RIM BlackBerry Bold Skin Review: OEM Skin vs. OtterBox Impact for Bold

In this comparative review, we pit RIM's own BlackBerry Bold 9000 skin against the new OtterBox Impact Series for Bold to see how the two measure up. Both offer unique and valuable features, but there's a clear winner in this matchup.

Tue, December 09, 2008

CIO — There aren't too many things today's high-end smartphones can't do.

But all of that functionality doesn't often come cheap. Owners of cutting-edge devices like Research In Motion's (RIM) BlackBerry Bold 9000 typically pay hundreds of dollars for their smartphones--never mind the monthly service bills--and therefore, protecting those investments is essential.

Over the past few months, I've reviewed a wide selection of BlackBerry carrying and protection options--including a number of accessories specifically for the new BlackBerry Storm--but today I'm focusing on two skins for the Bold 9000: RIM's own original equipment manufacturer (OEM) skin and OtterBox's Impact Series for Bold skin.

Though both Bold skins provide similar overall functionality, for a variety of reasons, one stands out. Read on for more on each of these great products, as well as which one my Bold is still wearing.

BlackBerry Bold OEM Skin vs. OtterBox Impact Series

image of packaged OtterBox Impact Bold and RIM OEM Bold Skin side by side
Packaged OtterBox Impact Bold and RIM OEM Bold Skin

Fit and Function

The OEM skin is designed by RIM, and it shows. The skin fit very well when first applied to my Bold, and it was tight so the device didn't shift around at all while in use. None of the device's ports, speakers or microphones are blocked by the skin in any way. And it's also very easy to remove and replace at any time, though I quickly realized that the rubber the skin's composed of stretches a bit and frequent removal can negatively affect the fit. In other words, the OEM skin becomes looser the more you remove and replace it.

My experiences with the OtterBox Impact for Bold skin weren't as positive in this category. That's because the Impact skin just didn't fit my Bold quite right; I was constantly fidgeting with and repositioning it so that my LED indicator, front-facing speaker and bottom microphone weren't covered up by the skin. And whenever I shifted the skin upward so my LED indicator and ear-speaker weren't covered at all, the bottom of the skin would move over the Bold's bottom microphone.

Also, the OtterBox Impact for Bold doesn't completely "rise up" on the sides as much as I'd like, so the metallic bezel next to the display and keyboard is left exposed and unprotected.

Compared with the OEM skin, the OtterBox Impact does cover and protect more of the Bold's 480 x 320 display, but that protection comes at a price: It hangs over the top of the display, covering the BlackBerry name/logo--which adds to the aesthetic value of the device--and partially blocking the LED indicator and ear-speaker, as mentioned above.

One of the features I like most about the OEM skin is the fact that a small lip extends from its sides and top to completely cover--and protect--the metallic bezel that surrounds the Bold. In fact, the only shiny metallic surfaces visible when the Bold OEM skin's in place are the shiny guitar-fret-like spacers between rows of keys and the rear-facing camera panel.

One complaint about the rubber OEM skin: It's a uniform thickness throughout, and unfortunately, corners and other areas with the most potential for impact aren't reinforced.

The best thing about the OtterBox Impact skin is the fact that the insides of its corners are fortified with silicon "webbing," or coring, for added shock absorption and impact protection. The extra defense bulks up the Impact skin a bit around the edges, but my Bold really felt solid with it in place, and I'd say the added protection is worth the minor size increase.

If I had to choose a Bold skin based on fit, I'd go with the OEM skin. But if I had to pick a skin based solely on the protection it affords, the OtterBox Impact would get my vote every time.

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