Blackberry Curve 9300

BlackBerry's Curve 3G 9300 is a successor to several previous successful Curve models, with the addition of 3G.

NameSmartphone: Blackberry Curve 9300
At a glance:Lightweight, small form-factor phone,Runs BlackBerry 6, with integrated social networking,Decent battery life and good QWERTY keyboard
Summary:As an entry-level email-and-text phone, it's excellent, but as a smartphone, it's less desirable.

BlackBerry’s Curve 3G 9300 is a successor to several previous successful Curve models, with the addition of 3G. It feels strange, after months of testing touchscreen smartphones, to have my hands on a keyboard-and-trackball version. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

The key features here are the form factor, keyboard and trackball, and of course, the fact that it’s a BlackBerry Phone.

The Curve is a comfortable size to hold in your hand. With a silver metal surround and rubberised back, it has a nice grippy feel that’s still easy to remove from a pocket. There are buttons to activate voice commands and camera, and along the top a set of media playback buttons that are accidentally pressed a little too readily for my liking. The camera at rear is just 2MP, and though BlackBerry says it will record video, the results are unspectacular. For quick snaps, however, it’s fine.

The mini-QWERTY keys are rounded, and curved to assist with placement of thumbs while typing. The bevelling guides your thumbs to the centre keys, and the nub on the 5 key assists with numeric key placement. If anything, it’s easiest to type with your fingernails, and those with long fingernails – not me – may find the curve perfect. The numeric keys are coloured grey to assist in placement, but there’s no backlighting.

What you’ll rely on more, however, is the trackpad. While it’s reasonably easy to scroll at a fair clip, and it’s definitely easier than a trackball, I wish it was a little faster, particularly given the long scrolling involved in Facebook and Twitter viewing on such a small screen.

The screen is tiny compared to the other smartphones we’ve tested recently, at a mere 2.4-inches and 320 x 240 pixels. The text smoothing isn’t brilliant, though it’s adequate, and reading is no chore – you can also adjust the font size to suit. Web browsing with the new BlackBerry Browser doesn’t have the brilliance you’ll see on a larger, higher resolution screen, but it’s sufficiently responsive.

The specs include a reasonable 624MHz processor, with 256MB RAM and an equivalent amount of storage. Things feel responsive if not zippy. There’s space for additional storage, too (our model came supplied with 2GB microSD card).

BlackBerry 6 includes setup for most webmail types, using its BIS, or you can log into an enterprise server address. Dedicated apps for YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Myspace now sit alongside the more usual calendar, games, media and messaging.

The apps are all very BlackBerry in feel, and make a great addition to the smartphone.

Battery life is not as fabulous as with the earlier 2G-only Curve versions, for obvious reasons, but the phone will go 2-3 days on a single charge. The Wi-Fi is wireless-n, which will help with document transfer and similar on business networks.

In all, it’s a fantastic BlackBerry for someone needing an entry level smartphone, and a huge step up from the Pearl 3G. We find it somewhat limited compared to the BlackBerry Torch, but if you primarily need email and messaging, with the additional smartphone apps as a sideline, it will serve you very well.

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Zara Baxter

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