BlackBerry Bold 9780 vs HTC Desire Z: The verdict

Best keyboard-packing smartphones go head-to-head

A button-free smartphone is not for everyone. So, if you're not quite ready to embrace a button-free existence, we check out two keyboard-toting smartphones, the HTC Desire Z and the BlackBerry Bold 9780 to find out who is king of the QWERTY.

While the likes of the Apple iPhone 4, and Android greats like the Samsung Galaxy S2 go the way of the full touchscreen display, there are still those of us not quite ready to swap virtual for physical in the keyboard department.

Step forward two of the best smartphones with keyboards. The Android 2.2 HTC Desire Z hosts one of the finest slide-out keyboards you'll find on the market. Then there is the BlackBerry Bold 9780, the established member of the Bold family with a full QWERTY keyboard.

But which one is best? We pit the two stellar smartphones against each other to help you decide which is the ideal handset for you.

HTC Desire Z vs BlackBerry Bold 9780: Build

HTC Desire Z I HTC Desire Z review

At 14mm deep, the Desire Z is a chunky handset, compared to the Desire HD’s 11.8mm, although comparative to the 13.7mm of Motorola’s excellent Milestone 2, which also has a pull-out QWERTY. Weighing 180g, it’s quite heavy, but is still slim enough to fit into a pocket.

The keyboard slides out vertically using a unique ‘Z’ hinge, referring to the shape of the hinge used between the keyboard and the top section with the screen. After initially trying out the hinge in September we were a little worried about its durability, but over the days we’ve been using it, it feels strong, although we'd still treat it with care. There’s little danger of the screen accidentally sliding open like with some smartphones.

BlackBerry Bold 9780 I BlackBerry Bold 9780 review

The Bold doesn’t have a touchscreen, so you navigate using the square touch sensitive-trackpad. Once you get used to it, scrolling up and down web pages is fairly quick, but if you’ve come from a touchscreen at first it’s hard not to jab the screen, although regular Bold users won’t have this problem.

The highlight of Blackberry Bold has always been the keyboard, it’s unchanged here. Typing is a breeze; the keys have enough travel, so you’ll be effortlessly typing out messages. Although those with larger fingers (like us) may find this a bit cramped, we prefer the larger keyboard on the HTC Desire Z, but the compact size makes this more pocket friendly.

HTC Desire Z vs BlackBerry Bold 9780: Screen

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The 3.7-inch screen has a resolution of 480x800, the same as the Desire and Desire HD, although it’s bright and text is sharp and a cut above most handsets, it doesn’t come close to the dazzling whites and deep blacks you’d get with the Apple iPhone 4 or AMOLED Samsung Galaxy S. Web pages in particular have a yellowish tint that you only notice when you put the Desire Z next to an iPhone. However, this is probably a harsh comparison, because so few phones have Retina displays or AMOLED screens.

Although not as generous as the Desire HD’s screen, it’s still a good size for video. HD clips look fantastic, as sharp and detailed as you’d expect. You Tube fares less well, it’s a little soft, but fine for casual use. Support for Flash 10.1 lets you playback a host of videos, including those on Elsewhere, when browsing pinch to zoom works very well and text re-wraps exceptionally quickly.

BlackBerry Bold 9780 I BlackBerry Bold 9780 review

To be frank, no-one really buys a Bold for its video playback capability. The screen is certainly a bit on the small size and the 480x360 resolution means videos are fairly bright and sharp, rather than being outstanding, but it’s fine for the odd You Tube video. There’s no Flash support though.

HTC Desire Z vs BlackBerry Bold 9780: Emails and Messaging

HTC Desire Z I HTC Desire Z review

The Desire Z is clearly designed for regular emailers. Sync multiple email accounts including Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo as well as Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync. Choose to display selected or all accounts, each distinguishable using different coloured tabs.

Spread over four lines, the QWERTY has dedicated full stop and comma buttons easily reached using your thumbs, while numbers are accessed by holding the FN key down. Keys are small, but with ample space between each one, while the soft rubber coating ensures comfort even for long emails. Two shortcut keys located on the bottom right can be used to assign Apps and Shortcuts

BlackBerry Bold 9780 I BlackBerry Bold 9780

In keeping with RIM's key strength, the Bold 9780 is very email friendly. You can sync 10 email accounts at once, either via an internet email account like Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail, alongside business Enterprise Accounts. This is all done via the Setup menu, which uses simple step-by-step instructions to walk you through email, instant messaging and social network set up (along with WiFi and Bluetooth)

All messages come through to a unified inbox, or you can choose to have individual accounts, which you can move to a folder to keep your homescreen less cluttered.

HTC Desire Z vs BlackBerry Bold 9780: Interface

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Like the Desire HD, the Desire Z is equipped with HTC Sense. Customise five homescreens with apps and widgets, which you can organise into folders.

HTC Sense syncs social networking accounts like Flickr, Facebook and Twitter accounts, while Favourite contacts are now displayed alongside status updates. As well as syncing your contacts with each account and your phonebook, it automatically links connections, although on occasion you’ll need to do this manually.

The new Notification bar is a welcome addition, letting you quickly swap between icons of previous applications, alongside connection information, new messages and email.

BlackBerry Bold 9780 I BlackBerry Bold 9780 review

Blackberry OS 6 has five screens: All, Favourites, Media, Download and Frequent, which appear as a strip along the bottom of the screen. Move through them by flicking the touchpad, and click it to expand and shut each menu.

The most notable change to the Bold 9780 is the browser, the screen is still a bit small compared to the Blackberry Torch or HTC Desire Z, but it’s fine for checking the latest headlines. Navigate up and down using the trackpad, zoom via the menu or when the browser icon turns into a magnifying glass.


HTC Desire Z vs BlackBerry Bold 9780: Verdict

While it may currently only have Android 2.2 the Desire Z does come with the latest version of HTC Sense which means the UI is up-to-date, and with one of the best keyboards in class it's one of the few Android contenders that can challenge the Bold 9780. Its extensive compatability with email servers means it's just as easy to set up as the Bold and has the larger screen.

Of course that's entirely open for debate as the BlackBerry Bold has the iconic BlackBerry keyboard which is still regarded by many as the best they've ever made. Add to that the improvements in BlackBerry's OS and the secure email and messaging and you've got a phone that's centered around being the best at its niche.

There's not much between them but we'd be inclined to opt for the Desire Z based on the combination of a great keyboard, the more advanced Android OS and the always slick HTC interface.

Ultimately the choice is up to you, so to read a full review of the HTC Desire Z click here, If you're feeling more inclined to go the way of the BlackBerry Bold 9780 then click here.