Check out our review of the stylish-looking BlackBerry Bold 9000 - a Qwerty smartphone that makes email messaging a dream
Verdict: If you rely on messaging for work or fun, look no further.
Price: From free with contract or £330 SIM-free
Pros: Excellent QWERTY keyboard, push email, good browser, WiFi, GPS 3.5mm audio jack plug
Cons: Poor quality camera, not great battery life
Design: Probably the best-looking BlackBerry so far
Operating System: BlackBerry 4.6
More Info: BlackBerry website
Long gone are the days when BlackBerrys were seen as boardroom devil-spawn only fit for the mind control of corporate drones. These days, they're slim, sexy smartphones with exemplary messaging capabilities and quite a lot more besides.
The Blackberry Bold is a case in point with its stylish black and chrome livery highlighted with splashes of red for the keyboard numbers. It's not the smallest in the series, but it could just be the coolest looking, with or without the supplied leather pouch.
On the front there's a clear, bright screen with 65,000 colours and a full QWERTY keyboard, which stretches the sides a little to 66mm, but at just 15mm thick it feels surprisingly neat and light in the hand. The back has a grippy leather effect and on the sides there are a volume rocker and camera shutter button, USB port, microSD slot (there's no memory card supplied but there's a generous 1GB on board), 3.5mm headphone jackplug and a button for activating voice notes.
The QWERTY keyboard is excellent, and just about as good as any we've come across. The buttons are neatly spaced and easy to pick out with the thumbs, plus useful punctuation marks like full stop and '@' are all up front where you need them, rather than buried in symbols menus.
BlackBerrys have been ahead of the game with push email for years now, and while others are catching up, BlackBerry still makes it all look too easy. Accounts are simplicity itself to set up and you can choose to have your messages pushed to you as often as you like. Usefully, Documents To Go for BlackBerry is also included allowing you to create Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents and attach them to your emails.
Browsing isn't as good as the best we've seen on some of the better touchscreen phones, but it's pretty decent nonetheless. The trackball works well as a cursor for scrolling around web pages and a single tap lets you zoom in on text instantly. There are lists of previous pages, web feeds, bookmarks and the HSDPA 3G connection allows for decent browsing speed up to 3.6Mbps, though there's also WiFi on board for the full broadband experience.
Photography clearly isn't a priority for the Bold with just two megapixels' worth of camera on board. Within its limits though it's an okay snapper, which launches within a surprisingly speedy two seconds.
Pictures look okay at the maximum 1600 x 1200 pixel setting (so long as you don't try to blow them up too big), with decent colour balance and sharpness. There's an LED flash but it's not much use unless you're really close to your subject.
There are quick options for sending your pics as email, MMS or by Bluetooth and sending directly to your online profile via the onboard Facebook app.
You can also geotag your pics via GPS, which is backed up by BlackBerry Maps, allowing you to keep a record of exactly where and when you took your snaps. There's no sat nav option on board, though you can download some from TomTom and others via RIM's steadily improving App World store.
The music player is quite impressive, in a no frills, but does what it needs to, sort of a way. The loudspeaker packs a surprising amount of punch, and the supplied headphones are better than most, though they taper off a little too soon at either end of the dynamic scale. Usefully, the 3.5mm headphone jack and stereo Bluetooth mean it's easy to upgrade them if you feel the need.
Battery life was where we really felt a little let down by the Blackberry Bold. We barely got more than a full day of moderate use out it which could get a little hairy if you forget to charge it of an evening.
The BlackBerry Bold is very much a message-centric device and it makes communication on the move just about as easy as it could be, with an excellent QWERTY keyboard and BlackBerry's justifiably renowned push email service. As a media player it stands comparison with most other smart phones on the market though the camera isn't anything to write home about, and we really wish that battery had been a bit more powerful.