Test Center: BlackBerry Curve 8900 hits the hotspot with VoIP
RIM's pocket-sized, dual-mode QWERTY handset taps Wi-Fi and IP telephony for clear, unlimited T-Mobile HotSpot calling
The Curve 8900 comes with a special edition of DataViz Documents to Go that's sufficient for viewing and basic editing of the Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents that you download, copy to your storage card, or receive as e-mail attachments. For a very small charge, you can activate Documents to Go's complete feature set, allowing you to create new Office documents from scratch on your BlackBerry, complete with formatting and change tracking. In my opinion, Documents to Go is the dealmaker for mobile QWERTY. I couldn't imagine typing, editing, and submitting this review on a touch display device, but it's perfectly workable on the Curve 8900.
The Curve 8900's media qualifications are pretty impressive. It leads with a 2.4-inch 360-by-480 LED-backlit display. This square-aspect LCD is not knock-out quality like the wide screen on the Bold. I have to dial up the backlight to get similar readability with small text. Even so, the next-gen BlackBerry GUI, with its transparency effects and sublimely smoothed text, looks marvelous on the Curve 8900's densely packed pixels. RIM always puts very loud, clear, distortion-free speakers in its devices, and even music sounds pretty decent. A 3.5mm headphone/headset jack allows you to use unmodified wired headphones for stereo listening. Like other late-model BlackBerry devices, Curve also supports high-fidelity stereo Bluetooth headphones, including models with AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Protocol) support. My Plantronics P590 Bluetooth headphones, which have AVRCP controls, work perfectly for voice memos, podcasts, music, and video. RIM uses CPU acceleration to equip the Curve 8900 with flawless full-screen video playback.
The quality of the camera hardware and software in the Curve 8900 caught me by surprise. RIM chose its camera supplier exceedingly well, and it uses the Curve 8900's fast CPU to great advantage. The built-in camera uses a 3.2-megapixel (2,048 by 1,536) sensor behind an autofocus lens. A white LED functions as a focus aid, a flash, and a video light. I found that Curve could shoot acceptable stills without pre-adjustment in a number of challenging conditions, including low light, moving subjects, and close focus (down to about two inches). The shutter delay for a pre-focused shot, where the shutter button is held down halfway until you're ready to shoot, is an uncommonly short fraction of a second.
Images can be geotagged, or marked with embedded location metadata using the Curve 8900's internal GPS, while you shoot. You can shoot movies in fixed focus at a paltry (but EDGE-friendly) resolution of 240 by 176. The fast CPU prevents motion blur even in low light, and the massive image oversampling affords a measure of image stabilization. Movies are stored on the SDHC card in MPEG-4 format with a .3GP file extension, which should open directly in any desktop or mobile mail client. Third-party movie recording software will likely do better when it emerges.