So here it is; the most anticipated BlackBerry handset to date. The BlackBerry Bold 9000 is a quad-band handset with both HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) 3G and GPS navigation that its maker, Research In Motion, hopes will cause as much of a furore as the iPhone 3G.
The handset tested was on the Vodafone network, but T-Mobile and Orange UK has already announced they will be selling the Bold, while RIM tells us that in time all UK networks will be selling its latest quad-band device.
First impressions are extremely favourable: this is a superb looking smartphone with strong lines and a gorgeous screen.
Look and feel
The BlackBerry Bold has a leatherette back, into which is set the 2 megapixel camera and video capture unit. It is a broad, flat handset that nonetheless fits comfortably in the palm. It's noticeably heavier than other BlackBerry handsets, but has a cleaner, more modern look. This is helped by the fact that there's a smart silver magnesium-alloy trim around the Bold's circumference with silver lines separating each line of keys on its full Qwerty keypad.
These 'frets' between the rows of keys help distinguish between them - an influence that Bold's industrial designer apparently borrowed from a guitar.
While the LCD screen is not touch sensitive, it feels much sturdier than the tough plastic coating on the consumer-focused Pearl range. The overall effect is smarter, classier and more desirable. We even dare go so far as to say that the Bold is as good-looking as the iPhone and, for business executives, may be the preferred choice.
Initially available only in piano black, which nicely sets off the silver accents, RIM hopes that the Bold will quickly become the sort of desirable product that everyone wants to make their own, with different fascias and onscreen customisations.
The display itself is much improved, with a half-VGA 480x320-pixel resolution and the ability to display 65,000 colours. The result is a detailed and very vibrant screen from which photos and video seem to burst forth. The effect, says RIM's Rob Orr, is a direct effect of the glass of the Bold's screen now being flush against the lens rather than separate from it.