The Blackberry Curve 8520 review

by Vikki Chowney on 20th August 2009

So, I’ve been playing with a BlackBerry Curve 8520 for the past week or so, and have had a somewhat interesting experience.

For my sins, I’ll admit to you that I’ve never played with a BlackBerry for more than just a few minutes. I’ve always found the roller ball to be so horribly over sensitive, and the package itself too email focused (with not a lot more to offer). BlackBerry fans on the other hand, I have found to be a little die hard in their devotion, so remember that this is my personal opinion only kids, so let’s play nice.


Hmm.. Curvy

On first touch, this weight of the handset is most noticeable, feeling quite light to hold but still resting quite nicely in the hand. Sporting a much friendlier shape than some of the other BlackBerry models available today as well, much thinner. Though it does feel a little rickety (the plastic squeaked when I typed at first), it’s sturdy enough for the entry-level price.

As I said in my previous post about the launch of this model, the aforementioned roller ball I was so put off by is no more. It’s been replaced by a slick little square track pad, that’s actually a joy to use. I am very impressed indeed. The pressure it requires is balanced beautifully, and it’s just the right size to use for both browsing over a screen and selecting buttons from the menu.

I connected my personal email to the BlackBerry email client quickly, as  (and I couldn’t help but be reminded of my much-loved Nokia Messaging at this point) you only need to enter your address and password, the rest is automatic. My inbox started filling up thick and fast, and as expected for the Blackberry, the ‘push’ functionality meant I could read emails as and when they came in. I liked the option to delete from the handset alone, or the mailbox and handset – especially useful if you want to cut down the amount of messages you have to scroll through daily. More useful if you just want to delete spam before logging on properly.

The QWERTY keypad again is easy to use, a little tougher than most – well, angular at least – but still nice to play with and certainly more spread out. The only thing I dislike about the keyboard is its inability to hold down any of the number keys to add one into a text message/email. The interchangeable currency key that your can set your own default is a nice tough though.

Speaking of which, another clever addition is the slick charger design, which uses the same cable and electrical unit, but slots in different types of pins depending on where you are geographically. No need to buy adapters or multiple chargers.

The two other big new features for this handset were the rubberised buttons along the top of the Curve that allow for isolated control of media, and the update to BlackBerry’s App World.

As for the buttons, pressing them directly from the menu doesn’t start playback, but it does open the correct menu. You can then use the trackpad to select video, audio etc. and go back to the rubber buttons to play, pause or skip. This prevents you from having to scroll through the menu if you’re listening to music on the train while checking your emails (made even easier with the addition of a 3.5mm jack).

The App World is indeed easy to use, the transistions make it easy to absorb just what you’re buying (or not, as the store is pretty stocked with free apps as well). The only nag I have is when I started to use the Facebook app, I entered my details, booted it up and had a play. After a while I wasn’t particularly bowled over, so went to look at the Flickr offering (very nice, but without a flash on the 8520′s 2MG camera, it’s unlikely to become anyone’s first choice to take photos with or upload). Then, upon returning to the home screen, the Facebook icon was there, but it took me a fair amount of time to work out how to click back to it. You can’t click on the icon from the home screen you see, which – judging by the layout – I would have expected, and wanted to do.

No 3G meant that web browsing became a tad difficult when not connected to a WiFi network, which is fine when you only need something light, but won’t manage anything heavy duty. And just a final note while we’re on the subject, I really didn’t like having to zoom in every time I need to click on a link. I actually had to check I wasn’t clicking something accidentally at first.

My final verdict;  cheap and cheerful as expected, providing an insight into BlackBerry’s capabilities, but less feature-rich than other models.

You can pick up the 8520 for free on a £25 per month contract from Carphone Warehouse, and for around £250  on PAYG or SIM-free.

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