Review: BlackBerry Tour 9630 (Verizon)

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Short Version: As it stands, the BlackBerry Tour 9630 is the best smartphone available for Verizon Wireless customers. It’s a mash-up of the AT&T BlackBerry Bold and T-Mobile BlackBerry Curve 8900. One would think that this would lead to the perfect BlackBerry, but it has one glaring flaw and it isn’t one that you can get over quickly, if ever.

Review:

I hate to say it, but the Tour feels good in the hand. It has the weight (4.7 ounces) of the old 8800 series but the looks of the newfangled chrome and black motif BlackBerrys you see today (re: Storm, Bold, Curve 8900). Even the carbon fiber-like back plate is gorgeous. It’s visually stunning.

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But then you get to the keyboard. At first, I thought it was the greatest keyboard to ever come out of Waterloo, but that reaction quickly subsided once I started to peck away. Notice those chrome-like bands in between the row of keys? They suck. The height of said bands are almost the same height as the keys themselves, leaving you little to no feedback when typing. If I closed my eyes and tried to type I have no idea what my fingers are tapping on. There’s no separation between the keys like the Curve 8900 and they feel like the Bold’s keyboard, but they’re squished together with very little distinction. It’s a shame, really.

The trackball is recessed a tad more than the Curve 8900, but its not burrowing into the device, so that’s a plus.

Call quality is what you’d expect from a BlackBerry device: great. A hint of background noise can be heard from whomever you’re speaking with, but it’s tolerable and barely noticeable. I managed to squeak out over six hours of talk time, which is pretty good for any device. Verizon does boast the largest 3G network in the country. Calls over Bluetooth were just as good.

RIM has nailed down the screens as of late but the Tour’s screen, while bright and gorgeous, is uber sensitive to the slightest amount of finger-on-screen action. But it’s no more sensitive than the Curve 8900, which I also noted had a sensitive screen. I worry about my keys easily puncturing the screen. You may want to invest in a screen protector of some sort just in case.

Equipped with the same 3.2-megapixel auto-focusing camera as the Curve 8900, the Tour differs from that model with the shutter sound. It’s more DSLR-like whereas the Curve 8900’s shutter sounds like a point-and-shoot. Picture quality is what you’ve come to expect: it’s not great, but it’s far from terrible.

Like the Storm and past 8800 series devices, the Tour is also a world phone. That means it comes equipped with a Verizon/Vodafone branded SIM card. Buyer beware: the Tour has no Wi-Fi so it can’t roam from wireless network to wireless network like T-Mobile BlackBerrys. You’ll have a hefty bill when you get back from your trip overseas. You can, however, get it unlocked after your initial 60 days with the Tour on Verizon.

The web browser still sucks. But you already knew that.

Video playback is simple and the high-res screen is impeccable as it is on the Curve 8900. You can download music tracks via V Cast and Rhapsody if that’s your thing. With a straight out of the box Tour there’s roughly 115MB of onboard storage but it accepts up to a 16GB microSD card and comes with a 2GB to get things going.

As a long time BlackBerry user I can tell you that there’s very little difference between the 4.6 OS and 4.7 OS. BlackBerry Messenger looks a little better with updated emoticons but little else.

And yes the GPS is ‘unlocked’ as Verizon has been notorious for locking customers into using VZ Navigator. You can download Google Maps and be on your merry way.

Conclusion

Shortcomings aside, the BlackBerry Tour 9630 is the best smartphone available on the Verizon Wireless network. However, as I pointed out earlier, the keyboard is a bit janky. The BlackBerry Tour 9630 is available now from Verizon Wireless for $200 with or without the camera.

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