Reviewing the BlackBerry Bold

With the BlackBerry Bold, Research In Motion has refreshed its lineup of smart phones and released its spiffiest offering yet.

At $299, it's priced for the executive ready for an upgrade. But smart-phone users who get their hands on the Bold will not want to put it down. It's available in the United States for AT&T and will work anywhere in the world, including Europe and Asia.

You're Connected

It will be difficult to keep this device off-line. The Bold can connect to the speedy 3G (where available) and Wi-Fi networks. Combine this with its snappy upgraded processor (the 624 MHz mobile processor has twice the power of previous models) and streaming YouTube clips or updating your status on a customized Facebook application is an enjoyable experience.

The Bold has true built-in GPS with audible and visual directions, so getting from place to place becomes faster. And its upgraded operating system improves on the gripes of longtime Blackberry users.

It also one ups the iPhone and other power-hungry devices with a long battery life (a full day even while streaming video on the 3G network). And, with its comfortable keyboard that has a designated key for each letter, you'll never long for a touchscreen again.

Users will cruise around the screen with cut and paste, extensive menus and customizable shortcuts. For example, I programmed mine to translate the keystrokes of ++ as :-) and typing eee will reveal my full name, title, mailing address, e-mail address and phone numbers. Now that's a time saver.

Beauty Is Pleather Deep

The Bold's body looks and feels like quality. The plastic housing has been replaced with a durable aluminum case, a glassy front that doesn't smudge and a leather-looking backside that adds to the phone's posh feel and keeps the device from slipping out of your hands.

The star of the show is the redesigned interface and the bright display. Icons look classy with single images surrounded by rounded borders that match the overall rounded edges of the Bold itself. Text renders crisply and is easy on the eyes, especially when you hit your 100th e-mail of the day -- before coffee.

Multimedia Is King

As smart as it is, the Bold is still a phone and it produces great call quality. First-time users seem hesitant to put the body (the size of a deck of cards) up to their ear, but the wired stereo headset (included) allows you to rock out to your latest tunes and then seamlessly transfer over to take a phone call.

Stereo Bluetooth is also available if you purchase a wireless headset and you will be able to make phone calls or listen to music without the burden of a dangling cable (the latter a feature that would be welcomed on the iPhone, which blocks streaming music via Bluetooth).

The speakerphone is surprisingly loud and clear for such a small device and the built-in camera and video camera make the Bold a real multimedia machine. Video looks great on the new screen but loading music and video is extremely burdensome. The included Roxio software is buggy and only available for the PC. A smart plug-in called Media Sync does match up nicely with an iTunes music library -- but, again, only for the PC.

Before manually dragging media onto the expansion card (MicroSD sold separately in sizes up to 8GB for around $30), users will need to convert the files for the proper screen size and compatible codecs. A process that will make most skip the process all together.

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