Best Buy
  • Price: depends on contract

  • Company: RIM (BlackBerry)

  • Our Rating: We rate this 9 out of 10 We rate this 9 out of 10

The eagerly awaited BlackBerry Bold 9000 continues RIM's legacy for qwerty smartphones - and may be its best yet.

So here it is; the most anticipated BlackBerry handset to date. The BlackBerry Bold 9000 is a quad-band handset with both HSDPA (high speed downlink packet access) 3G and GPS navigation that its maker, Research In Motion, hopes will cause as much of a furore as the iPhone 3G.

The handset we tested is on the Vodafone network, but T-Mobile announced last week that it will also be selling the Bold, while RIM tells us that in time it expects all UK networks to offer its latest quad-band baby.

First impressions are extremely favourable: this is a superb looking smartphone with strong lines and a gorgeous screen.

BlackBerry handsets traditionally come with leatherette cases in which to store your precious gem – the Bold meanwhile has a leatherette back, into which is set the 2Mp camera and video capture unit. There's space enough to emboss this with a discreet BlackBerry logo – we’re sure it was no coincidence that Apple also has a central distinctive silver logo on the back of its iPhone.

Design comparisons with the iPhone are unfair, however: the Bold is said to have been in the planning stages for three years and it more closely resembles smartphones from HTC and Motorola than it does Apple's iPhone.

A broad, flat handset that nonetheless fits comfortably in the palm, it's noticeably heavier than other BlackBerry handsets, but has a cleaner, more modern look. This is helped by the fact that there's a smart silver magnesium-alloy trim around the Bold's circumference with silver lines separating each line of keys on its full Qwerty keypad. These 'frets' between the rows of keys help distinguish between them – a device that Bold’s designer borrowed from the guitar (though we think RIM's reference to the keys being on a musical stave is stretching the analogy somewhat).

Viewed from the front, the BlackBerry Bold is much flatter than previous models, and the keys don't protrude as much as on the 8800 series models (those with the famous scrollwheel on the handset's righthand edge).