found myself looking at the screen or somewhere other than they keys and typing error free.
NFC (Near Field Communications)
One thing that has been buzzing around in the news is that cellular phone makers are starting to include a new technology called NFC, and while we’ve talked it to death on the site I would like to discuss is once more. Near Field Communications, or as it’s often known, NFC, is a new technology that has been making its way onto our mobile devices. Currently you can find NFC on things like Passports or PayPass ™ on your credit card. By having NFC on your passport or credit card you have the ability to swipe the object over a reciver and have your identity checked, or pay for some gas, pretty cool. So why would RIM want to put this technology onto my BlackBerry you ask, well its quite simple. With NFC on your BlackBerry you will be able to pay for things at the store, buy movie tickets with a swipe of your BlackBerry and hey, maybe even check into a foursquare location by swiping your BlackBerry on a NFC enabled foursquare poster. Just by these few examples I’m sure you can get a sense as top how NFC on your BlackBerry Bold 9900 will make everyday tasks a little easier. At its current state NFC is still in its infancy, so having it on the Bold at the moment is slightly useless, but with NFC making its rounds quite quickly I’m sure it will only be a matter of time before you’ll see your local supermarket asking you to swipe your berry, and if you have the Bold 9900 you’ll be ready.
When starting to use a new BlackBerry the last thing I tend to think about is how long my battery is going to last, because on average I’ve gotten over a days use out of most of my BlackBerry devices. Well, that doesn’t seem to be the case with the BlackBerry Bold 9900. The Bold 9900 gave me a typical work days battery life (work day 8am-7pm) which is quite less than that of the Bold 9780 which powered me through a full 24hrs with out an issue. Now honestly 11hr battery life is that of a power user, most consumers I’ve talked have experienced about 20+ hrs or normal use with their new device, guess it just shows how addicted I am to my Berry. Another factor that has gone into the battery life is the new power that RIM has packed into the device, I guess we can’t have our cake and eat it too for everything.
In this review I’ve looked over almost every aspect of the BlackBerry Bold 9900, from Battery Life, Design all the way to how it fits in your hands. But what about the device as a whole? The all new BlackBerry Bold 9900 is just that, all new, from the design to the 1.2 GHz powerhouse that pushes the new liquid graphics to the end, the Bold 9900 is truly a device to be reckoned with.
- Fast web browsing
- amazing industrial design
- snappy 1.2hz processor
- Weak app selection at launch
- Battery life
- Legacy Java operating system