The BlackBerry Bold 9790 is the latest addition to RIM’s high-end ‘Bold’ range of smartphones. It offers many features of the Bold 9900, including a touchscreen and full QWERTY keyboard, but in a smaller chassis and at a slightly cheaper price. How does it compare to it’s older sibling?
BlackBerry Bold 9790: Design and Build
At first glance, the Bold 9790 seems to have more in common with the Curve range than the Bold 9900. Instead of metal you get plastic, although it's very solid and the back has a textured rubber coating, which makes it easier to grip.
The small size will certainly appeal to many though and the phone will fit neatly into a shirt pocket. After using the Bold 9900 our large fingers struggled to get used to the smaller keys. The keyboard is backlit though.
Call accept/cancel and menu buttons remain the same, as does the touch-sensitive trackpad you can use for scrolling up and down web pages.
On the right are rubberised volume controls and a convenience key, which can be assigned shortcut to messages, BBM. camera etc. RIM has included respectable 8GB internal storage, expandable with a microSD card.
Like all new BlackBerry smartphones, the Bold 9790 includes an NFC chip, although this isn’t particularly useful now, in the future we’ll see more places using it as a method of payment, or as a way to transfer information between phones.
BlackBerry Bold 9790: Screen
As we’ve mentioned the Bold 9790 includes a touchscreen, which vastly speeds up menu selection and web-page navigation if you don't fancy using the trackpad. At 2.45-inches we found the screen a touch on the small size for browsing the web (or watching video) for long periods, although you can of course pinch to zoom or double tap to enlarge links.
The screen has a resolution of 480x360 and 246 dpi, so text is sharp and crisp, making the phone particularly good for viewing movies and looking at photographs, with respectable off-angle viewing, although colours aren't particularly punchy and or vibrant next to Super AMOLED rivals.
BlackBerry Bold 9790: Operating system
The Bold 9790 runs BlackBerry OS 7. We’ve talked a lot about its features in our BlackBerry Bold 9900 review, but suffice to say icons are sharper and brighter and it feels faster to use, although it’s still some way from the customisation we’ve seen from Apple iOS, Android and Windows Phone handsets. The nature of the OS with it's menu-based command system, means it doesn't feel as fluid to use either.
Email is excellent and it's easy to send messages to multiple places with one click and you can use individual or synchronised in-boxes. BlackBerry Messenger is of course on board, now with support for connected apps like Wikitube. You’ll also be able to download BlackBerry Music.
Social Feeds pulls in Twitter, Facebook, Google Talk and BBM accounts, along with RSS feeds, podcasts and favourite contacts. Universal Search is a fairly effective voice search that searches your phone and provides direct links to the web for answers. It's been overshadowed somewhat by the more sophisticated Siri, but if you speak slowly results are generally successful.
You do get a full version of Documents To Go for editing Word and Excel documents.
The Bold 9790 includes a Marvell Tavor MG1 1GHz processor and 736MB RAM, which is slightly different to the Bold 9900, performance is similar though and it certainly never feels slow.
RIM quotes 5.3 hours talk time, 33 hours music playback and 6.3 hours video playback, from our testing it lasts well into the second day - certainly a big selling point.
BlackBerry Bold 9790: Camera
The Bold 9790 is equipped with a decent 5-megapixel camera. Choose between using the central trackpad or side button as the shutter for shooting in portrait and landscape modes respectively.
There’s a smattering of scene modes, which automatically (and pretty successfully) detect the lighting condition and adjust the camera settings accordingly. The LED flash is fairly low powered, but strong enough to illuminate a dark room, although image noise is more of a problem in dim light and there's no ISO control to override this.
Unlike the Curve range, the camera includes an accurate autofocus, with continuous, one-shot or Face Detection modes. There’s a fairly effective close-up mode for macro shots too, although we’d advise carefully checking the shot is actually in focus; sometimes it can be hard to tell.
Unfortunately there’s no HD movie mode, instead it captures 640x480 VGA movies, which are ok for the odd YouTube upload, but otherwise not great. Check out our test footage below, but it’s shaky and soft rather than smooth and detailed, which is disappointing at this price - although the camera is not the main selling point.
BlackBerry Bold 9790: Price and verdict
The role of the Bold 9790 is clearly to provide a bridge between the Bold 9900 and Curve 9360, which is quite a tough job. While the Bold 9790 is well built, it looks unremarkable, lacking the the generous screen, fantastic keyboard and premium build of the Bold 9900, although it's portability will be an advantage for many people. Underneath the chassis (which of course is really where it counts), BlackBerry fans won’t be disappointed either - it’s just good as it’s pricier sibling, with unbeatable mobile email, a fast processor and far better than average battery performance.
The price is crucial to the BlackBerry Bold 9790. Get it sim free and it costs around £360, which seems too expensive to us. It's £100 less than the Bold 9900, but £120 more than the (touchscreen free) Curve 9360.
None of the networks have declared contract pricing yet. On Phones 4U the Bold 9790 is free on O2 for £21.50 a month, or on Orange Panther 24 £25 a month - the price same as the Bold 9900 (although this typically has a contract cost of £59).
The other thing to consider is what RIM is planning next. We know the company is working on BlackBerry 10 handsets, rumoured to be the BlackBerry London now the Milan and Colt have been cancelled. With Mobile World Congress happening at the end of February it might be worth waiting to see what RIM has on offer there.
While we like the Bold 9790 we can't recommend it above the Bold 9900, so it's worth seriously checking out how much the Bold 9900 costs and if there isn't much difference, that's the handset to go for. But if you are happy with the physical compromises and want a solid, work phone the well-featured Bold 9790 is worth a look.