The latest version of BlackBerry OS has brought with it a much improved browser that for the most part makes navigating the web a pleasure on any BlackBerry, including this Bold 9790. It's fast, renders web pages correctly and it's easy and intuitive to zoom in and out, add bookmarks, open a new tab and all the other basics you want from a browser.
However, on this particular phone the small screen does make things feel a little restrictive and you do find yourself often hoping desperately that whatever site you visit has a mobile version, so you don't have to spend too much time zooming in and scrolling around. The browser also doesn't support Flash, which is more of a problem here than on iPhones because there are fewer dedicated apps that get you access to this content. The likes of iPlayer, for instance, are out of reach.
Apps in general are another major problem for BlackBerry at the moment. Quite simply, there aren't enough of them. We tried to track down a selection of classics, or alternatives for them, and came up wanting more often than not. All we could find for Angry Birds was a brazen copycat title called Angry Pigs, which was horrendously slow. 'The Times' could only offer up the NY Times while DropBox simply wasn't catered for (though SugarSync was).
At least Twitter and Facebook are accomodated for, as is the newly popular WhatsApp, cross platform messaging app. Until RIM really starts pushing developers to get onboard, it's going to continue struggling.
Another victim of the small screen is video playback, to the point where you're really only going to want to watch the odd YouTube clip, rather than going to the effort of copying whole movies onto it. Otherwise, format support and performance is actually quite good, for what it's worth.
Taking your own video is an easy affair, though you're limited to just VGA (640 x 480) resolution, rather than HD. Footage is quite watchable with smooth motion, good colouration and smooth transitions from dark to light areas.
Likewise, photos look decent but are limited to only five megapixels. The Bold 9790's camera is is hardly class-leading but results are otherwise decent. The camera/camcorder app is also easy to use and quick, while the shutter button on the phone's side comes in useful for both launching the app and taking a shot. However, some of the luxuries of modern phone cameras are missing with only no ability to touch to focus, no real time silly effects, and post processing is limited to rotating your snaps. Many other phones offer many more options.
Battery life is not bad for a smartphone. We found two days was easily obtainable, so you'll probably only need to charge it every other night.
The BlackBerry 9790 is another solid, keyboard-equipped smartphone from RIM, with the very welcome addition of a touchscreen. Its keyboard is decent, screen quality good and interface nice to use. As a budget alternative to the Bold 9900, it does what's required. However, the small, low-resolution screen and still deathly slow uptake of apps mean it trails behind most equivalent phones by some distance. As such it's only really a device we'd recommend to a limited subset of people - those who really want a touchscreen BlackBerry with a physical keyboard.