The Research in Motion BlackBerry Tour is RIM's new CDMA BlackBerry device. The BlackBerry Tour 9630 melds the best of the BlackBerry Bold and the BlackBerry Curve 8900 into one slick package.

Unfortunately, like the BlackBerry Storm, the BlackBerry Tour 9630 lacks Wi-Fi, a disappointing omission for a business-focused device.

In appearance, the BlackBerry Tour 9630 shares attributes of the BlackBerry Bold and of the BlackBerry Curve 8900.

But the BlackBerry Tour 9630 has the same dimensions as the BlackBerry Storm, measuring 112x62x14.2mm. At 130g, the BlackBerry Tour 9630 weighs less than the Storm but is slightly heavier than the feather-light Curve 8900.

The BlackBerry Tour 9630 felt just right in hand; the Bold can feel too large, and the 8900 almost too thin.

And whereas the Bold looks chintzy and the 8900 a bit dull, the BlackBerry Tour 9630 has a subtle elegance. The phone's body combines a muted chrome bezel with smooth black rubber and textured plastic. The texture contributes to the phone's comfortable in-hand feel.

As with most other BlackBerry handsets of the newer generation, the right spine of the BlackBerry Tour 9630 houses a 3.5mm headphone jack, a volume rocker, a dedicated camera key (which can be customised to serve as another shortcut) and a mini-USB port (for data transfers and power). The left spine accommodates the voice-dialing key (also customisable) and a speaker.

The BlackBerry Tour 9630's display measures 2.4in - smaller than the Bold's - but it has the same 480-by-360-pixel resolution as the displays on the Storm and the Curve 8900. Our only criticism of it is that we found the thin black bezel that borders the display a bit distracting. We wish that RIM had simply extended the display to the very edge as on the 8900 or the Bold.

Nevertheless, the BlackBerry Tour 9630's display looks gorgeous: colours looked bright, details were crisp, and text popped off the screen.

Beneath the display reside the familiar BlackBerry navigation buttons on either side of the trackball: Talk, Menu, Back, and End/Power. Holding down the menu key lets you switch easily between open applications - a feature we also liked on the BlackBerry Storm. You can program either the dedicated camera key or the voice-dialing key (on the right and left spindles, respectively) as application switchers, if you wish.

Unlike the trackballs on other BlackBerry devices we've used, the one on the BlackBerry Tour 9630 is a bit recessed into the hardware. Although it wasn't difficult to use, it was less touch-friendly than other BlackBerry trackballs we've used.

The keyboard exemplifies BlackBerry at its best, combining the strongest aspects of the 8900 and the Bold. The keyboard is more compact than the Bold's, but it's still spacious enough to type long messages on.

The individual keys were easy to press and had just enough clickiness, avoiding the rigidness of the 8900's keyboard. Like those on the Bold, the BlackBerry Tour 9630's sculpted keys minimise finger slippage, which makes for a comfy and ergonomic typing experience. One drawback is that the keys on the edges of the keyboard are positioned flush against the phone's edges. On a few occasions, we caught ourselves tapping the case rather than the Alt or Del key.

The Tour's speakerphone was impressive. We could hear parties on the other end of the line clearly while walking down a busy city street.

NEXT PAGE: the BlackBerry OS >>

The Research in Motion BlackBerry Tour is RIM's new CDMA BlackBerry device. The BlackBerry Tour 9630 melds the best of the BlackBerry Bold and the BlackBerry Curve 8900 into one slick package.

The BlackBerry Tour 9630 runs BlackBerry OS 4.7.1, which, like the hardware, is a mash-up of the operating systems used on the Bold, the Curve 8900, and the Storm. The home screen features background wallpaper and a customisable application-shortcut view known as the "ribbon".

Pushing the dedicated menu key takes you to the main application screen, which is populated with app icons identical to those you'd find on a BlackBerry Storm. Sometimes it's a bit hard to tell what a particular icon symbolizes, since many of them look pretty similar. But when you roll over an icon with the Tour's speedy trackball, a label appears in a text line beneath it, clearly identifying the icon's function.

The biggest update in the unit's software is the latest version of the BlackBerry Messenger, which comes preloaded on the Tour. This app has a spruced-up interface that's easier to use, more emoticons to choose from, and the ability to display your location via GPS.

Even though the BlackBerry Tour 9630 is first and foremost a business device, it has solid multimedia features. The unit's fairly plain native music app is identical to the one on the Curve 8900 and the Bold. It lets you view your library by song, artist, or genre. During playback, a miniature album thumbnail appears.

Video looked great on the Tour's crisp display, but 2.4 inches feels awfully small in comparison to the dimensions of touchscreen giants such as the Storm and the iPhone 3GS. Still, playback was smooth and showed little pixelation or distortion.

The 3.2-megapixel camera is an upgrade over the Bold's 2-megapixel lens. It also has a flash, variable zoom, image stabilisation, autofocus, and video recording.

Video recording was distinctly better on the iPhone 3GS than on the BlackBerry Tour 9630. The clips we recorded with the Tour had a noticeable amount of ghosting and colour distortion.

NEXT PAGE: our expert verdict >>

PCWorld.com

BlackBerry Tour 9630: Specs

  • 35 key backlit QWERTY keyboard
  • Battery: 1400 mAHr li-ion cell
  • 2.4in 480x360 pixel screen
  • 3.2Mp camera
  • Integrated speaker and microphone
  • supports MPEG4 H.263, MPEG4 Part 2 Simple Profile, H.264 (encoding and decoding 30fps), WMV
  • Audio format support: MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WMA ProPlus
  • 32 Polyphonic Ringtones – MIDI, MP3
  • 3G networks
  • Quad-Band: 850/900/1800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks
  • Single-Band: 2100 MHz UMTS/HSPA networks
  • Dual-Band: 800/1900 MHz CDMA/EVDO Rev A networks
  • 112x62x14.2mm
  • 130g
  • 35 key backlit QWERTY keyboard
  • Battery: 1400 mAHr li-ion cell
  • 2.4in 480x360 pixel screen
  • 3.2Mp camera
  • Integrated speaker and microphone
  • supports MPEG4 H.263, MPEG4 Part 2 Simple Profile, H.264 (encoding and decoding 30fps), WMV
  • Audio format support: MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WMA ProPlus
  • 32 Polyphonic Ringtones – MIDI, MP3
  • 3G networks
  • Quad-Band: 850/900/1800/1900MHz GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks
  • Single-Band: 2100 MHz UMTS/HSPA networks
  • Dual-Band: 800/1900 MHz CDMA/EVDO Rev A networks
  • 112x62x14.2mm
  • 130g

OUR VERDICT

The BlackBerry Tour 9630 delivers exactly what users expect from a BlackBerry: an excellent keyboard; a slick design; and a hearty, messaging-friendly operating system. But the lack of Wi-Fi is at this point seems unforgivable in a business-class smartphone.

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