RIM BlackBerry Bold 9900 review

RIM has packed in a new operating system, an improved browser and a responsive touchscreen into the slim chassis of the BlackBerry Bold 9900, but Julian Prokaza is still left wanting. Read our review to find out why.

IT Pro Verdict

Although far from the next-generation BlackBerry some were expecting, the Bold 9900 is a reasonably compelling upgrade for existing users suffering from iPhone or Android envy. However, it’s nowhere near good enough to lure anyone, especially those who've never used a BlackBerry before, away from either of those platforms.

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 isn't just the latest smartphone from RIM, it is part of the company's salvo against the competition. It was launched in August alongside two new Torch handsets and will be followed by three new Curve models in September. All six run the new BlackBerry OS 7 operating system and have ramped-up specifications over previous models that include faster processors and built-in Near Field Communication capabilities.

The carbon fibre battery cover looks nice and feels sturdy.

The carbon fibre battery cover looks nice and feels sturdy.

The Bold 9900's most immediate predecessor moved away from the classic business-like wide, flat shape of previous Bold 9000 phones to a shapelier Curve-like look. Unfortunately, the more compact dimensions meant that the keyboard was reduced in size too, which was hardly ideal for a smartphone long known for its superior suitability for typing long messages. Thankfully, RIM has reverted to the original Bold design for the 9900, albeit with a few minor changes.

The narrow stainless steel rim around the case has returned, but the fake leather battery cover thankfully has not. Instead the Bold 9900 uses carbon fibre that, while something of a fingerprint magnet, makes it look less like an executive desk accessory from the 1970s and more like a piece of 21st century technology. By making the Bold 9900 6mm wider and taller than its predecessor, RIM has also made room for a more properly proportioned Qwerty keyboard that's very comfortable to use.

The Bold 9900's larger size also means there's room for a bigger screen than before 2.8in, rather than 2.44in on the Bold 9700. This is still obviously rather pokey compared to the 4in displays on some touchscreen-only phones, but it's a reasonable trade-off for a non-slider smartphone with a physical keyboard. Besides, the 640 x 480 pixel resolution (an increase on the 9700's 480 x 360) gives an extremely sharp image on the bright, vibrant display.