Brief video review:

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=veNm5He-E1Q

On a BlackBerry? Click here for mobile YouTube video

Full Review:

This past fall, we’ve seen the release of the flagship BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930, the sleek BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860, the beefed-up Torch 9810, and the slim Curve 9360.  There seems to be a BlackBerry form-factor for everyone out there, but RIM wasn’t done with BlacBberry 7 yet.  The rumoured BlackBerry codenamed “Bellagio” was released just in time for 2012.  RIM calls it the new BlackBerry Bold 9790, building on the last generation’s Bold 9780 design, so it’s more like a “Baby Bold” but with a touchscreen all the “kool kidz” have been waiting for!  So how does this new BlackBerry break away from the older 9780, and where does it fit in with the existing BlackBerry 7 line-up?  N4BB reviews the new BlackBerry Bold 9790 to find out!

Design: 

Meet the Bold 9790.  It was as if there was a design competition within RIM to see who could make the most practical Blackberry of all time.  I swear the winner probably designed this smartphone.  The shape follows the “waterfall” design RIM’s been using on its Blackberry 7 phones, and they’ve generally pulled it off.  If the bottom halves of the Torch 9850/9860 and the Bold 9790 were involved in an unfortunate accident with a mitre saw, you would barely be able to tell them apart if it wasn’t for the word “Bold” on the back of the 9790.  You get a “chrome” band lining the entire side of the phone, giving it a nice premium look even though its plastic.  It feels great in the hand, and seems fairly light at a mere 107 grams.  Although it’s not the thinnest Blackberry ever, have no fear, it’ll fit in your favourite pair of skinny jeans, guaranteed!

The four typical Blackberry navigation buttons on the Bold 9790 are borrowed from the Torch 9850/9860.  Despite a bit of controversy over the aesthetics of the buttons, and before you send off your hate mail to Waterloo for this apparent travesty, let’s give it a chance.  In a departure from the designs of old, the buttons are separated and smaller. The buttons aren’t exactly the same as on the Torch 9850/9860 as they are slightly tapered at their bottoms, giving the buttons a more natural look.  The best part, however, is the feel of the buttons!  Oh wow!  The mechanism is completely silent, it’s soft yet crisp, and the buttons are almost flush to the surface.  Your fingers can just glide over the keys.   Remember that “A” button on a brand new Super NES controller?  It’s better than that.  Even though you won’t see the buttons of this phone showcased next to the Mona Lisa, it’s done right in my books as far as attention to button build quality.

Of all the ways to remove the battery cover on a smartphone, I think RIM has tried most of them.  Each model usually has its own unique mechanism, but I will say, much like the Torch 9810, they nailed it with this phone.  You don’t need to pry it open with long finger nail, or press a small button and then lift or slide up buttons or anything.  You simply slide the battery door down and it comes right off.   The back cover of the Bold 9790 appears incredibly similar to that of the Torch 9850/9860. But we’ll let it slide (pun intended).  Gone is the faux-leather backing we’ve all come to know in the smaller Bold form factor.  You might think that the back cover is identical to the heavenly soft-feel metal of the 9850/9860, but you’d be wrong.   It isn’t quite as soft, which is slightly disappointing to my fingertips.  In my opinion, the Torch 9850/9860 and the Blackberry Playbook had an incredible feeling of unmatchable quality that made you feel guilty for touching it too much, and I hope it will be carried forward to future devices.   The design of the Bold 9790’s back cover is also fairly plain with just the standard metal Blackberry logo, and the phone itself isn’t symmetric from top to bottom, unlike the Torch 9850/9860, giving it a slightly awkward look from the back.

The camera lens and flash are positioned on the slightly thicker top part of the phone.  The model name “Bold” subtly appears in between, similar to models like the Torch 9800.

The keyboard is reminiscent of the previous Bold 9700 and 9780 devices although with some minor improvements.  After all, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it!  The keyboard is very slightly wider while keeping the width of the 9790 the same, pushing the outer keys closer to the edge as they wrap around the sides.  The keyboard is also does not curve as much vertically as before, in other words, there’s less of a smiley face effect with the frets between the keys.

Like all QWERTY Blackerry 7 smartphones, the screen, trackpad, keyboard, navigation buttons are all back-lit with a subtle shut-off sequence as the phone goes into standby.  This subtlety gives the 9790 the appearance of understated sophistication, even though there’s none at all.  At first, the keyboard dims, followed by the navigation buttons, and lastly the trackpad.  The screen’s backlight timing is all up to you in the display options.

You’ll notice that the micro USB port is now located at the bottom of the phone, almost begging for a charging/syncing dock (we’ll see if we can get our hands on one later!).  The microphone is located squarely at the bottom centre of the phone’s front, right where it should be.

The right side of the phone is filled with four nearly invisible buttons:  volume up, mute, volume down, and the camera shutter.  If it wasn’t for their usefulness, I probably wouldn’t have noticed them.  Being barely over a millimeter thick and narrow, you could even mistake them for shoddy build quality, but they are solid, well made, and work well.  The only downside is the mute button, which is tiny.  Now, it’s not difficult to press, it’s just that you feel like you don’t know what you’re pressing.  The camera button is the same story, slim and subtle.  Stylish, yes, but we’ve seen better implementations.

The top of the Bold 9790 is an actually invisible lock button.  It’s a little too “clicky” for my taste.  Just imagine a slightly quieter and higher-pitched version of someone clicking their pen.  Bingo.

The left side of the phone is completely devoid of buttons, namely the now-extinct second convenience key, which is…inconvenient.  The decision to remove this button was probably done for style’s sake, but I really wish they reconsidered the decision.  All you’ll notice is the 3.5mm headphone jack that we kinda wished was up at the top of the phone like on the curve, but that’s not a big deal at all.

Straight to the specs:

  • 1 GHz Processor
  • HSPA antenna
  • 768 RAM
  • 8 GB On-board storage
  • 5 MP Camera sensor with autofocus/flash
  • Micro SD expandable to 32 GB
  • 2.45” touchscreen at 246 dpi (480×360)
  • NFC, Bluetooth 2.1, GPS
  • Wifi a/b/g/n with UMA support

Internals and Hardware:

The Bold 9790 is powered using a Marvel Tavor MG1 1 Ghz single-core processor, as opposed to the 1.2 GHz Qualcomm CPUs powering the Bold 9900/9930 and Torch models. Although it isn’t as quick, it has got some guts, and it does move smoothly running Blackberry 7.  Research in Motion’s “Liquid graphics” is out in full force, hardware-accelerating the graphics giving you slick scrolling, pinch-to-zoom, panning and zooming to your heart’s content.

The Blackberr