BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300
Review ompliments of Shaun from PDA247.
Before I received the BlackBerry Curve 9300 for review I had written the following as a quick thought -
The BlackBerry 9300 is seen by many as a device that sits nowhere. It does not have the same quality camera as the Bold 9700 or the ultra clear HVGA display. It also has a lesser battery, but is £75 cheaper than the Bold.
When compared to the Curve 8520 the comparison gets even tighter- for an extra £95 you get 3G and HSDPA, a classier design and that’s about it. All of the other specifications are very similar and so you are left with some choices as to which is right for you.
On the one hand it could be difficult to justify paying £95 for faster internet and a slightly different design. Then again, surely £75 seems a small price to pay to get a battery quality camera, better battery and a much crisper display with arguably better build quality.
The Curve 9300 will sell in huge numbers because it is a Curve. They always sell in huge numbers. I have to say though that the 8520 and 9700 seems like better value to me and maybe to many others as well.
That was my initial impression of the 9300 and is still a view I find hard to dismiss. With so many BlackBerry devices on the market filling the £150-£350 price point it can be hard for the potential purchaser to decide which one is the best value. What I will do, however, is judge the 9300 on merit and see how well it measures up at its current price point.
In the box
The box and accessories are pure RIM. A charger with UK/EU adaptors, stereo headset, data cable and a user guide. The battery is rated at 1150mAh which would normally be a cause for concern, but this is a BlackBerry and my experience is that they go on forever on one charge. However, we do have 3G functionality here so it will be interesting to see how well the 9300 copes when everything is turned on.
My very first impression was that the phone is almost identical to the Curve 8520. It feels plastic, but has a patterned battery cover which aids grip. The silver surround is obviously included to give it a more expensive look, but is again made of plastic. It looks good, but in the hand the 9300 really does feel like the 8520 in almost every way. The good news is that it is almost the perfect form factor for a comfortable experience and it feels better in the hand than any other phone I have held. There is something special about the dimensions which come together with the materials to offer a phone that is almost perfectly balanced. I am not convinced that the silver surround should be there though because this is likely the only area that will be prone to scratches and knocks.
At a mere 104 grams it will not be noticeable in any pocket and the 14mm depth is acceptable. To round out the hardware the screen is clear and sharp, as you would expect from a non-touch, and the keyboard is again almost identical to the 8520 i.e. perfectly quick in daily use. The 9300 is a very well made phone which panders to all of the hardware practicalities BlackBerry users require and has a form that makes you feel at home straight away. I will keep coming back to the 8520 though because besides the silver surround, there is very little difference between the two.
The 9300 is fast! It is as quick as the 8520 and 9700 and there is little doubt that OS 5 coupled with 256MB RAM and a relatively low specified processor is still capable of providing speeds that other platforms and phones are not capable of. There is never a blip in performance and in the past 3 days I have left multiple programs running with no impact on performance. It will be interesting to see what happens when OS 6 is released for this phone, but the good news is that it will take it so you will be buying a smartphone that can handle the future of BlackBerry. And this is an important point because it is arguably the main difference between the 8520 and the 9300 with the former not able to receive an update to OS 6.
Call quality and signal are top class, as usual for RIM, and even the speakerphone sounds crisp and deep enough with no distortion even at high volumes. Cranking it all the way to the top will create some distortion, but through the headphones and to the ear this phone is a top quality voice caller. I managed to receive HSDPA quite often with the 9300 which is absent on other phones and a permanent 3G signal at home. I rejoiced for a few minutes until I remembered that having a fast mobile data connection on an OS 5 BlackBerry is of little consequence. The messaging system is so efficient that simple GPRS is more than enough to cope with email and BlackBerry Messenger and the web browsing experience is dire on the low resolution screen. I have to look to the future again and fully expect the 3G capability to come into its own when the WebKit browser arrives in OS 6. At this time, however, the extra speed is not overly noticeable in the tasks you are likely to undertake.
Music is quality is above average, but no way near the level we see from the high-end devices such as the iPhone 4 and Galaxy S. I guess we shouldn’t expect such quality at a lower price point and it is good enough for most people to be happy with the experience. Video playback is smooth, but hampered by the size and resolution of the screen- it does the job for viewing YouTube clips and home video, but I’m not convinced a full movie would be a suitable fit for this phone. The 9300 does the job for entertainment, but falls short in the vital area which is to not make it feel like an add-on rather than an embedded part of the experience.
Battery life has surprised me so far. The low mAh rating coupled with 3G raised alarm bells for me, but once again RIM has proved me wrong. With moderate usage you can expect 2 days of clear usage, but throw in the heavy stuff like Wi-Fi and video streaming and you will be back to a charge a day. The good news is that charging is super quick and 30 minutes each morning should be enough for most power users with a longer charge at the weekend to keep things topped up.
The BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300 is a quality phone, of that there is no doubt, and it is one that represents good value for money at just shy of £300. For that you get a phone that copes with messaging and data input as well as any other, a screen you can see in all conditions and the kind of battery life you don’t find on any other platform.
It is a bit of a sleeping giant, however, and difficult to appreciate in its current form. When OS 6 is added, it will become a completely different phone and one that is likely to be much more fun to use. I can only compare the 9300 to other BlackBerry phones because Android, iPhone and webOS smartphones are so completely different BlackBerry phones do what they do extremely well and I am a huge fan, but when I consider the competition made by RIM it puts the 9300 in an awkward position.
It takes me back to the start of this review. If you want a BlackBerry smartphone that does messaging and occasional internet access the Curve 8520 represents much better value for money and offers 95% of what the 9300 can do. Chances are that if these are your needs the arrival of OS 6 will be of little consequence and so the 9300’s main advantage becomes mute.
The real problem for the 9300, however, is the Bold 9700; better keyboard, better screen, better battery, better camera, better materials and a better overall experience. And all for an extra £70. I like the Curve 9300 a lot, but I like the Bold 9700 a lot more and would gladly pay a little more for it.