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It's probably here – if anywhere – that the Bold bests the iPhone 3G. People who text and email a lot will find the BlackBerry more forgiving on the thumbpads than the virtual keys of the iPhone. Email delivery was speedy too: no sooner had we typed in our test email messages and pressed the central orb to initiate the send than the message popped up in our work email.

delivery to three separate POP3 email accounts and another corporate email address – all were delivered almost on the instant. Attachments are supported, so we tried sending and opening attachments on our Bold.

Sure enough, we were able to open Jpeg images, zoom in to them and view as fullscreen. When we elected to save a file, we got a helpful warning that doing so could be an expensive business.

We had no problem opening our sample rtf Word file either – the 22KB file opened and was resized to fit the dimensions of the Bold's screen in less than two seconds.

The bright backlighting of the handset ensured a clear contrast between the text and the background and we had no difficulty reading through the 2,500 word document. Bold and italic formatting was preserved, as were hyperlinks.

The web browsing experience on the BlackBerry Bold impressed us too. For all that we love the idea of enjoying the mobile web on a smartphone, all too often it’s an unsatisfactory and frustrating experience.

Using a 3G connection, graphics-heavy web pages still took a few seconds to load large images, while less bandwidth-intensive furniture like site logos and headers quickly appeared. Text on web pages was visible and properly readable in three to four seconds. We could even zoom in and start reading reviews on the Digital Arts website pretty much as soon as their headlines appeared.

Other important points to note about the BlackBerry Bold are its media management and playback credentials. RIM has enlisted respected audio/video software specialist Roxio to come up with a media manager that helps you identify and categorise your photos and music.

To get an idea of the quality of the screen, it’s worth picking up the Bold in your local phone shop and scrolling to the Video section under the media player section. The Need For Speed trailer preinstalled on our sample was most impressive.

ou can upload albums from your PC or laptop without issue, while users of the Windows version of iTunes at least can also make use of the BlackBerry Media Sync applet, and use the Bold as one of their registered iTunes devices. There’s still no news on whether RIM will extend this support to the Mac as well.

Our sample came with 1GB of card memory to complement the built-in 1GB memory, with microSD cards accepted via a slot on the left edge. This currently limits storage to 8GB although microSD capacities of up to 16GB are expected to be available before the end of the year.

As you may have guessed, we were impressed with this gorgeous smartphone. Often, when a device has been promised for some time, the hype leads to expectations that can't be met. Not so the BlackBerry Bold: in common with its rival, the iPhone 3G, it's a fantastically well connected, well-designed and well-constructed smartphone. Our only real question is how the rumoured touchscreen Thunder and other future BlackBerry handsets can beat it.