BlackBerry Bold 9900 Hands-On First Impressions, Images's mobile maestro Al Sacco shares his hands-on first impressions of the brand new BlackBerry Bold 9900 from BlackBerry World 2011. Hint: BlackBerry addicts and gadget geeks are going to love this handheld.

Mon, May 02, 2011

CIO — This morning, Research In Motion (RIM) (RIM) officially announced its latest smartphone, the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930, at its annual BlackBerry World Conference in Orlando.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 Banner at BlackBerry World
BlackBerry Bold 9900 Banner at BlackBerry World

I was lucky enough to get some hands-on time with the new Bold this morning, and though it's difficult to get a truly accurate feel for a smartphone that's tethered to a table and while hundreds of feisty journalists peer over your shoulder, I can say with little hesitation that the Bold 9900 is one very impressive BlackBerry. Here's why.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 First Impressions

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is a successor to RIM's original Bold handheld, the BlackBerry 9000. And it looks the part; on first glance, the Bold 9900 looks very much like the Bold 9000. And in many ways the exterior of the device is similar: the keyboard design, shape and size are practically identical to the 9000, and the shiny silver bezel that surrounds the handheld also looks just like the old Bold's bezel.

But the similarities end there.

BlackBerry Bold 9900 with NFC
BlackBerry Bold 9900

The Bold 9900 is significantly slimmer and a bit lighter than the 9000. In fact, the Bold 9900 is RIM's thinnest BlackBerry ever. And it feels great in the hand. The Bold 9900 form factor is probably my favorite of any BlackBerry smartphone to date.

And the 9900 keyboard is to die for; RIM even called it the best keyboard on any BlackBerry smartphone. And I tend to agree. Though the keyboard looks almost identical to the original Bold 9000 keypad, it's actually slightly larger, because it stretches almost all the way to the sides of the device, while the Bold 9000's bezel is thicker and takes up keyboard space.

I spent a few minutes typing on the Bold 9900, and it was truly a pleasure, especially since I used to employ a Bold 9000, and I really miss that keyboard.

On the inside, the Bold is packing an impressive 1.2GHz processor, which helps the software experience feel fast and smooth, with very little lag--at least in the 20 minutes or so I spent with the device. It also has 768MB of RAM, with 8GB of internal storage for media and other data, the most RAM and built-in storage of any current BlackBerry. And the Bold 9900 also supports microSD memory cards up to 32GB. All of these things make the Bold 9900 feel much more "modern" than RIM's past few handhelds.

It's also great looking. Though the silver bezels on both the Bold 9900 and Bold 9000 look similar, they're actually quite different. The new Bold's bezel is made of brushed stainless steel, compared to the silver plastic bezel on the 9000. And that change in bezel material makes a noticeable difference in the appearance of the device; the stainless steel just looks nicer and less flimsy or "cheap."

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