Thursday, August 13, 2009

Review of T-Mobile's BlackBerry Curve 8520 with optical trackpad controller

RIM's BlackBerry Curve 8520 is the third generation of the company's compact, full-QWERTY messaging smartphone line. It features the same basic form factor as the original 8300 series devices, but gets some nicely upgraded features and more modern styling in a package that is roughly the same sized as the more expensive Curve 8900. We reviewed a T-Mobile USA version of the Curve 8520, which supports the company's UMA(INFO) based HotSpot @Home VoIP calling service.

Physical Aspects

At 106.5g (3.8oz) in weight and measuring 109mm x 60mm x 14mm (4.3" x 2.4" x .6") in size, the new Curve 8520 is slightly lighter than the Curve 8900, but basically the same size. The keyboard on the device is much like the original's and offers great feel, but the backlighting and color of the keys on the blue model we tested makes reading them difficult in dimly lit rooms. We suspect that the black version of the 8520 will be easier to read in such environments. The call keys and the menu and escape keys on the 8520 are flush mounted on the face of the device, but they still offer a good tactile click when pressed.

The new optical trackpad controller takes the place of the trackballs that we've seen on most BlackBerry devices for a few years now. The trackpad is basically an optical mouse that has been turned upside down. It works quite well in general, though is probably a bit more difficult to control than the trackball. The upside, however, is that the trackpad won't get gunked up by dust or facial oils the way a trackball will. In the end, I think the switch to a trackpad is a fair trade that works out for the user in the long haul.

On the top of the phone things changed up a bit from prior BlackBerry models. There is no lock button any longer, and we now have dedicated next and previous track music controls that sit on either side of the dual-purpose mute and play/pause button. A 3.5mm headphone port is located at the top of the left edge of the phone, just above the micro-USB charger and data connector.

As was the case with the more expensive Curve 8900, the overall build quality of the Curve 8520 is very good with one exception: the rear battery cover. It fits better than the one on the 8900 does, but is still slightly loose at times and can make some noise when the phone is used. It's not a deal-breaker by any stretch, however. Otherwise, the build of the device seems quite good, and the new built-in, rubber convenience and volume keys on the edges of the device look like they should be very durable, all the while keeping dust out of the phone.

The only thing about the BlackBerry Curve 8520 that is likely to leave many folks unimpressed is the display. Like the Curve 8300 series before it, the Curve 8520 sports a QVGA (320 x 240 pixel) display. While more than bright and crisp enough for most uses, the display lets the phone down when it comes to web browsing, as you can see in our videos. But using components like that QVGA display and the fixed-focus 2 megapixel camera, which is located on the back of the phone, is how Research In Motion was able to keep the cost of the phone down. For people that just want a BlackBerry for messaging, this will work out just fine.

All credits and information was found by mobileburn.

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