John already gave you his “quick look” on the 8520, but a second look never hurts. Take into account the fact that my main phone is the BlackBerry Curve 8900 and you can see why I’m anxious to give you my thoughts on the latest Curve to hit the streets.
It’s a budget BlackBerry that skimps on aesthetics, but manages to offer a lot of “must have” features that BlackBerry users have become accustomed to from other devices. Compared to the 8900, the 8520 is sans GPS and the 3.2-megapixel AF camera that’s on the 8900 is now a 2-megapixel variant on the baby Curve. Here are a few sample images taken side-by-side with the 8900. Video quality is somewhat similar, but the 8900 does a better job with color than the 8520. Check out the screengrab after the sample photos.
8520 sample images
The biggest standout, though, is the loss of the physical trackball and what Samsung used to use on their smartphones in previous years, an optical trackpad. It works great. I’ve actually never been the biggest fan of trackballs, but that’s just me. It’s responsive and makes flicking through Web pages and long emails a breeze.
BlackBerry Media Sync, for anyone that hasn’t tried it yet, works seamlessly to transfer music to your BlackBerry device. It takes an unusually lengthy amount of time to eject the device from the application, though. That could just be the beta I’ve been running on my Mac, but maybe someone with a PC can tell me otherwise. Another first for the 8520 and RIM are the media dedicated buttons placed along the top of the Curve. The mute button now cohabitates with the play/pause button, which fits snugly in between the reverse and forward buttons. They continue to work even when you navigate away from the music player app.
Whether you need a hot swappable memory card on your mobile phone is up for debate, but I find no fault in having it available on the 8520. As advertised, the 8520 worked with my 16GB Kingston microSD card without fuss.
Overall specs on the 8520 aren’t much different than the 8900. Processor (512Mhz) and onboard memory (256MB with ~128MB free) are identical making the latest Curve just as peppy as every other BlackBerry device on the market.
The 8520 does what every other BlackBerry before it has done, which is what we want to hear, but it’s hard to ignore the hardware itself. It’s obviously a budget device and RIM cut a few corners to get this one under a bill. For instance, there’s no locking mechanism for the battery door (which doesn’t sit flush on my 8520) like on the 8900 and the screen’s resolution is a lowly 320×240. I have yet to scratch the screen of any of my previous BlackBerrys, but two noticeable gashes now reside on the 8520. There are no chrome accents, which I’m thankful for because most of the faux chrome on my 8900 has peeled off. It’s not a sexy looking BlackBerry, but that optical trackpad makes up for all its shortcomings.
And before I forget, the 8520 does make phone calls and they’re crystal clear. The speakerphone is actually really, really loud. If your kid has been begging you for a BlackBerry then the 8520 is the one to get them. No point in spending loads of your hard earned cash on something they don’t really need.
The BlackBerry Curve 8520 is available now from T-Mobile for $130, but you know where to find it for less than $50 (hint: Wal-mart).
Curve 8900 vs Curve 8520 [RIM]