BlackBerry Bold 9700 - First Look

RIM picked a hell of a week to release its new flagship smartphone, the BlackBerry Bold 9700. Microsoft and Apple have been fighting for press attention, with the former releasing its most-anticipated operating system for many years and the latter attempting to drown out that announcement with a slew of product updates.

Nevertheless, the new Bold has managed a decent amount of attention from the world's media. Much has been made of its new, slimmer form factor, and the improvements in responsiveness over the occasionally sluggish original. Pocket-lint managed to get hands-on with the smartphone as it was announced today. Does it stack up to its competitors? Read on to find out.

Let's start with the looks. The Bold 9700 doesn't throw any of RIM's established style out of the window - it looks like a BlackBerry and no-one would mistake it for anything else. There's plenty of rhomboid-y shapes and the keyboard is as familiar as ever. But it's certainly more refined than past handsets from RIM.

Performance has improved too. RIM told us that a whole host of bug fixes and little tweaks to get more out of the onboard hardware have been included in the form of BlackBerry OS version 5. The hardware comprises a new 624MHz processor and 256MB of flash memory which definitely seemed, in our short play with the device, to make things more responsive.

In fact, the only time when it behaved slowly was when it had to load a big chunk of text - specifically the subscriber agreement for the App World which is present and correct on the handset - which took a good 30 seconds or so. In terms of the actual operating system, very little has altered from the changes we saw come in with version 4.6 last year.

The keyboard is top-notch, as you'd expect from a handset from RIM, as email and instant messaging is still key to the whole handset, with BlackBerry's exemplary email system underpinning the experience. If you're not the kind of person who spends all their time in their inbox, then given the advances in multimedia on rival devices, you'll probably want to look elsewhere.

That said, the speakers aren't bad. Blaring out Beastie Boys yielded a reasonable level of detail, but a complete lack of bass. You'll want to plug headphones into the included 3.5mm jack if you're serious about listening to music on this handset, but it doesn't get a look-in on the multimedia keys found on the Curve 8520.

The screen, which isn't touch-enabled, is 2.44-inches and slightly smaller than its predecessor (which was 2.6-inches diagonally). It does, however, run at a slightly higher resolution than the original Bold. It's clear and bright and displays colours well. Although we didn't get a chance to take a look in direct sunlight, if it anything like previous screens, it will be happy outdoors. Viewing angles are also impressive.

The camera isn't too bad, either. Although it's only 3.2-megapixels, it captured images acceptably in a well-lit room. We weren't able to test how well that'll stack up in a darker situation, but there is a flash onboard, and we'd imagine the performance to be much like previous BlackBerry handsets.

Verdict

Overall, in our short time with the device, the Bold 9700 seems like a solid improvement on the old Bold. It doesn't do anything terribly revolutionary - focusing on the communications experience above everything else - but it's a solid smartphone choice for those who prioritise messaging functionality.

It's sure to be widely adopted in business and email-aholics, but we’ll be giving the handset a full rundown when we get a review sample.