Review: Verizon BlackBerry Bold 9930

  • August 25, 2011 7:02 am


Oh RIM! How far you have fallen. What was once your strongest and most exclusive features — simple, fast, reliable email and communications — have now become common and less of focus. Your hardware has become nothing more than minor refresh after minor refresh in an age of major advancements every 2-4 months. What on earth do you have to show?

Today we’re got the BlackBerry Bold 9930 on Verizon Wireless. And before we dive in we’ll say that we are tingling with the old CrackBerry fanboism that perculated throughout our body 2-3 years back. There’s a lot to love (and many things to still hate) about OS 7. The hardware itself has some quirks too. But you’ll have to jump inside to see where the Bold 9930 shines…and falters…

Specs

  • Processor: Single core QC 8655 @ 1200 MHz
  • Display: 2.8″ (640 x 480) capacitive touchscreen
  • RAM: 768 MB
  • Camera/Video: Rear-facing 5-megapixel camera with LED flash + 720p video capture
  • Operating System: BlackBerry OS 7
  • Wireless: 1xEV-DO rev.A | WiFi b/g/n | GPS | Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR | NFC
  • Battery: 1230 mAh

Design & Features

If there’s one thing RIM can do well in regards to hardware, it’s make downright sexy pieces of art. The BlackBerry Bold 9930 oozes sophistication. Everything from the sharp display to the simply amazing keyboard signal that RIM means business. And since we mentioned it, we’ll note that the keyboard draws from the old Bold 9000 (circa 2008) keyboard which itself is (in our opinion) the best hardware keyboard ever made. RIM simple stomps on the competition when it comes to these things.

Moving on — if you look along the left side of the 9930 you’ll find a simple 3.5-mm headphone jack and microUSB port for charging/syncing purposes. Up top lays host to a lonely screen lock button while the right side of the device holds a (in order) volume/convenience key/volume key up top and a second convenience key lower down. The bottom is void of any ports or buttons — slick.

One of the more important design aspects of the 9930 that is shared with several previous-gen higher-end BlackBerries is a metal band wrapping itself all the way around the device. It’s a nice touch that adds to the overall look of the phone and gives it that high-end appearance. Some may decree that this is RIM blatantly copying the iPhone. Well, it is what it is. In our eyes it looks nice.

Display & Keyboard

The 2.8″ display may be minuscule by today’s standards, but for the sake of the candybar lifestyle, the 9930 pulls it off. Its biggest saving grace comes by way of the 640 x 480 resolution. Whle it’s not “Retina” quality (300+ dpi), it is close (280 range). Above all else, the screen is sharp, vivid and clear.

Oh what a keyboard. Like we said before, the keyboard is the best on the market. The 9930′s keys have just the right about of travel, “pop” and grooved design to make them extremely easy to find. After 5 minutes of using the 9930 (coming from our iPhone 4) we found ourselves flying through paragraphs just like the good ‘ol days. It goes without saying RIM has at least got this one knocked out of the park.

Camera & Video

We’d love to say the camera and video were vastly improved over previous, pre-OS 7 hardware. And while the overall quality was marginally improved, it still wasn’t anything to write home about. In our testing we found photos still appeared a tad washed out and lacked that special “pop” of color.

Video recorded with the 9930′s 720p video recorder was certainly a step above previous generations. And while it will certainly please most new BlackBerry owners used to those aforementioned generations of BlackBerry, the modern smartphone user used to Android and iPhone camera and video features will be sorely disappointed.

At the end of the day, the Bold 9930 is a camera/video recorder you use because you forgot your (1) main, dedicated equipment or (2) better phone.

Battery Life

One of the Bold 99xx’s shinning traits is the super thin design. It’s also one of it’s worst flaws. In order to shave down space RIM had to rather drastically shrink the battery. The new Bold 99xx’s make use of a 1250 mAh battery where as previous high-end Berries used on average ~1500 mAh. It may not seem like much but in real-world usage, it makes quite a difference. With three email accounts, twitter, facebook, Google Talk, BBM and several other apps updating in the background we saw ~ 16 hours before the battery sputtered out. While it’s better than a lot of Android devices as well as compares favorably with the latest iPhone 4, it’s not as good as previous BlackBerries. And for a device who has few unique features anymore, it’s a sad tale to tell.

BlackBerry OS 7

We’ll admit we’re a bit jaded. OS 7 looks a lot more modern (and dare we say QNX-like) than previous iterations. And this time around those visual cues run all the way to its core, through multiple menus and sub-menus. Still, it feels like the tired, old BB OS we’ve come to ignore. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for diehard BlackBerry fans. For the legions of potential customers gazing at Android, iOS, webOS and Windows Phone, however, it’s not nearly as enticing.

With that said, all of the tried and true functionality you’ve come to expect — very robust and easy to setup and use email/calendar/note syncing, Blackberry Messenger and a decent assortment of 3rd party apps — is present in OS 7. Quite honestly, this is OS 6.1 (as it was originally labeled). But RIM instead choose to try and create evolution via a new, shiny version number. Unfortunately, OS 7 just doesn’t justify the large jump in numbering.

Though there are some new features worth pointing out. First and foremost, OS 7 now includes a simplified and easy to use unified search. It’s pretty self explantory — search everything from notes to emails to calendar appointments. The second and likely more common used feature is the revised HTML 5 browser. Since purchasing Torch Mobile many months back, RIM’s once joke of a browser has undergone some major changes as of late. In its latest iteration in OS 7, we can honestly say RIM’s BB browser can keep up with the big boys of Android and iOS in most areas. Though unfortunately, unlike it’s QNX-powered PlayBook sibling OS 7 hardware can’t run Flash. On that note, depending on your views in mobile video, the lack of Flash is somewhat of a blessing.

The touchscreen + keyboard combo in the traditional BlackBerry form factor is a great idea. The screen itself is a tad small to rely on solely, though does make navigating web pages, clicking on the occasional button and selecting certain on-screen items a tad quicker. It’s subtle yet powerful. Combined with OS 7 RIM feels almost there — keyword: almost.

Apps

The BlackBerry Bold 9930 ushers in a new, albeit short era for RIM. They’re in the transition period between the old pre-OS 7 gear and the future — QNX. With that said, the market of apps is tough to predict. While things are growing at a rather slow pace, the outlook for non-QNX apps doesn’t look too terribly great for RIM has already stated QNX won’t be backwards compatible. The break in functionality is a much needed one to get RIM into the modern world, though couldn’t come at a worse time. A number of factors are converging onto the Canadian giant all working against their progress. What are we trying to say? App selection is still smaller than competing platforms and apps shared between platforms are often far less feature rich and more Windows 95 in appearance on the BlackBerry platform. Quite simply: RIM still has their work cut out for them.

Conclusion

We want to love the BlackBerry Bold and it’s latest OS 7. But in the end we end up merely accepting it. Accepting that this is the best RIM can do for now as a stop-gap solution. The hardware is certainly the best they’ve put out yet. And the software at least looks the part. But deep down inside it’s still the same BlackBerry that we’ve been begging to see change from for quite some time now. As it stands now unless you’re a wall street banker or esteemed business man, we can’t easily recommend the Bold 9930 over competing Android and iOS devices. The overall platform just isn’t quite there yet. Hopefully QNX and it’s rumored late 2011 (or early 2012) launch re-position RIM ahead of the pack.

Gadgetsteria’s Rating: 7/10

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Gadget lover, smartphone collector, and beer connoisseur. I've been writing about gadgets for three years now and loving every minute of it. Outside of the digital landscape, I enjoy being active outdoors. I'm always up for a good conversation, so feel free to drop me a line!