Mini-Review of the Blackberry Bold


The Bold is the new top-of-the-line Blackberry, offering all of the expected Blackberry features in one package with a high-resolution display.
 

The Blackberry Bold is available through Rogers.

Last Updated: 13-Sep-2008

Before reading this review, please read Some Thoughts on Phone Reviewing.

Each reviewed feature is given a grade (on a scale of E- to A+), which appears in parenthesis after the feature title. If a feature hasn't been rated, it is because I was unable to test it (which occurs most commonly in mini-reviews). These ratings are purely subject and are meant only to give you a quick reference of what I thought about that particular aspect of the phone. This review is the first time this rating concept has been used.

This is a mini-review because I was only able to look at the phone for a short period of time and I wasnít able to take one home with me. However, I actually had the opportunity of testing 3 Bolds at once. This didnít result in a better review, but it was a unique opportunity to find out if a flaw existed on all of the test subjects. Iíve previously noted that getting to test only one of a particular model can result in a poor review if I ended up with a lemon. As it turned out however, there were no problems of that nature in this batch of 3 Bolds.

RF Performance

Click on this link for a full description of RF Performance, and how to interpret it.

RF Sensitivity: (A+) During the tests of the Boldís RF sensitivity it was suggested to me that this category is becoming increasingly irrelevant. The RF sensitivity of most phones Iíve tested in the last little while have been almost identical, and they all have been excellent. It seems therefore that phone designs may well have reached the pinnacle of this performance aspect and can go no further (or if they can, only marginally so). The Bold is certainly no exception here, because it can work just as far into the depths of Square One as the Nokia N95, which was been compared with other recent models including the iPhone, and many Nokia models.

Over-the-road Performance: (N/A) Because this was a mini-review, I was unable to perform over-the-road tests on the phone. However, as Iíve noted in previous reviews of UMTS models, this aspect of performance (for UMTS phones at any rate) has also become rather irrelevant. All of the UMTS phones Iíve tested up to this point have demonstrated that when on-the-move there is virtually no difference to when standing still.

Audio Performance

Click on this link for a full description of Audio Performance, and how to interpret it.

Tonal Balance: (A-) I first tried the Bold I was rather taken aback by the tininess of the sound. However, it was quickly pointed out to me that the Bold included a feature that provided a crude equalizer for incoming audio, and so we changed the setting to provide more bass. That cleaned up the tininess quite nicely and the balance sounded much more natural.

However, the sound had a harshness to it that was present regardless of the equalizer setting. This isnít to say that the Boldís sound was annoying, but it did have an edge to it that made the sound a little less comfortable to listen to than it could have been. This surprised me because in the past Blackberries have often been one of the better-sounding models on the market.

Sound Reproduction: (A+) Aside from the harshness mentioned above, the overall sound reproduction on the Bold was reasonably smooth. However, I never had a chance to hear it in truly quiet environment, and so I wasnít able to listen carefully for distortion that might have been masked by the background noise in the areas I was testing. I was able to listen to it in a reasonably noise-free environment however, and I couldnít hear any oddities that might take away from giving it top marks for this category.

Earpiece Volume: (A+) The bold certainly lived up to its name here, providing plenty of earpiece volume that was the equal of the N95 with its volume-boost feature kicked in. Even in the noisy food court I was able to turn down the volume a notch or two and still have no trouble hearing my caller.

Outgoing Audio: (C+) This aspect of the phone was about average for cell phones in general. It provided fairly clean-sounding audio with good tonal balance, but it also picked up background a bit too well. I wasnít able to test it on the highway however, and so like the N95, it might have been better at blocking out highway noise than it was at blocking out the din present at the Square One food court.

Speakerphone: (A-) Because this was a mini-review, I was only able to make limited tests of the speakerphone feature, but what I heard sounded very promising. The speakerphone produced a fair amount of volume that was just a hair softer than the N95, though Iíd have to say that the differences were too small to be of any consequence. Overall quality and tonal balance of the sound was also on par with the N95, which I ranked as having an excellent speakerphone feature.

Support Features

Ringer Volume: (B-) To make the test of the ringer volume fair, I sent over a copy of my Loud Ring.mp3 file to the Bold and that was used to compare the ringer to that of the N95. The Bold certainly had a louder-than-average ring, but its maximum volume fell noticeable short of the N95, which in turn was a bit softer than a typical iDEN phone. It produced a fairly audible ring, but it could have been so much louder.

Keypad Design: (A-) Iím not personally a fan of cramped QWERTY Smartphone keypads, but the one provided on the Bold was of fairly high quality. The keys, despite their extremely small size and closeness, were fairly easy to find and press once I got the hang of it. Unfortunately I had no other QWERTY keypads to compare to, and my experience with them is rather limited.

Cursor movement is provided via a trackball-style nib similar to that originally introduced on the Blackberry Pearl. The ball rolled very smoothly, and it provided very stable and predictable motion. Selection of items was achieved by pressing the ball. The overall feel of that press seemed to vary somewhat from phone to phone, since I was able to compare the three Bolds on hand during my tests.

If you like QWERTY-style keypads on your Smartphones however, youíll probably be very happy with the one provided on the Bold. The keys all press with a goodly amount of tactile feedback and they seem to resist mis-pressing, despite their close proximity.

Display: (A+) The display resolution on the Bold is 480 x 320, which is the same as the Apple iPhone. However, the screen is markedly smaller than that of the iPhone, and so the display makes everything look much smaller. To its credit however, Blackberry does an excellent job of providing fonts and icons that are well-suited to the screenís resolution and size. The immensely tiny pixels of the display mean that anything you did see looks sharper and clearer than on a lower-resolution screen that is physically larger (such as the one on the N95).

The screen was quite bright, but unfortunately it was not sunny on the day I tested the Bold. Subsequently I wasnít able to see how well the display coped with direct sunlight. Outdoors in overcast conditions however, the brightness compensated well and the screen was quite visible under those circumstances.

Icing on the Cake

Camera: (B+) The camera in the Bold offers a resolution of 3 megapixels and it takes fairly decent photographs. However, it suffers from a high degree of digital noise that is visible even under moderately bright lighting conditions. This can result in fuzzy fringes around sharp objects and itís very similar to a problem I experience with the Sony-Ericsson K850. When viewed at typical resolutions however, the fuzziness isnít particularly noticeable and the results look quite nice. Color and contrast balance are very good. However, the camera is a long way from matching the one on the N95. Rating B+.

Video Capture: (C-) The Bold also captures video, but its highest resolution is 480 x 320 at 15 frames-per-second (vs 640 x 480 at 30 fps on the N95). The videos are also subjected to a very high degree compression, which results in rather low-quality images that are full of visible compression blocks. Now granted this is not a multi-media phone and its primary goal in life is to be a business tool. However, if theyíre going to provide a video recording function, they should have at least bothered to give it one that had quality in keeping with the Boldís price point and station in life.

GPS: (N/A) The Bold comes with a GPS receiver that is accessible to 3rd party applets. I tried it out with Google Maps when I was in a location where satellite reception was possible. Unfortunately I was unable to test the overall sensitivity and stability of the GPS feature.

Conclusions

Iím not personally a fan of the Blackberry way of doing things and the Bold didnít bring me any closer to joining the fold. However, the Bold seems to have everything that a Blackberry fan could ever wish for and a screen that will be the envy of all other Blackberry owners. Thereís nothing seriously wrong with the Bold, though it does have a few issues that garnered low grades for slightly harsh sound quality, lackluster video capture capabilities, and slightly-less-than dazzling still photography.

By the same token, the Bold is not the ultimate phone either. Itís a great Blackberry, but it offers little that would put it clearly above its competition. Like the iPhone, it seems to be surrounded by more hype than it can truly live up to. But also like the iPhone, itís a still a good model once you strip away the hype.

Home