The 480◊360 screen is nothing new to BlackBerry lovers. The BlackBerry Curve 8900 features this display and while larger, the BlackBerry Storm does as well. The Bold seems like an outcast as itís the only BlackBerry to utilize a 480◊320 resolution LCD. Personal preference aside (I like the resolution of 480◊320 better), the BlackBerry Tourís screen is nothing short of stunning. Itís not a huge panel but it packs a punch. Colors are rich, thereís a great amount of contrast yet not too much, and text and graphics look as sharp as ever. Additionally it looks like thereís a harder plastic covering the LCD than there is on the Bold and 8900 and this is a good thing, people. It feels solid, not scratch-prone and is a display that weíre proud RIM has transitioned to as their standard screen for the Tour and other BlackBerry handsets to come. Thereís that pesky black bezel around the LCD but itís a minor annoyance and not a big deal.
Hello, Verizon. Yes, I can hear you. If those two sentences donít tell you where this section is heading, you should probably stop reading. We realize the BlackBerry Tour is also launching on Sprint but since they didnít send us a review unit, they wonít get included and we have nothing to compare the Verizon service or unit to. Back to voice callingÖ Itís an awesome experience with Verizon on the Tour. Especially compared to the other unit we reviewed, this is really solid. Calls came through loud and clear, callers could hear us perfectly on the other end (as opposed to sounding ďtinnyĒ like before) and even in low service areas we didnít drop a single call. Whatís equally impressive is how fast Verizon connects the call ó almost instantly.
Since all phones are phones at heart, itís nice to have a BlackBerry on Verizonís network. BlackBerry devices in general (especially the latest family) usually offer great voice calling but coupled with Verizonís network, weíre not sure it gets any better.
The speaker and speakerphone function on the Tour are great. You can really tell this was designed as a business device. Thereís only one speaker on the left side since the 3.5mm headset jack is on the right (the middle ďspeakerĒ doesnít count since itís not really a speaker ó just somewhere for audio to flow out of) but we havenít noticed this to be an issue. Besides a Nextel device or the HTC Touch Pro2, itís one of the loudest and most useful speakerphones weíve used.
One thing thatís a little strange is that while the speakerphone is quite loud, ringtones and audio in general plays back at a lower volume than the Bold does. Itís not that low ó itís louder than the 8900ís speaker ó but lower than the Boldís as far as audio reproduction goes. The high-end is a little lacking but hey, everything is relative and itís a mobile phone.
Something that many BlackBerry fans will be pleased as punch to know, is that the vibrate feature on the Tour is aggressively strong. Probably the strongest vibrate on any recent BlackBerry, you canít really miss it.
The BlackBerry Tour for Verizon ships with OS 4.7.1 and can be thought of as a non-touch Storm OS. Itís practically identical, just made for trackball navigation and QWERTY keyboard entry as opposed to touch (though some could argue that the Storm OS itself isnít even designed for fingersÖ never mind) and for better or worse is practically the same operating system that youíre used to. Itís quick, responsive, and besides a couple random bugs here and there (nothing that got in the way of usability) itís really solid. Weíve been pounding on two different BlackBerry Tours now and havenít had a single reset, crash, or any other issue that would affect you in a major way.
In the interest of being upfront with everyone, we had some hardware issues with the first BlackBerry Tour we received. Verizon and RIM swiftly swapped it out for us and the one weíre using now is 100% good to go. Even the other Tour we reviewed from months ago didnít exhibit the hardware problems we noticed and itís pretty safe to say that you shouldnít experience any major hardware problems.
Moving on to the actual hardware of the device, itís great. Looking at it from a larger viewpoint, the device is incredibly well built. It doesnít creak, it doesnít waddle if you try to type on it when itís on a desk or solid surface, there are no loose parts, and it seems again that RIM has improved their manufacturing and assembling processes. Getting granular, things are also perfect. The volume buttons and camera shutter button for instance arenít mushy, theyíre firm but not hard to press. The four main navigational buttons (Send, Menu, Back, End) also are perfectly sized and offer great feedback when navigating. The trackball might be too recessed for some but after a while of use, itís not that big of a deal and you get used to using it.
Weíve been messing with a Tour on and off for the last three or four months and we have to say again, it really excels as a business device and we think it will stand up to various punches, nicks, drops, kicks, and the like without issue
Another QWERTY review? You bet. A true mashup of the BlackBerry Bold and BlackBerry Curve 8900 keys, the BlackBerry Tour offers a great compromise. The keys arenít as mushy as the Bold keys, theyíre a little harder and a little ďclackierĒ, something found on the 8900. As far as size goes, theyíre roughly 20% larger than the 8900ís keys and are nicely sculpted. Weíve found the best and most efficient way to type on the Tour is not to press on an entire key but on the angled area of a key. This letís you pound through emails with relative ease and doesnít really let your finger hit more than one key a time. The BlackBerry Tour keyboard is a keyboard youíd come to expect from RIM ó simple, easy to use, and perfectly laid out. Itís a winner.
While highly subjective, we find the BlackBerry Tour to be striking. Itís such a true BlackBerry if you think about it. Unlike the BlackBerry 8900 and BlackBerry Storm, the Tour is boxier but we think better. Itís a little thicker, but itís comfortable to hold and use, and seems perfectly proportioned. RIM did an awesome job of letting all the components work together. The dark chrome bezel meshes beautifully with the soft-touch rubberized sides and the glossy black navigational buttons blend with the black screen and upper earpiece section, blending perfectly with the black powder-coated QWERTY keyboard. The camera lens cover flows perfectly into the back battery cover, also with a soft-touch rubberized finish.
Battery life is really impressive. Coming from a heavy, heavy BlackBerry Bold user, the Tour is straight up refreshing. With the exact same usage patterns and same applications installed, Iíve been able to get double to battery life using the Tour compared to the Bold. Iím not sure why ó CDMA devices typically use more battery than their GSM counterparts and the battery on the Tour is 1400mAh compared to 1500mAh on the Bold ó but battery life is fantastic.
Email, voice calling, music playing, web browsing, Twittering (cheap plug), BlackBerry Messenger ó all a go with great battery
How could we review the BlackBerry Tour without complaining about Wi-Fi? We always say it, but whatever the reason ó cost, weight, size ó it doesnít really matter. The BlackBerry Tour is Verizonís flagship device for the Summer and thereís a glaring hole in it. We realize Verizon has the best voice and data network in the country with the most coverage. We applaud them. But, there are some places where service is bad, the buildings are too thick, the location is too remote. And thatís where you need Wi-Fi.
In general, using the device has been really pleasant. Besides a brief stint with an 8900 itís the first time Iíve switched from my Bold since last June and Iíve been very happy aside from a couple slowdowns here and there. The 624MHz CPU on the Bold is nice and this is slower I believe by about 100MHz, give or take. Will the average user notice the difference? No. Theyíll be too ecstatic coming from the Curve 8330 but itís worth pointing out nonetheless. And hey, if thatís all we have to moan about, Verizon and RIM are doing something right, right?
While the BlackBerry Tour lacks Wi-Fi and sports a slightly slower processor compared to the BlackBerry Bold, we can confidently say when itís released later this month it will the best BlackBerry on the market. We wonít look ahead, weíll focus on what is in front of us and if we do that, the Tour is the top dog. Itís on a superb network, itís extremely professional and durable, and itís incredibly pocketable and versatile. 2009 BlackBerrys include 256MB of RAM and 3.2 megapixel AF cameras which are probably the only two things people would change about the Bold. Add in a smaller and arguably sexier package and youíve got a sure shot winner. Thereís no question this is the finest CDMA BlackBerry to date and if youíre on a CDMA network (Verizon or Sprint) this is a no-brainer. Besides being a fantastic handset, itís a world device that will work practically anywhere on the planet, thus eliminating a difficult barrier of entry (people who want Verizon) for globe-trotters. RIM really knows hardware and it shows, and if youíre ok with the BlackBerry OS then we suggest you give the BlackBerry Tour a long and hard look come Sunday the 12th.