Review: BlackBerry Bold 9700
The 9700 is a classy device. It's light-weight, small, and very comfortable to hold. The fit, finish and materials are of the best quality, and the faux leather back cover gives it a slightly grippy feel in the hand. It will slip into a pocket no problem. In fact, it's so tiny you can practically put it in the tightest pocket and it should fit. It makes some sacrifices, though.
One complaint voiced about the original Bold was its ginormous size. With that size, however, came a generous display and nicely spaced QWERTY keyboard. Both are smaller on the 9700, and I find the reduced screen real estate particularly egregious in the day of 4.3-inch touch screens from RIM's competitors. But, it is nice to have such a small footprint with the 9700.
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The front has a full QWERTY keyboard. The keys have a sculpted shape that makes them very easy to tell apart, and the four silver frets that separate the rows of keys aid in helping your thumbs determine exactly where they are on the keyboard. Travel and feedback of the keys is absolutely perfect. The 9700 clearly demonstrates that keyboards are one of RIM's fortes. I'd only ask RIM to change one thing. In order to type a "period", users have to press the ALT key first. The "dollar" sign ($) has its own key. Really? Periods are pretty important, and RIM's double-tap-the-spacebar trick isn't very helpful when entering URLs because it adds a space after the period. The "$" key should be the "." key, period.
All the nav controls are above the keyboard. The send/end keys, BlackBerry key and Back key are all generously sized and very easy to find and use. Travel and feedback of these keys is perfect.
RIM has ditched the trackball navigation in favor of an optical mouse. Typically, I find optical mice on phones to be wonky and annoying to use. RIM's optical mouse gets it right. As long as users spend the time to adjust the sensitivity to something that works for them, it's a great way to interact with the menus and content on the 9700's screen. It was very responsive, accurate, and works really well as a pointer within the browser.
The 3.5mm headphone jack, microUSB port, and user-definable application keys are all on the left side of the 9700. The application key has three little nubs that stick out and make the key a cinch to find with your thumb. It has very good travel and feedback.
The volume toggle and camera keys are on the right side of the 9700. They have raised surfaces as well, and are equally easy to find and use. I thought the camera key, which is a two-stage button for autofocus, was very mushy. It was difficult to tell exactly where to stop to focus the camera.
The lock/unlock and silence keys are on the top surface of the phone. Since they are built into the surface of the phone itself, you basically just press down on the corner of the 9700 to activate either of them. Travel and feedback is pretty good.
In order to get at the microSD slot, the battery cover needs to be removed. The cover itself fits snugly.
My only real complaint about the 9700's hardware is that it is nearly identical to the BlackBerry 8900, Tour and several other models. At a glance, it is very hard to tell which is which. Bottom line, the 9700 is classy, but lacks personality. There are worse detriments to have.
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