Friday - February 23, 2018

Blackberry Bold 9930 Review

  • Phones
  • Aug 21 2011 - 9:02pm by Patrick Adam

We’ve been waiting for quite some time regarding the Bold 9900/30 entry.  RIM has been historically known for announcing product, but slow in delivering to market.  Although RIM has been making only incremental changes to their lines of devices over the past few years, the Bold 9900/30 takes exception.  The combination of the popular physical keyboard along with a non-slider touch screen has made hardcore communication users froth at the mouth.  Read on for the breakdown of our review.

Hardware

Some noticeable changes have been made on the hardware side of this model, and we’ve broken them down in detail.  We're glad to say that many of the changes have been for the positive.

Design
Simply put, exquisite.  It looks and plays the part of a well-constructed business device, exuding the message that you’re a serious player.  The aluminum band that runs around the device is divine (iPhone Bold 9930 Designenvy, RIM?), exhibiting materials of a superior device.  While the Bold 9900/30 carries many of the design attributes of the Bold 9000, this device is the thinnest Blackberry has ever made.  It feels great in hand, with rounded off corners and a chiseled-out back.

Score: 9.7 –    Business class, with elegance.

Processor
Finally, a Blackberry device that has caught up with the rest of the market.  As sarcastic as we’d like to be, the QC 8655 1.2 GHz single-core processor makes the device purr.  While we did notice some stalling from time-to-time while running or opening programs, we’d most likely chalk that up to the OS and not necessarily the processor.  Seldom do we see the spinning hourglass, and the processor hasn’t created much of a negative impact on battery life.

Score: 8.7 –    A processor that competes with the rest, although dual core processors are becoming more prevalent.

Display

The 2.8” screen is simply marvelous.  Its bright, crisp colors stand out on the device, which sports a 640x480 pixel panel.  The main difference between this device and the previous Blackberry Bold models is the ‘touch’ screen.  Bold 9930 ScreenUsing liquid display technology, the screen is responsive and accurate, with very little hesitation during swipes.  What we really found impressive was the web browsing on the display. Pinch-to-zoom was solid, rendering the content relatively fast, thus making the web browsing experience more enjoyable.  While the screen size does limit the amount of content viewed in one snapshot, overall it’s much improved and usable.  The combination of the touch screen and ‘best keyboard in the business’ leads us to…

Score: 8.7 -     Only because of its size does it score below a 9.0.  It’s a solid display, even if it’s not a qHD or Retina.

Keyboard/Buttons/TrackPad

Keyboard - Simply the best in the business.  The keyboard is slightly wider than the Bold 9650, thus providing a better typing experience.  The keys are larger, with a softer touch and not as pointed since there’s more room provided for the layout. The key response is fantastic and makes typing on the device easy, allowing smooth movement for the fingers to glide across keys, thus creating a slight speed improvement, especiallyBold 9930 Keyboard for those with large fingers.  RIM also did away with the red coloring for the number keys by making the entire keyboard a conformed white.  The keyboard will also light up under dark lighting conditions, making it easy to locate those keys for typing in the dark.  For those who prefer or need a physical keyboard, you can’t go wrong with the Bold 9900/30.

TrackPad – We’re sticklers for perfection, and of course we found a ‘slight’ issue with the trackpad.  For those of you who have used the Bold 9650, RIM’s early production units had trackpads that were slightly tilted inward to the right, not flush with the rest of the surface.  While the trackpad was very usable, it was something certainly noticeable to sensitive fingers.  With regard to the Bold 9900/30, the Verizon model we received has a flush trackpad, however it tends to get stuck – slightly inward to the right.  This can possibly be due to the ‘newness’ of the device, and can be corrected by simply tapping on the left side of the trackpad to even it out.  As for the sensitivity of the trackpad, it’s a bit receptive to the slightest touch and at times seems to have a mind of its own.  Simple software adjustments can slow it down some, but nonetheless it’s still overly sensitive coming straight out of the box.  What is delightful is how the trackpad will light up (as well as the keyboard) under dark lighting conditions.  Navigating has never been so easy.

Buttons – Nothing major to report other than a new ‘style’ and look that complements the metal framing for the device.  On the right side, you’ll find the volume rocker with the ‘play/pause’ button for music in between the up and down buttons, and it also serves as a ‘mute’ button during calls.  Nicely done.  You will also find a dedicated button at the bottom of the right side that can be used for a variety of actions, such as launching your web browser, music, etc.  The default setting is for the camera.  At the top center, you have another button that is used to lock and unlock your phone.  As for the left side, there are no buttons.  This is somewhat disappointing (but not major) as the device supports PTT, and having an extra button to launch PTT (or anything else for that matter) would have been nice.

Score: 9.5 -     There isn’t a device out there that comes close to the keyboard on the Bold 9900/30.

Battery Cover

We’re going to add this section only because NFC (Near Field Communication) makes its first introduction to the Blackberry, and it’s located on the battery door. While NFC is relatively new and not actively deployed Bold 9930 NFCamong the majority, the Bold 9900/30 is prepared for when that day arrives.  For those of you interested in understanding what NFC is and what it can provide, we’ve linked a quick summary that’s been posted via Wikipedia.

As for the material used on the back door/battery cover, that’s a different issue.  The material can be easily scratched if placed on a rough surface (such as concrete), and doesn’t have any grip on smooth surfaces.  Jokingly, it would be a great device for air hockey, without the need for air.  It’s that slick on a smooth table surface.

Score: 9.0 –    While we like the NFC technology placed on the cover, the material used could be just a tad better.

Battery

Before going further for this portion of the review, let’s first present the type of usage and settings that were placed.  Emails were read and composed every few minutes (both BES and BIS accounts), an occasional call or two (approximately 30 minutes total), heavy BBM at times, occasional texting, and some web browsing (though not elaborate).  Twitter was set to check every 30 minutes as well as Facebook. We also had BB News and Social running at 15-minute intervals.  For the cherry on top, we ran a couple of downloads in there as well from Blackberry’s App World. 

With that said, after pounding testing the device for a few days, we have to say the battery is ‘decent.’  Why you ask?  From the physical aspect of the battery (model JM-1), it was downgraded to 1230mAh (the D-X1 is at 1400mAh and the MS-1 is at 1550mAh).  After 6 hours of exercising the above settings, we knocked off 45-50% of the battery.  Letting it run for an hour with barely any action except for the emails, it dropped another 5% (which is to be expected).  We got to 10% after almost 12 hours.

Because the device is so thin when compared with previous models, the design of the battery needed to thin out as well, similar to the 9700’s MS-1.  What also affects the battery performance is the fact that we’re looking at a slightly larger screen (touch being that), which is running at a higher resolution.  Add in an upgraded processor and sure, it’s going to take its toll.

So, would we say the battery life of the Bold 9900/30 is subpar?  Not at all.  Compared to the amazing Bold 9700, most devices wouldn’t fare well.  But the Bold 9900/30 certainly does an adequate job of easily getting most users (average/moderate) through an entire day.  If you’re a power user, you may want to hit-up an outlet every-so-often or perhaps carry a spare around just in case the dreaded red bar makes an appearance.

Score: 8.5 -     Battery life is decent and sacrificed for design.  We were spoiled by the 9700.

Memory/Storage

Here’s where we were surprised and somewhat disappointed.  When booting up the device, we immediately looked at the app storage space available.  To our demise, there was approximately 192 MB’s available for apps.  After setting up our device and downloading our list (16 apps to be exact), we were left with 117 MB.  Ouch.  We had double the amount of apps installed with close to 200MB left on our old Bold 9650 model.

While the device advertises that 8GB of storage is installed (for media, etc.), in reality you only have a little over 6 GB remaining once taking it out of the box.  While this is still a decent amount of storage, it would’ve been nice to see a bump towards 16GB considering the cost of the device.  You also have the option for up to an additional 32GB of storage via the mini-SD card.

As for the RAM, RIM bumped up the memory to 768MB.  We’d like to have seen an even GB (1024MB), but we’ll take what we can get.  The bump in RAM, along with the increase in processor has made the OS and app experience fluid and speedy (in most cases). 

Score: 8.0 -     We’d like to have seen more storage available for applications.  We certainly don’t want to revisit the days of battery pulls and leaked memory concerns.

Signal/GPS/Voice & Speakerphone

If there’s one thing we haven’t seen in the past few years with RIM, that would be signal issues with a Blackberry.  Signal was strong for the most part, though we occasionally witnessed a 3G drop to 1xRT from time-to-time.  We’re not sure why, and our other phones on the same network didn’t witness the fluctuation.  Call quality was fantastic, even in low signal areas.  Those listening on the other end reported solid call Bold 9930 Antennaquality, in some cases they best they’ve ever experienced.  When using Bluetooth (we used the Bose Bluetooth headset), call quality was good.  On occasion sound would be slightly muffled, but we can point the finger to driving while testing the unit.  Stationary Bluetooth usage was otherwise solid.  The Verizon Bold 9930 also has PTT capability, but the software isn’t ready and should be released sometime in the near future.  GPS was dead on as we tested the unit with VZ Navigator and Google Maps.  And lastly, this device will get you service outside the U.S. - it's a world phone and comes with a SIM card pre-installed.

Score: 9.5 -     One of the best phones for voice quality that we’ve experienced.

Camera/Video

Using a 5MP camera with 720p HD video, RIM has put some acceptable features on the device.  While the design of the device made it necessary to remove the camera’s autofocus feature, the lens still produces decent pictures.  Zoom provides 4x ability, but overall the camera is fine for quick photos.  Unlike some of the other devices out on the market, the Bold 9900/30 isn’t going to replace the need for a pocket camera for quality photo ops.  Video was decent at best.  With 720p HD, video was fine, but the audio was shallow and tinny as we had to max the volume on playback to hear audio in some cases. 

Score: 8.5 -     The specs are there, just need to fine-tune them.  Decent for those quick ‘op’ moments.

Audio/Music

We used the Bose MIE2i headset for listing to music (and yes, the pause and volume control buttons work with the Blackberry).  You can find the 3.5mm headset jack on the upper left side of the device.  We’d have preferred it to be on the top, but we suppose the rounded corners at the top wouldn’t allow the aesthetic design.  Music through the headset was decent, although not overly impressive.  While there are alternative equalizer choices to select from, the experience was adequate at best.  Many of the choices were missing something that should have made audio sound full and rich.  Listening to music through the speaker wasn’t impressive, either.  With the speaker being located on the back of the device and just below the battery door, sound was relatively muffled in hand and only improved when resting on a table or flat surface (as mentioned above in Voice & Speakerphone).   We’d have preferred the speaker to be on the side of the device, much like the Bold 9650, if we had to choose. 

Score: 7.5 -     The device won’t exactly replace your iPod or MP3 player.

Software

We decided to combine the score here, simply because the rating for Apps would hurt the overall score of the device, thus not a fair overall assessment.

OS 7

When we first heard about OS 7, we immediately thought that RIM was just trying to make news to keep up with Android and iOS since the OS is essentially v 6.1.  We were correct.  There aren’t any major design changes to the UI.  What we did notice, however, is how fast the OS will boot up.  While the processor has much to do with this sudden pleasantry, the OS seems to have been tweaked enough to expedite the process as well.  Battery pulls are no longer a dreaded task and now a thing of the past.  OS 7 will most likely be a holdover until the much anticipated QNX is released, which is expected sometime in the first quarter of next year.

Update: We just began experiencing some OS 'pauses,'  although the dreaded time glass hasn't shown it's ugly icon.  These pauses can last anywhere from 3 to 10 seconds.  We're not quite sure what this would be a result of, but we'll slide this issue under 'OS' for now until we can obtain more detail regarding the issue.  It's nothing major, but has increased during use.

Apps

There’s no change here.  App World is still the same…awful.  The interface and selection of apps is depressing.  App World 3 is on its way, but we’re not optimistic.  To make matters worse, RIM had also announced earlier this year that Android Apps will not be available for OS 7.  QNX couldn’t come soon enough.  On the positive side, email is simply the best in the business, along with contacts, calendar, tasks and notes (for business users such as us).  BBM is second to none, although our contact list has shrunk over the past couple of years (defectors to iOS and Android).  Facebook has been given a facelift of sorts, which is pleasant, and Twitter is serviceable.

Browser

Processor speed certainly makes a difference.  As we mentioned in the ‘display’ section of our review, the webkit browser is greatly improved with the bump in speed and ‘liquid graphics’ technology.  Pinch-to-zoom works with little lag, rendering was fine, and web sites load and without the strain of long waits.   Overall, the browser isn’t going to compete with the Android or iOS browsers, and the screen is too small to really rely on for heavy use, but in a pinch it’s good for reading basic articles and pulling up stick quotes and sports scores.

Score: 8.0 -     Not much to report here.  Status quo until QNX arrives.

Conclusion

The review may have sounded a bit picky and negative in some areas, but overall we love the Bold 9900/30.  It’sBold 9930 Rating the ultimate communication device to own, and stylish enough to make anyone appear elegent and business class.  The speed upgrade makes using a Blackberry a fun experience once again, and the touch screen and keyboard put this baby in the top ten (five in our opinion) of cell phones out there.  RIM has finally put the acceptable hardware out to market, and the result is a success.  Going forward, RIM needs to continue being aggressive with their models and hardware upgrades.  That aggressiveness will keep them in the game, and hopefully gains back some of the market-share they’ve lost over the past couple of years.

Welcome back RIM, and we’re looking forward to the line of QNX phones next year.

Device specs and pictures are below.

 


 

Blackberry Bold 9900/9930

Size 115 x 66 x 10.5 mm, approximately 130g
Display 2.8" capacitive touch screen display - VGA (640x480), 287 dpi resolution
Keyboard Ultra-easy QWERTY keyboard, optical trackpad
CPU 1.2 GHz Processor
Memory 768 MB RAM; 8 GB on-board memory, plus microSD slot supporting up to 32 GB cards

Camera 5.0 MP camera, supports 720p HD video recording
Accelerometer/Magnetometer Orientation Sensor (Accelerometer), Digital Compass (Magnetometer), Proximity Sensor

NFC Capability
GPS Built-in GPS / aGPS

Wifi Dual-Band Wi-Fi - 802.11 b/g/n at 2.4 GHz and 802.11 a/n at 5 GHz:

  • 9900: Tri-BandHSPA+,Quad-BandGSM/EDGE
  • 9930: Dual-BandCDMA/EV-DORev.A,Dual-BandHSPA+,Quad-Band GSM/EDGE

Bluetooth Bluetooth® 2.1+EDR support

Operating System BlackBerry 7 OS

Battery 1230 mAh removable, rechargeable battery



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