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Research In Motion Blackberry Curve 8300
- Style and design, trackball, multimedia features
- Lack of Wi-Fi and HSDPA/3G, productivity applications still thin
The BlackBerry Curve is a seductive alternative to other candy-bar phones with wide-aspect-ratio screens. If the provider's price is right, the Curve could well become the hot smart phone of the moment.
Price$ 739.00 (AUD)
The BlackBerry Curve 8300 is the latest chic smart phone to sashay down the standard mobile phone runway. Petite and gently rounded at the corners (as its name suggests), the Curve does for Research In Motion's line of QWERTY-keyboard-equipped handhelds what the Pearl did for RIM's standard keypad devices: add a badly needed dose of style.
A more consumer-oriented mobile phone/PDA hybrid than most of its siblings, the Curve packs such multimedia features as a 2-megapixel camera with built-in flash and 3x digital zoom, and new desktop media management software developed in cooperation with Roxio.
It's a world phone, with support for all four GSM frequencies (800/850/1800/1900 MHz). If only it supported broadband, too. But alas, the Curve's data transfer rates top out at 2.5G EDGE speeds; the lack of Wi-Fi or HSDPA support are among the device's few weaknesses.
We spent a few days with a production-level Curve equipped with late preproduction software and were generally impressed. The device certainly makes a terrific first impression. Small and lightweight, it resembles a Treo that someone has flattened and widened out by applying a rolling pin. It rests comfortably in your hand, and voice quality on calls is fine (though not as great as we hoped in view of RIM's touting of its noise-cancellation technology, intended to improve audio quality in noisy environments).
The Curve really shines as a mail and data device. Its 320x240-pixel screen is gorgeous - gone are the bad old days of muddy BlackBerry colour displays. We also liked the small, marble-like trackball; its fluid movement substantially improves on the jog-wheel approach of yore. The trackball is particularly useful for skimming through Web pages on the embedded browser, but sometimes its fluidity moved the cursor more quickly than we anticipated - so we did a lot of backtracking through data entry fields.
We couldn't test the Curve's e-mail capabilities with a BlackBerry Enterprise Server, but the BlackBerry Internet Service did a first-class job with a Gmail account - not surprisingly, given RIM's expertise with e-mail. Setup took only a few seconds, and thereafter new mail appeared quickly in a neatly organized inbox list.
Though RIM's multimedia credentials are less well established, the Curve is poised to remedy that with its improved media player, which is intuitive and easy to use, and the new BlackBerry Desktop Media Manager software, which facilitates transferring and organizing music, audio, and video files and which supports basic multimedia functions such as image editing and CD ripping. It's no substitute for dedicated music, video, and image-editing software, but for some users it will suffice.
The images we captured with the camera were adequate but (like most pictures taken with camera phones) a tad fuzzy. Our informal tests couldn't assess the impact of the flash on image quality.
Unfortunately, such over-the-air activities as media downloads are relatively sluggish. We wish that RIM had included true 3G or Wi-Fi support. In addition, we miss the GPS chips and navigation software that come with the BlackBerry 8800, a more utilitarian, business-focused device.
Out of the box, the BlackBerry offers a rather thin array of productivity features in comparison to those you get in Windows Mobile PDA/phone hybrids. For serious word processing or spreadsheet support, you must turn to the growing number of third-party apps.
Overall, we found the Curve a seductive alternative to other candy bar phones with wide-aspect-ratio screens, such as the Samsung BlackJack. If the price is right, the Curve could well become the hot smart phone of the moment.
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