Archive for June, 2007

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BlackBerry Curve User Review

June 18, 2007

I have been using the BlackBerry Curve, otherwise known as the 8300, since June 1. It is the full qwerty version of RIM’s consumer oriented Pearl. The Curve is more of a mass market tool in form and function compared to, say, the 8800, which is being positioned as a high end executive device.

BlackBerry Curve (from RIM website)

Form and Finish

I seem to like the feeling of the Curve much better than the 8800 simply because the I find the 8800 too wide for my hand. The Curve is just a bit narrower and, because of the black rubber sidings, seem to be more secure to handle than the 8800, which, because of the smooth glossy surface, seemed to always be in danger of slipping out of my hands.

The Curve almost feels like an 8700, but much better because of the slim profile of the device compared to the older 8700. Of course, I still had to get used carrying around a wide BlackBerry again because I have been using the SureType models for over a year now, starting with the 7100, then moving to the 7130, and currently the Pearl.

The keys of the Curve are separated, similar to the 8700 and unlike the 8800, which has a keyboard with keys right beside each other. I found typing with the Curve much easier than the 8800 because on the latter, I ended up pressing the wrong key pretty often, which is bad considering that my thumbs arent that large. Using the Curve keyboard was not that much of a learning curve, although I noticed that some of the positions of the alt symbols seemed to be in different spots. There are two shift keys now on each side of the keyboard which makes life simpler when having to type quickly, but generally the keyboard layout wasnt that far different from previous models.

The finish of the Curve is a lot simpler than the Pearl and the 8800. The Curve is in gray with black rubber accents, with a shiny gray lens frame. Finish isnt bad but is clearly not as “high end” looking as the black Pearl and 8800.

Multimedia

The other strange thing is that someone seems to have changed the headset jack from the very small mini-jack which has been standard on BlackBerries for years to a more conventional (but non-standard) minijack. Given the Pearl and this’ device multimedia features, I would suppose that this was done to accomodate stereo earphones. Trying out my regular stereo earphones (Shure E3C) with the Curve resulted in the expected stereo output. Listening to some loud electro house tracks showed reasonable results, at least compared to the sample blackberry movie. The sound was clear enough, although not great. Some EQ control would have been nice as sound was a bit too flat for me. There wasnt enough bass, the midrange was quite clear with a distinct but not overly powerful high end. Obviously my iPod sounds better as a music device but the Curve will do, especially with the 2 gig microSD card I recently bought and installed. Listenting to the music while using the BlackBerry for other functions, ie, messaging, didnt seem to slow down the unit at all.

The only downside of this whole minijack thing is that I only use a headset in a car while driving and my old BlackBerry headset from my 7230 days wont work on this device anymore. I suppose that the Curve comes with a stereo headset similar to the Pearl which I hate using because of the mess of wires.

Meanwhile, camera on the device is now 2 MP, which is an improvement from the 1.3 MP Pearl. More important of an improvement for me though is the self portrait mirror which doesnt stick out of the back of the device anymore like the Pearl, which means less wear on the mirror.

Finally, the entire Media application on the Curve has been revamped, at least as far as the front end is concerned. The main menu to select if you want videos, music, etc., has been jazzed up with an Apple-like look and feel, which sort of reminded me of Front Row, or at least an attempt at it. Basically Apple style icons over an Aqua-like wallpaper background. Much better I must say than the Pearl and the 8800, but unfortunately doesnt fit the look of the rest of the device and still not that easy to navigate around in.

General Usage

Otherwise, the BlackBerry Curve is simply another BlackBerry. Performance was quite zippy, as expected. But generally, everything seemed to be where they were from a BlackBerry UI perspective.

One major improvement, admittedly the most useful for me, is the increase in sound volume. Alarms are loud, as in really loud. Speakerphone volume increased significantly as well, while remaining usable, a significant enhancement from the older BlackBerry devices, including the Pearl.

Conclusion

The BlackBerry Curve is the best qwerty device out yet, in my opinion. I am not a fan of WIFI or GPS on my BlackBerry so the fact that the Curve lacks those features are not huge issue for me. I think the Curve is a great balance between a work and fun device, with the fun aspect focusing on multimedia. RIM tried to differentiate the device to its target audience of the device through a different look. I suppose that this is fine, but I dont particularly think its a beautiful device (unlike the Pearl where I was completely awe stuck). As an aside, I saw a gold colored Curve floating around here today, and it looks worse.

I like the 8300 because it is thin and light (much ligher than the 8800 which is just too heavy for me), because of the multimedia, and because its a BlackBerry. Would I switch from my Pearl to the Curve permanently? I doubt it. I was on the verge of switching back a couple of times already, but hesitated for some unknown reason.

In any case, the device is highly recommended in my book. It certainly beats all other qwerty BlackBerries today, in my opinion.

So my top list of BlackBerries in order of preference right now is as follows:
1. Pearl
2. Curve
3. 7130
4. 8800
5. 8700
6. 8707

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