Verizon BlackBerry Curve 8530 Review

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With today being Thanksgiving and most blogs closing shop for the day, we thought it would be a perfect time for us to break out our review of the latest smartphone in Verizon’s line-up, the BlackBerry Curve 8530. More or less the same device as T-Mobile’s (and soon to be AT&T’s) Curve 8520, the 8530 differs a bit: it adds GPS into the fold and runs on EV-DO Rev. 0 networks. We’ve been putting it through our patent-pending stress test this week, so hit the break to check out our thoughts.

Hardware

Believe it or not, this phone is built surprisingly well, and despite weighing only 105g, the 8530 feels solid enough to make us feel confident that dropping it won’t result in tears. The rubberized sides coupled with textured faux carbon fiber plastic battery cover provide for a nice grip, and there are no creaks and moans. The keypad is more or less the same keypad as seen on the 8300 Series and 8900 and is really easy to adjust to. Some people might be put off by the clickity-clack noises it makes while one types away, but we found this particular model to be much more quiet than the aforementioned devices. We don’t think we need to say anything about the camera other than its a fixed-focus 2 megapixel affair. Okay, we lied, we do have something to say. Having a poor camera is bad, but having a poor camera with no flash seriously sucks. We mean, come on — even the bloody Pearl Flip had a flash.

The one minor hardware issue we did have with our review unit is that the trackpad wobbled. This didn’t negatively impact navigation, although feeling it move and hearing it click with every movement of our thumbs started to really get on our nerves.

A/V

Calls made on the 8530 sound pretty good, but we did notice the earpiece gives off more of a hiss than most handsets. The speaker, while a bit muffled and somewhat limited in range is quite nice considering the price of the phone and we were able to crank it up high without any complaints.

Apart from the occasional YouTube video linked to in an email, watching videos isn’t something we’re really into with this device. We’re not only saying this because we’re afraid that Sergio Leone would rise from the dead and kick our butts for watching something like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly on a 2.5″ display, but because at that size QVGA just isn’t enough.

Listening to music on the 8530 isn’t a bad experience (unless you use the included headset). The multimedia keys on the top of the device are a nice touch and we like the fact that syncing music with iTunes and Windows Media Player is simple with BlackBerry Media Sync. We just have one question: why does the music stop when you activate the camera?

Software and Performance

What’s there left to say about the BlackBerry OS… It’s as polarizing as abortion. So instead of getting up on a soap box and turning this review into an essay, we’re going to keep this short. The Curve 8530 we received was running OS 5.0.0.337 and straight out of the box it had 114.18MB of 256MB free. All of the typical Verizon apps like City ID, V CAST Music/Videos/Song ID, VZ Navigator and Visual Voicemail come pre-loaded. Overall the 8530 runs smoothy thanks in part to its 528MHz processor, but it did seem to enjoy freezing up on three occasions. By freezing we don’t mean the device crashed and rebooted; it just sort of sat there and did absolutely nothing for a good 10-25 seconds. We’re not sure if we were pushing the device too hard or if the OS has some flaws that need fixing, so we’ll just have to wait until the first maintenance release is doled out by Verizon to see if that fixes the problem.

How’s the browser, you say? It’s still pretty sucky, and what suckiness remains isn’t exactly helped out by the QVGA display. Thankfully RIM is hard at work on its WebKit-based browser as you’re reading this, but until then all isn’t lost because there are quite a few decent third-party browsers such as Opera Mini and Bolt! that are ready and waiting to be downloaded.

Final Thoughts

We’re really torn about the Curve 8530. On one hand we think it’s a great little smartphone that will please a large number of people at the somewhat decent price of $99.99 on a 2-year. The only problem is that you can get something like the BlackBerry Tour 9630 with a better keypad, display, camera and international support for a few dollars more, if even that (we found a bunch of online retailers offering both the 8530 and 9630 for free on contract this morning). Of course the “upgrade” to the 9630 would come at the price of Wi-Fi and that oh-so-sweet optical trackpad. So what’s our final word? Go the your local dealer and take the Curve 8530 for a spin. If you like it, great. Go nuts and buy it. But if you don’t, by all means get something else. Just don’t say it’s not a capable smartphone.

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