BlackBerry 8300 Curve

BlackBerry 8300 Curve

IT Pro Verdict

The first BlackBerry to combine a full keyboard and camera, the 8300 Curve doesn't have the visceral desirability of the Pearl - or the slab-like bulk of the 8800 - but it does have QWERTY and trackball, spell checking and competent multimedia in a small and neat package.

The BlackBerry Pearl is utterly appealing, but without a QWERTY keyboard, rather compromised as a business device. The BlackBerry 8800 has everything you need but it's just too big. Like Goldilock's porridge, the BlackBerry 8300 is just right for business with a little entertainment on the side, although it's not so much an object of desire.

Although BlackBerrys do a lot more than email, it is email that is still key, and that means QWERTY. The 8300, or Curve as it is also known is the first BlackBerry to combine QWERTY, a camera and memory card storage, which makes it the best BlackBerry model for combining email with entertainment, without compromise. The keys are slightly smaller than on a traditional BlackBerry but they are well spaced, well laid out and easy to thumb type on at speed. If you do make a mistake there is now a built-in spell checker for email, texts and memos. Messages are not checked automatically, so you won't be slowed down if you're trying to dash off an urgent reply and you can add words to the custom dictionary and ignore acronyms, words with numbers and short words.

As many BlackBerry users pride themselves on producing messages that are correctly spelled and punctuated, the spell checker will be a welcome addition to automatic full stops when you type two spaces and pressing and holding keys to get capital letters. Typing two spaces also fills in the @ symbol and full stops in email addresses and URLs if you're in a field where that's what the BlackBerry expects you to type. All that adds up to faster and less fiddly typing than other QWERTY smartphones on the market.

RIM manages to fit the keyboard, the same smooth trackball as the Pearl and a large (2.5"), bright screen into a case as thin as the Pearl and much smaller than previous BlackBerry models. At just 111g it doesn't weigh your pocket down much and while it's not quite as thin as the T-Mobile Dash it's smaller, lighter and more like a phone.

The Curve's soft-touch edges are easy to grip, although there are a lot of buttons on the sides to avoid: two 'convenience' keys (customisable but initially set to voice dialling and the camera), volume controls that double as scroll buttons, the mini-USB port and a 3.5mm jack that takes standard headphones as well as the headset that comes with the Curve.

Like the 2-megapixel camera (with flash), the microSD slot (annoyingly under the battery), the media player (which adds full-screen video, playlists and shuffle) and Roxio's Easy Media Creator built into the Desktop Media Manager software so you can convert video, this makes the Curve better at multimedia than the Pearl. It has the same A2DP stereo Blueooth, so you can mix music and phone calls seamlessly. The camera quality is better than most 2 megapixel models, producing sharp, colourful images (although zoomed images are disappointing and you can't capture video). Macro shots are good enough to capture business cards and documents. Photos are taken quickly, so you won't miss the shot you want to get but saving is a little slow. You can also control the white balance and automatic flash.

The media player handles AAC, MP3, WMA, MPEG-4, H.263 and WMV video. It also now plays attachments to messages, which is handy if you get voice mail by email. IT administrators can turn off the camera and memory card by policy, so it's still business friendly.

The Curve sticks to GPRS and EDGE, so there's no HSDPA or Wi-Fi. Unlike the 8800, there's no GPS either; although you do get the BlackBerry Maps application, you have to tell it where you are or use a Bluteooth GPS receiver. RIM's automatic compression means that email and Web pages still download speedily and battery life is as impressive as other BlackBerrys. We saw double the promised four hours of talk time and for a mix of calls and Web browsing with constant email you can still go three or four days without a charge. Most HSDPA smartphones only have 36-48 hours of battery life if you're using push email with Windows Mobile 5. Both the screen and keyboard are backlit but they adjust automatically to ambient lighting, so the screen is easy to read even in bright sunlight.

As usual, the Curve is a quad band handset with a full set of phone features, from the mute button on the top edge to the speakerphone, voice dialling and MP3 ringtones. It also has built-in noise reduction and the volume automatically increases in noisy environments, which saves you fumbling for the volume control or sticking a finger in your ear.

The smaller size, lighter weight and improved multimedia make the Curve more attractive as your only phone; earlier BlackBerry models were either too bulky for many people to use as a phone comfortably or swapped QWERTY for SureType keyboards with half the keys and predictive input to get the size down. As a phone and a smartphone and an email phone and an entertainment phone, the BlackBerry Curve hits the sweet spot.

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The first BlackBerry to combine a full keyboard and camera, the 8300 Curve doesn't have the visceral desirability of the Pearl - or the slab-like bulk of the 8800 - but it does have QWERTY and trackball, spell checking and competent multimedia in a small and neat package.

Operating system - BlackBerry OS Connectivity - GPRS/EDGE/Bluetooth Screen resolution - 320 x 240 pixel 2.5" landscape screen Camera - 2 megapixel, flash, zoom, mirror Onboard memory - 64Mb Flash Voice capabilities - Dial, voice notes Ports - USB sync and charge to PC, 3.5mm headset and headphone jack Expansion slots - Micro SD card slot Battery life - Four-hour talk time (eight in tests), 408-hour standby time Dimensions - 107mm x 60 mm x 15.5 mm Weight - 111g

Mary Branscombe

Mary is a freelance business technology journalist who has written for the likes of ITPro, CIO, ZDNet, TechRepublic, The New Stack, The Register, and many other online titles, as well as national publications like the Guardian and Financial Times. She has also held editor positions at AOL’s online technology channel, PC Plus, IT Expert, and Program Now. In her career spanning more than three decades, the Oxford University-educated journalist has seen and covered the development of the technology industry through many of its most significant stages.

Mary has experience in almost all areas of technology but specialises in all things Microsoft and has written two books on Windows 8. She also has extensive expertise in consumer hardware and cloud services - mobile phones to mainframes. Aside from reporting on the latest technology news and trends, and developing whitepapers for a range of industry clients, Mary also writes short technology mysteries and publishes them through Amazon.