In the world of mobile email, it's hard to compete with RIM and the plethora of BlackBerry devices it has to offer. With BlackBerry's latest smartphone for T-Mobile, the Curve 8320, the companies hope to capitalize by taking advantage of RIM's infrastructure, T-Mobile's wireless calling plans, and the undeniable benefit of adding a little WiFi into the mix. Does the device live up to the hype? Did RIM make a mistake when it outfitted the Curve with a small processor and WiFi? Continue reading on to find out.
Based on the consumer orientated 8300 series, the BlackBerry 8320 shares the same dimensions as its cousin measuring in at 4.2 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches and weighing 3.9 ounces. This is BlackBerry's first consumer device that comes strapped with WiFi and adds T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home service that utilizes UMA technology. It also features a quadband EDGE radio, 2 megapixel shooter, microSD support up to 4GB, music and video playerback, and a Bluetooth radio with A2DP support. The device has a great feel to it and is very small and compact while in your hands or your pockets.
The layout of the 8320's keypad is considerably tighter and smaller than that of older RIM devices. Initially, we had a great deal of trouble getting accustomed to the keypad, especially coming from a BlackBerry 8800. The size of each key is smaller than most BlackBerry devices and took a week with normal use to get used to. On occasion, we still find ourselves fat-fingering a word or two.
Out of the box, pairing the 8320 to the HotSpot@Home router was a breeze. The pairing only took a few minutes and there were hardly any dropouts even with our own router. After the device has been paired, the next step is setting up the connectivity preferences for UMA. We setup the device for WiFi preferred connection. This enables the device to look for our own SSID first, then to fall back on T-Mobile's network if it's unavailable. We were able to use the service a good hundred feet from the base using the Linksys router and with our own NETGEAR Draft-N router, the service dropped out around ninety feet.
The Curve is armed with a 312MHz Intel processor which seems to under-power the device, especially during times of intense multitasking. In addition, while using WiFi to browse the internet, we experienced bottleneck issues with page loading times. Time and time again, the 8320 using WiFi was slower that the 8800 using T-Mobile's EDGE network. With all things being equal, the loading time was approximately three seconds quicker on the 8800. Coincidence? Doubt it.
Setting up Bluetooth was quick and effortless with our Motorola S9 headset. Music sounds crisp and clear and the 8320 lasted about 3 hours while playing music continuously. The only problem we experienced is that we were unable to listen to videos while connected via Bluetooth.
BlackBerry has outfittedd its latest consumer device with a 2 megapixel camera with flash and it's located on the back of the device. In terms of quality, the pictures are on par with most Smartphones of today and the flash leave a lot to be desired. Your average mobile photographer will be satisfied with the quality.
All in all, BlackBerry's Curve 8320 is a solid step up not just from the original 8300, but also from RIM's first attempt in the consumer market -- the Pearl 8100 -- improving upon its camera, adding a great QWERTY keypad, and adding WiFi. For hardcore BlackBerry enthusiasts, this device is a welcomed replacement for our 8800 with our only major gripe being the speed of the processor. If you have the same feelings or you feel different, please sound off in comments and let us know what you think!