The BlackBerry Tour aims to sit between the Curve 8900 and the BlackBerry Bold. But is this the bastard child of the two or a match made in heaven? We managed to get our hands on the new handset before its official launch expected in July.

Coming in two colours in the US depending on carrier, you'll either opt for the black with silver highlights or black with titanium highlights. While the colours on the Verizon and Sprint options differ, the handsets are the same size measuring 112 x 62 x 14.2mm and same weight (in at 130 grams). In fact the colour is the only difference.

Thinner in width than the Bold, but thicker than the Curve the new 9360, or Tour as it will be known, grabs features from both handsets to create a mashup of the two.

From the Bold you get the keyboard and the 3G connectivity, allowing you to surf the Internet, grab data for all those apps and basically stay connected at faster speeds. From the Curve you get its size and its 3.2-megapixel camera. The lack of Wi-Fi, like the Storm, is either annoying, or not an issue depending on how you see it.

Personally as a pervious Storm user the lack of Wi-Fi never bothered me, and on the Bold I rarely use it either, as 3G connectivity is normally fast enough (well fast enough as the BlackBerry web browser will deliver) to do what I want to do. An unlimited data plan also helps.

Back to the design of the handset and you'll get a 2.44-inch 480 x 360 display (Half VGA+) that is punchy and crisp. RIM say it's their brightest screen yet and a side-by-side comparison to the Curve 8900 when we saw the Tour certainly proved that. It's akin to the Storm in terms of quality and certainly helped by the simple and contrasting user interface all the latest BlackBerry handsets offer.

Of course the downside is that it's not touchscreen. Navigation is instead handled by the "pearl" button located centre stage under the screen and the shortcut buttons follow the Bold in their location and design. Touchscreen fans will have to opt for the keyboardless Storm.

The keyboard, slightly thinner in width than the Bold, is just as easy to use with the three running ribbons of keys, which we think is slightly easier to use than the individual keys found on the Curve 8300 and 8900.

For Bold users, the best comparison is a netbook with 95% QWERTY keyboard compared to a full-sized offering. That said it is a personal preference and while we were having our play, another journalist (a Curve user) commented how he preferred individual keys instead.

Get past the keyboard layout and it's fairly standard BlackBerry fare. The phone runs the 4.6 OS interface giving you the App World as standard as well all those other BlackBerry apps you like including the clock, quick view menu system, Games, a slow browser and of course the king of email apps.

The paltry 256MB is luckily combated with a microSD slot (not hot swappable) with support up to 32GB, while the media player lets you enjoy music and video on the go with the ability to plug in your favourite headphones via the 3.5mm jack on the side. Elsewhere you'll get GPS and Bluetooth 2.0.

The 3.2-megapixel camera comes with a 2x digital zoom (fairly pathetic) and video capabilities suggesting you'll be able to deliver those murky spy shots you find over the web, but nothing more.

First Impressions

Our play as ever in our First Look was brief, however with the interface and internal offering very similar to previous offerings from RIM already on the market, the Tour is all about that keyboard layout and whether you really need Wi-Fi.

If Wi-Fi really is that important as well as 3G then you'll have to go for the larger form factor Bold, however you'll loose out on that newer 3.2-megapixel camera over the Bold's current 2-megapixel offering.

If you want the Bold's keyboard, the 3G connectivity, and the better keyboard (in our mind) without the size then it seems this is probably worth checking out over the Curve 8900.

Either way RIM has created a handset that will throw you into a quandary, as it neither offers a "mini Bold" nor a bigger more powerful Curve, as you'll gain 3G, but lose Wi-Fi.

The Tour is expected to be available in the US in July. No UK date has been set for the new handset as yet.