BlackBerry Bold 9790 review

Can the BlackBerry Bold 9790 compete with the iPhone 4S and top-tier Androids?

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Great keyboard

  • +

    Solid build

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Lack of apps

  • -

    Small screen

  • -

    Poor touchscreen interface

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The BlackBerry Bold 9790 sits just below the Bold 9900 in the brand's range but has it got what it takes to compete with its Android rivals?

The BlackBerry Bold 9790 is the slim solution for BlackBerry fans jealous of the touchscreen skills of iPhone and Android phones. While it might impress in the annual board meeting, can the premium BlackBerry compete with iPhone 4S and slick, top-tier Android phones?

The flagship BlackBerry Bold 9900 made the first concession of offering a touchscreen alongside the trademark BlackBerry keyboard and while it remains the best BlackBerry, it was a flawed halfway house of physical buttons and the tiny touchscreen.

The iPhone 4S has arguably become the corporate phone du jour thanks to a jet black and silver style cribbed from the BlackBerry style guide and Sony Mobile and LG have upped their game too with the Sony Xperia S and LG Prada 3.0, with both smart enough for the most deluxe corporate handbag or Armani jacket pocket.

The BlackBerry Bold 9790 sits beneath the BlackBerry Bold 9900 but can it do anything the BlackBerry 9900 couldn't?

BlackBerry Bold 9790: Build

When you drop a BlackBerry, they never break. That's not based on any research but it's obvious that BlackBerry pioneered the tough phone before chunky 'ruggedised' and 'lifeproof' phones became buzzwords for clumsy consumers.

The BlackBerry Bold 9790 is slimmer than the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and feels rock solid and while the whole keyboard thing might look a bit 2007, there's no denying it's a great look. More so than the LG Prada 3.0, the BlackBerry 9790 is a sturdy and polished piece of kit.

The killer keyboard is as responsive as ever and every design nuance has gone into making sure keys are accessible and the smartphone sits in your hand (or against your ear) perfectly. There's just the right mix of rubber and plastic to make grip and style reach an equal standing without looking cheap.

BlackBerry Bold 9790: Features

For the money, a five megapixel camera is a real disappointment. It's not the greatest smartphone for snapping (especially in the dark) and feels more suited to taking barcode readings due to the awkward way you have the hold the smartphone to take a photo.

The 8GB internal storage is paltry for the price tag too (we expect 16GB minimum these days) but the MicroSD card slot mean a 32GB boost is cheap and easy. The real sting that becomes more apparent as 2012 rolls on is the BlackBerry 7 OS which has fallen behind the curve of Android 4.0, Apple iOS 5.1, not to mention the forthcoming iOS 6 update.

Accessing music, video or anything other than emails is a hassle. If you're a BlackBerry fan, you'll have lived with the pitfalls of the BlackBerry OS for some time but BlackBerry 10 is just months away and the BlackBerry 9790 won't be able to upgrade.

NFC and voice activated functions are gimmicky add-ons that offer little until the software integration improves and the real-world adoption of NFC becomes reality. BBM is no longer unique with the rise of similar services, not least iMessage and increasingly inventive Android variants.

BlackBerry Bold 9790: Screen

The small 2.45 inch screen is an issue for web browsing and was designed for email and BBM and the low resolution now seems budget at 480 x 360 pixels. Visuals are clear and bright in basic apps but web browsing is difficult and the touchscreen features feel cramped and confusing.

The screen is so small compared to the 4- or 5-inch screens of rivals, it's hard to see what you're doing once the shadow of a finger eclipses the tiny icons.

BlackBerry Bold 9790: Performance

The 1 Ghz processor is enough to handle the frequently used apps and tasks with speed but it's the combo of touchscreen and optical trackpad that seems counterintuitive.

Music playback is good but the music player itself, not to mention the ability to download tracks, is cumbersome and expensive compared to iTunes or similar rivals.

All things considered, performance is geared towards simple needs for people who demand a keyboard and above average battery life and the BlackBerry Bold 9790 works well in this respect, though you pay a hefty premium for the brand name. A quick tour of the limited games available run without issue but, ultimately, the experience is one of a very low-end smartphone.

BlackBerry Bold 9790: Battery

A key sell for BlackBerry smartphones, the battery life has always been an important if boring bonus. The 1230 mAh battery matches the flagship BlackBerry Bold 9900 and offers a couple of days of use instead of the standard day for most new smartphones. BlackBerry claims around 5 hours talktime and 300 hours standby with 3G switched on - with push email disabled.

BlackBerry Bold 9790: Verdict

The £350 price tag of the BlackBerry Bold 9790 is a major sticking point for one of the most basic smartphones on the market. The £99 Android contenders like the Huawei Ascend G300 beat the BlackBerry Bold 9790 in all areas.

Worse still, the keyboard toting Nokia Asha 201 costs around £60 and does a similar job, showing the challenge that faces all future BlackBerry phones ahead of the end of year overhaul of phone hardware and BlackBerry OS.

BlackBerry fans will want to go for the flagship BlackBerry 9900 and everyone else should consider this a poor attempt to roll with the changes of the fast moving smartphone market.

Missing anything unique or new, the BlackBerry Bold 9790 is one of the most lacking smartphones on the market and £99 rivals outperform it in every area.

BlackBerry Bold 9790 availability: Out Now

BlackBerry Bold 9790 price: £350

Review by Richard Melville

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