Connectivity is also a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand you get Wi-Fi for fast web browsing at home or when you're within range of a hotspot, plus Bluetooth for use with car kits or stereo headsets. However, there's no GPS and this is yet another BlackBerry that doesn't support 3G at a time when it's difficult to find a smartphone from any other manufacturer that doesn't feature 3G support. That said, the lack of 3G isn't really all that noticeable when you're using the device for email due to BlackBerry's clever compression technology. However, it's a different story with the web browser as when you're away from a Wi-Fi signal and working over the mobile EDGE network it can be pretty slow to load pages in the browser.
But despite the small screen and lack of 3G support, the browser is actually pretty decent as it feels responsive and is easy to navigate using the onscreen cursor via the optical trackpad. It also does a pretty good job of rendering sites, although it does muck up the formatting every now and again on really complex pages.
As with all BlackBerry devices the 8520's messaging features are top class. It's easy to set the phone up to receive push email from an existing email account via the BlackBerry web service and its instant messages support is also excellent with ICQ, Google Talk, Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo Messenger all present and correct. What's more, there's a great little Twitter app preloaded and you can download extras for Facebook and Myspace for free via the BlackBerry App Store.
The camera, on the other hand, is a bit disappointing, especially for a device that's primarily aimed at consumers. It has a 2.0-megapixel resolution so there isn't a huge amount of detail in the shots it takes. Photos taken outdoors in good light look decent, but as the camera lacks a flash or autofocus it really struggles indoors leaving you with dark and noisy photos. The camera can also be used to take videos at a resolution of 320 x 240, but the results look a tad jerky. Video format support covers MPEG4, H.263, H.264, and WMV3.
As the 8520 is quad-band compatible you can use it in most countries around the world and as with many of the BlackBerry's we've tested in the past it's call quality is excellent. The ear piece is nice and loud, the mic isn't over directional and even the speakerphone function works quite well, boosted by the beefier speaker RIM has used for this model.
One of the traditional strengths of BlackBerry devices is their long battery life and here the 8520 is no different. From a full charge you'll get around three days of medium usage out of it for emailing, phone calls and a bit of web browsing, which is very impressive.
The BlackBerry Curve 8250 is certainly a little light on features, with 3G and GPS the most serious omissions, but the phone still manages to rise above these limitations. It's the combination of its excellent email features, long battery life and easy to use interface that make it so likeable and as a result we think it's a good choice for those who want more than a standard mobile, but haven't got the cash to go the iPhone or HTC Hero route.