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BlackBerry Bold 9780 Review

Pros

  • Great qwerty keyboard
  • Sharp, colourful screen
  • Excellent call quality and battery life
  • Class leading messaging interface
  • Web browser much improved

Cons

  • Small screen
  • Feels like it needs a touchscreen
  • Keyboard still favours small fingers
  • App store is limited

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £340.00
  • Qwerty keyboard
  • 2.44in screen
  • BlackBerry messenger
  • Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G
  • BlackBerry OS 6.0

BlackBerry still seems to be finding its way in this ever consumer-centric, touchscreen-dominated smartphone world, with its latest touchscreen option, the Torch, getting a mediocre response and the company recently slipping out of the top five smartphone manufacturers worldwide. However, if you’re still a fan of the classic BlackBerry design then the company still has you well covered with its latest model the Bold 9780.


The external design is essentially identical to this phone’s predecessor, the Bold 9700 with the classic landscape-oriented screen sitting atop the navigation controls and physical keyboard. We’ve got the white version here, which we must admit to being rather nonplussed about as it has a pearlescent finish that makes it look just a bit grubby and yellowed. It may be to some people’s taste, just not ours. Thankfully a classic black version is also available.


A small patch of faux leather adorns the back providing a nice soft, tactile feel. However, as with the Bold 9700 we would rather a return to the full leather back of the original Bold 9000 as it both looks more striking and protects even more of the chassis. Nonetheless, this is a phone that feels well made and comfortable to hold for calling, typing and general navigation duties.


Never one to shy away from having plenty of buttons, BlackBerry has given the Bold 9780 a suitably comprehensive selection. On the left is the voice command button – just press it and speak your mind to start a call or check your phone’s status – accompanied by a microUSB socket and headphone jack. We would prefer a few more voice options like “start text message” or “open an app”, though actually we just remapped this button to bring up the task manager anyway. Also, as ever we must protest the presence of the headphone socket on the left edge where it’s likely to cause headphone jacks to snag on pockets.


Up top are buttons for locking the screen and pausing music and muting your call (not, however, muting the phone overall, which is a bit strange), while the right houses a volume rocker and button for the camera. There are also countless keyboard shortcuts at your disposal making it really easy to get to loads of features in double quick time.


As for general typing on the keyboard, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear it’s excellent. The scalloped individually mounted keys feel secure and responsive and the layout is excellent. We still find typing on onscreen keyboards produces faster results but fans of physical keyboards won’t find better without resorting to the even larger versions found on slideout keyboards. The fact that it’s backlit is also a bonus.


Two metal pads sit in the bottom corners of the phone and are there to make contact with the charging points on compatible charging docks. We can’t yet find one that’s officially for the 9780 but being as this phone is so physically similar to the Bold 9700, you should be able to use the dock for that phone.

Among the few things that distinguish this phone from its predecessor is its camera that has been bumped from 3.2-megapixels to 5-megapixels. The real world difference is subtle at best with shots still generally soft and lacking in detail compared to a proper camera. Nonetheless, with autofocus and an LED onboard you can generally get a nice enough shot to capture the moment. The same applies for the non-HD (640 x 480) video, though the limit of only 24fps does make movement a little jerky.


Above the keyboard sits the screen, which measures a relatively paltry 2.44in from corner to corner. This pales in comparison to the 3.5-4.0in examples found on most touchscreen smartphones nowadays, and it is noticeable. Browse the web or watch a video and it feels decidedly cramped, though in fairness it’s still sufficient to get by.


Helping is the sheer quality of the screen. Packing in 480 x 360 pixels, it’s superbly sharp and produces strong, punchy colours and deep blacks.


What’s perhaps more of concern than the size of the screen is the lack of touch-sensing. Particularly with its redesigned interface it just feels so backward to have to scroll round using a trackpad to select menus items when a simple prod with a finger would get you there in double quick time. It’s not that we want the format to change completely, just replace the current screen with a touch-sensing one and we’ll be happy. Of course that’s precisely what we can expect from the BlackBerry Dakota when it finally arrives.


What makes this even worse is that the optical trackpad on the sample we reviewed was a bit temperamental, being unresponsive one minute and flinging the cursor wildly across the screen the next. Since shooting our video review we’ve heard evidence to suggest this is probably a defect with the unit we have for review but we’ve yet to see another unit ourselves to confirm this. Based on passed evidence, though, we wouldn’t expect this to be a widespread problem.


Joining the trackpad in the central navigation cluster are buttons for Call, Menu, Back, and Call End. They all feel responsive and are nice and large for super-easy navigation.


Running on this phone is the latest 6.0 version of Blackberry’s OS that brings a number of significant improvements to the table, though still retains that very Blackberry-esque feel. Putting aside our already noted desire for a touchscreen and issues with the trackpad, the OS does feel very nice.

The home screen still has a notifications area at the top, a blank section in the middle and a series of shortcuts at the bottom but now it’s been further subdivided. At the very top is the general info section showing time, date, battery status and such like, which when clicked on brings up a menu with options for adjusting Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Mobile Network, Alarm and various other settings.


Below this is a separate notifications area showing how many emails, messages and other social network messages or updates you’ve got. Tap it and it extends to reveal a full chronological list of all your messaging updates and calendar appointments. It’s so basic yet so brilliant, giving you a one-stop solution to keeping up with all the latest goings on. You’ve also got the classic flashing red LED indicator to the right of the earpiece to let you know when you’ve got a new notification.


Next up is the apps folder carousel. Highlight this thin strip and you can scroll left and right to change the six shortcuts listed in the section below, moving from All through Favourites, Media, Downloads and Frequent apps.


Finally there’s the shortcuts section itself which can be adjusted to show two or no rows of shortcuts as well as the default single row. Scroll downwards and the full list of available apps slides up to fill the screen. Once on this screen you can then move apps around and add them to folders.


Unlike previous versions, you can’t press the Menu button to also bring up the full apps list. Press it while any of the aforementioned sections are highlighted and you’re presented with the options of opening the Tray (apps list) or going to the options screen for changing the homescreen layout. Alternatively, if you highlight one of the apps in the shortcuts section at the bottom and press Menu it brings up the options for that app. It feels a bit odd at first but you soon get the hang of it, at least you would if the trackpad on your phone worked properly, unlike ours.


Also improved is the general look and feel with little animations now greeting the opening and closing of apps and as you move through menus. The menus themselves have also been tarted up with small (admittedly somewhat pointless on non-touchscreen devices) icons now accompanying each item, giving you a visual cue as to what to expect. The multimedia apps have also been spruced up a bit. There’s nothing revolutionary here but it all helps to keep the platform looking like it belongs in this decade. To aid storing lots of your favourite media, there’s a microSD slot that will take cards up to 32GB and comes filled with a 1GB card.


Social networking is another key improvement with Facebook and Twitter information now infiltrating your contacts list as well as the various messaging services. Combined with the superb group and individual instant messaging service, BlackBerry Messenger, this phone and others running BlackBerry OS 6.0 are among the best for actually keeping up with everything that’s going on in your life.

Universal Search has also been added, giving you instant access to your phones features and all manner of web searches. Just start typing when on the homescreen and any matching contacts, messages, videos, songs, or anything else on your phone will appear below. If nothing matches you can search YouTube, Google, the BlackBerry App store and Google Local Search. It’s only really a catch up feature to bring the platform in line with Android, iOS, and WebOS but it’s done well enough that it’s worthy of praise.


The final major improvement comes courtesy the web browser, which renders pages much faster than previous versions and supports tabbed browsing for having multiple pages open at once. This brings the platform nearly up to speed with most rivals but a lack of support for flash means many online videos will still be out of reach. Also, as already mentioned, the lack of a touch screen does feel like a real hindrance when trying to scroll around pages and zoom in and out.


Of course, what would a BlackBerry be without excellent email support, and this device doesn’t let the side down any in this regard. Email notifications are truly instant while support for different account types is comprehensive, with most requiring minimal effort to setup. What’s more, you can keep up with all messages, whether email, text, Twitter, Facebook, BBM or otherwise, through a single Messages app, though separate email accounts are also accessible.


Dedicated apps for Facebook and Twitter are included along with all the usual basics like calculators, calendars, and support for other IM services like GoogleTalk, Yahoo Messenger, and GoogleTalk.


GPS is onboard and it seems to work quite well with it accurately and speedily picking up where we were. BlackBerry Maps is the default way to take advantage of this feature but we recommend downloading GoogleMaps as it’s just nicer to use.


You’ll be going through the BlackBerry App World to get hold of this and while there you’ll find a somewhat limited supply of other apps. Most essentials are there but it’s still someway off the diversity you get with Android and iOS.


The CPU in the 9780 is identical to that of the 9700, which at 624MHz isn’t exactly a challenger to the 1GHz models found on many Android devices. However, it does seem quite sufficient for this phone and thanks to a doubling in RAM, to 512MB, we saw no evidence of slow down.


As for making calls on the 9780, it holds up to BlackBerry’s legendary standards with very clear audio through both the earpiece and speaker. Indeed, if you’re a fan of playing your music out loud from a phone (then stop), we know of few better devices. We’ve heard reports of iffy reception but we had no such problems.


It’s the same story with battery life as the 1500mAh unit should easily provide you with well in excess of two days use, with three or four being more likely for lighter users.


”’Verdict”’


The BlackBerry Bold 9780 is another classic BlackBerry that ticks all the boxes we’d expect; the keyboard’s great, the screen is small but very sharp and nice to look at, messaging facilities and call quality are superb, and you’ll get days of use out of it. However, it’s not much of an upgrade compared to the Bold 9700 and is starting to look a bit behind the times. If you’re desperate for a new BlackBerry-style handset then it certainly won’t let you down on any key front but those looking simply to upgrade will probably do best to wait for the Dakota that will add an all essential touchscreen to the mix.



Trusted Score


Score in detail

  • Performance 7
  • Design 7
  • Value 8
  • Features 7

General

Operating System BlackBerry
Height (Millimeter) 109mm
Width (Millimeter) 60mm
Depth (Millimeter) 14mm
Weight (Gram) 122g
Available Colours Black, White

Display

Screen Size (inches) (Inch) 2.44in
Screen Resolution 480x360
Touchscreen No

Battery

Talk Time (Minute) 360m
Standby Time (Hour) 408hr

Storage

Internal Storage (Gigabyte) 0.256GB
Camera (Megapixel) 5 megapixel Megapixel
Front Facing Camera (Megapixel) No Megapixel
Camera Flash LED

Connectivity

Bluetooth Yes
WiFi Yes
3G/4G Yes
3.5mm Headphone Jack Yes
Charging/Computer Connection microUSB

Processor and Internal Specs

CPU 624MHz

Misc

App Store BlackBerry App World
GPS Yes

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