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Touch of class

tech-reviews Updated: Aug 17, 2011 12:38 IST
Ivor Soans
Highlight Story

At first glance, the Bold 9900 reminds us of the original Bold 9000; but the front is thinner, smaller and its innards are very different – think a commuter car versus a Porsche.

Touted as the thinnest BlackBerry (BB) yet (115x66x10.5mm), we think the Bold 9900 looks great — very businesslike and built like a tank.
The battery cover isn’t faux leather as in the 9780, but is as smooth as they come. Fortunately, thanks to a gentle and rubberised protrusion, the device won’t slip from your hands. Weighing in at 130g, this Bold is heavier and bigger than its immediate predecessor.

Button positioning is a bit different though — there are now four buttons on the right, as opposed to three.

Unfortunately, there’s no convenience key on the left. The top sports a single lock button that’s placed bang in the centre, making it a peach to access.

The 9900 also boasts of a sharp 2.8-inch touchscreen, which has a resolution of 640x480 pixels. The touchscreen is precise and responsive and the trackpadtouchscreen combo works great.

For years, RIM used a processor clocked at 624MHz for its previous Bold models, but a speedy 1.2GHz processor powers the 9900.

There’s 768MB of RAM and 8GB of onboard storage too. Some performance boosts must also be attributed to the new BlackBerry OS 7.

Like the Google Nexus S, the 9900 also supports Near Field Communication (NFC), a radio-frequency based feature that allows for data exchange with a mere touch.

The user interface has the familiar drop down notification view, which is now much faster. The search feature is voice-enabled too.

However, BB OS 7 seems to have issues when it comes to backward compatibility of apps. For example, SocialScope Lite refused to run.

Even apps downloaded from the BlackBerry App World like Burrp! refused to run and worse, made the smartphone freeze. Audio quality on the Bold 9900 is good with clear tones and noticeable bass.

We tested video playback with various video formats including MP4, 3GP and WMV and 720p videos played worked well too (1080p is not supported). But MKV and FLV files won’t play on it. We agree with RIM’s claims that the browser on this 9900 is BB’s best yet.

There are definite performance gains in terms of webpage rendering and multitouch features like pinch-tozoom. But the lack of Flash support is a deterrent.

The Bold has the same five-megapixel, fixed focus, camera used in the 9780 — the only new feature is that BB OS 7 supports video recording at 1280x720.

Photographs taken in good light are decent and colours are fairly well reproduced, but not anything to write home about. Battery life is our biggest grouse.
Ideally, it should have been replaced with a 1500mAh variant.

What we like
Great looks- very businesslike
Good performance

What we don't
Some BlackBerry apps like Burrp! refused to run
MKV and FLV files won’t play on it.
Weak battery life in this high-end phone

Verdict
All things considered, this is the best BlackBerry out there and finally something that puts RIM’s offering on par with the best in the market. So, when you put together the looks, specifications, performance and a price of R 32,490, you have a great combination. Niggles like the dated camera and weak battery do exist though. Still, if you’re looking for a top-end smartphone, give this one a look.