Editor's note: Portions of the design section were taken from our review of the RIM BlackBerry Curve for AT&T, as the two devices share many of the same physical characteristics.
AT&T may have scored the RIM BlackBerry 8820 last week, but we're thinking T-Mobile got the better deal with the just-announced RIM BlackBerry 8320, aka the BlackBerry Curve with Wi-Fi. Why? Well, first it has the same sleek design of the original Curve with a more spacious and easy-to-use QWERTY keyboard. You also get a 2-megapixel camera, whereas the BlackBerry 8820 is sans camera. Of course, the latter is definitely aimed more at the business set, whereas the BlackBerry 8320 will appeal to a wider audience, and we're thinking it'll be a hit. The Curve offers solid performance, a great design, excellent messaging features, and the addition of Wi-Fi is icing on the cake. The RIM BlackBerry 8320 is available now for $249.99 with a two-year contract.
We loved the design of the first RIM BlackBerry Curve, so we're glad to see the company didn't mess with a good thing when the RIM BlackBerrry 8320. It still offers a best-of-breed design that beautifully combines a full QWERTY keyboard into a sleek and compact form factor (4.2 inches high by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep; 3.9 ounces). With such a slim profile and small weight, the Curve is comfortable to hold and use as a phone, even though it has a wider body than regular cell phones. The outer edges also have a soft-touch finish to give it a rubbery texture, thus making it easier to grip. Unlike the AT&T version, T-Mobile offers two color options: pale gold or titanium.
On front of the device, there's a 2.5-inch diagonal, 65,000-color screen with a 320x240 pixel resolution. The display features a light-sensing technology that automatically adjusts the backlighting of the screen as well as the keyboard, based on your environment (indoors, outdoors, a dark room, and so forth). In addition, you can customize the screen with various themes and wallpaper, as well as adjust the font size, family, and style. We didn't have any problems reading the contents of the screen under various lighting conditions, and both text and images were sharp and vibrant.
As with all BlackBerry models, the BlackBerry 8320 does not have a touch screen, but we still found the device easy to use and navigate with the provided controls. You'll find these controls beneath the screen; they include the Talk and End/power buttons, a Menu shortcut, an Escape key, and the trackball navigator. You can adjust the sensitivity of the latter under the Settings > Screen/Keyboard menu. Along the right side, there is a volume rocker and a user-defined launch button that's set to activate the camera by default. The left side holds a mini-USB port as well as another programmable convenience key, and--good news--the Curve is equipped with a 3.5-millimeter headset jack, so you can plug in Walkman-style headphones.
One of the biggest complaints about the BlackBerry 8820 was its keyboard. RIM switched up the layout and feel of the keyboard on the 8820, and many users found the buttons to be slippery and cramped. Happily, the BlackBerry Curve's full QWERTY keyboard offers a better typing experience, as it reverts back to the styling of the keys found on the BlackBerry 8700g. This means you get more spacing between the buttons, and they're tactile and less slick.
Finally, the camera lens, flash, and self-portrait mirror are on the back of the device, and a mute button is located on top. The Curve is equipped with a microSD slot, but it's located behind the battery, so it's a bit inconvenient to access. T-Mobile ships the RIM BlackBerry 8320 with a travel charger, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a belt holster, and reference material. For more BlackBerry add-ons and downloads, check out our cell phone accessories page.
The RIM BlackBerry 8320's biggest draw is the addition of Wi-Fi. It supports 802.11b/g, whether you're using your home or corporate network or hopping onto a Wi-Fi hot spot. The Curve also works with T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home, which lets you make and receive calls using both regular GSM cellular networks and preconfigured wireless networks. The benefit of this is that calls made via Wi-Fi will not be deducted from your cellular plan, meaning you get unlimited calls as long as you're within range of the hot spot. Our review unit was able to find and connect to our test access point without any problems, and we were up and running on the Web in no time.