When the Bold 9900 was launched a few months ago, Bold 9000 fanatics, who never quite took to the Bold 97XX series were jumping with joy. The good ol' real Bold form factor was back. But their joy at possessing the only 'real' Bold in the BlackBerry line-up has been rather short-lived with the launch of the Bold 9790, which takes its form factor cues from the narrow QWERTY 97XX series. There has been a fair bit of speculation on why this new Bold has been launched, and whether there can be two ‘Bolds’–everything from RIM aiming for the fairer sex downwards, but suffice it to say that the Bold 9790 is just part of the horde of smartphones that RIM has released in the past few months and is simply about providing greater choice to the consumer.

Form Factor

Unlike what some think and much to the chagrin of Bold 9000 series worshippers, what defines the Bold series isn’t design but the quality of materials used. High quality plastics and metal, scratch-resistant glass, grooved buttons that make typing almost a pleasurable experience–you get the drift. And true to that, the Bold 9790 is built well. And let's not forget the handy little optical trackpad, now combined with a touchscreen. Vital statistics are 110 x 60 x 11.4 mm.

Decently comfy keypad

Decently comfy keypad

The Bold 9790 looks elegant, and chrome makes a comeback after the noir 9780. The front is glossy black and if it weren't for those trademark grooved 'Bold' keys, you could be forgiven for mistaking it for the sexy Curve 9360. The keys are flush on the sides and taper towards the edges–every millimeter of keyboard real estate has been well used. Similar to the new Torch 9860, the Menu and Call buttons are raised and individual ones on this device, unlike the Bold 9900 and even the Curve 9360, which feature the flushed one. The display is a 2.45-inch capacitive touchscreen with a resolution of 480 x 360 pixels. The viewing angles in all lighting conditions are good.

Similar to the new Curve models

Similar to the new Curve models

The top has a lock key and like other devices in the new OS 7 series (except for the 9900) the side media and convenience buttons are rubberized with protruding ridges. Bit tougher to use as compared to a regular button, since they are quite narrow, but you have to pay with some inconvenience for sexy good looks. Sadly, the left convenience button looks like it is well and truly history. As with all other OS 7 devices, the Bold 9790 is missing the left convenience button too, and I think it's a terrible pity. Perhaps a cost-saving measure, but from a convenience perspective, a retrograde move.

What's unique about the 9790 is that the charging/micro USB slot is at the bottom, which is welcome, since I found it easier to use the device when it was being charged, which in line with all modern 3G-capable smartphones is a regular activity.

Slim with ridged keys

Slim with ridged keys

Weighing in at 107 gms the 9790 is noticeably lighter than Big Brother 9900, which clocks 130 gms. A hot swap memory card slot is also available under the cover, which is missing on the 9900. The 9790 features 8GB internal storage, same as the 9900. The 3.5 mm headphone input is on the left side.

Features and Performance

The Bold 9790 is powered by BlackBerry OS 7 on a 1GHz 32-bit Marvell PXA930 processor and 768 MB of RAM. I found the device responsive and smooth and the touch experience was good, too. Thanks to the plethora of apps I use, I do see the clock (previously hourglass) that keeps me tapping my feet in frustration, but I must say I see this unwelcome friend far less often after OS 7. Despite the 9790 sporting the 'Bold' keyboard, I didn’t like it as much as previous ‘Bold’ keyboards. In fact, I preferred the Curve 9360's keyboard! I know it sounds unbelievable, but it’s true. One of the reasons could be the space between keys on the 9360. The keyboard was decent enough, but is nowhere near RIM's best. If you are very heavy QWERTY user, and your budget permits, I'd urge you to look at the Bold 9900 if you want the best.


The 9790 doesn't disappoint one bit on the audio front. In fact, the 9790 is superior to even the 9900 when it comes to audio quality on all fronts, using both the in-built speaker as well as headphones. Crisp and clear with excellent bass levels and with EQ presets thrown in. And in typical RIM fashion, the 9790 plays most video formats, but despite the 1GHz powerhouse, it failed to play 1080p files. 720p, though was no problem.

Audio quality is superb--perhaps the best on any BlackBerry yet

Audio quality is superb–perhaps the best on any BlackBerry yet


The Bold 9790, staying true to the high-end category it resides in, is a 3G capable device with options for Wi-Fi and EDGE. The browser is one of the better ones around, in terms of speed, but still has no Flash support. Part and parcel of the pre-loaded connectivity apps include BBM, of course, Gtalk, MSN and Yahoo! Messenger. Facebook and Twitter apps and Social Feeds are also on board and BBM-integrated augmented reality app WikiTude has now become a part of the BlackBerry app offering on their new devices. Bluetooth with A2DP support and USB 2.0 also make up another part of the handset’s connectivity features.

Incidentally, while the OS version on the 9790 we tested didn’t support Wi-Fi hotspots, a leaked version of OS 7.1 for the 9900 allows users to turn their BlackBerry into a Wi-Fi hotspot and OS 7.1 should be out soon for the 9790 too.

Wikitude makes brilliant use of augmented reality combined with BBM

Wikitude makes brilliant use of augmented reality combined with BBM

The 9790 features a 5 MP autofocus camera, complete with LED flash and Image Stabilization. Standard preset modes such as Face Detection Night Shot, and some more are available. Image quality was average and in my opinion poorer than on other devices at this price point. The autofocus consistently seemed to focus on irrelevant corners of the frame. Colors, though reproduced better than the 9900's still camera, which is much worse. Video recording is standard VGA with the 9900 faring much better there, offering HD recording (1280 x 720). The camera is definitely not 'Bold' standard and RIM needs to do something to improve camera quality on its higher-end models. This sort of camera is okay for a cheaper Curve, but not on their best offerings. Come to think of it, what would be great would be an 8 MP camera on the best models and a 5 MP one on others—currently, all OS 7 devices, including budget ones, have a 5 MP shooter.

Focus never seems to be accurate or in teh right place

Focus never seems to be accurate or in the right place


I had high hopes from the battery, since it was the same 1230 mAh one on the Bold 9900 and one would think that with a lower res screen and a slower processor, battery life would be significantly juicier. In real-time (on BES and 3G), I got about a workday (9 am to 5 pm), which is an hour or two more than I get with the 9900. In the Tech2 stand alone video test, we were able to get about 6 hours of playback on a single charge, which is quite average. In the Tech2 Loop Test, the 9790 went through one loop that consisted of two hours of video, 1.5 hours of talk time, two hours of audio playback and 2 hours of audio streaming via Wi-Fi with BIS running. I got around 30 minutes into the second loop before the battery folded up. Keep a charger handy is what I'd say, especially if you plan to use 3G.

BlackBerry Protect is a great app for data backup on the Cloud and retrieving misplaced displaces

BlackBerry Protect is a great app for data backup on the Cloud and retrieving misplaced displaces

The Bottom Line

The price tag stands at Rs.26,490 and is reasonable compared to the steep Rs.33,990 for the 9900 (the Indian Rupee crashing is the prime culprit here). While the 9790 is a decent performer and in areas like audio and the still camera even manages to beat Big Brother Bold 9900, the latter is still a far superior device and retains the true ‘Bold’ crown. Then again it's also designed to offer more and is priced for that as well.

However, if you want a smaller, slimmer, lighter Bold, then the 9790 is the one to swipe your credit card for. The fairer sex may also prefer this Bold compared to the very masculine 9900, although for the life of me, I don't know why they'd prefer a small device when their handbags are so full of stuff–a centimeter extra and 20g more is hardly anything. But, perhaps that's just the missus.

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