It’s been about a year since the original RIM BlackBerry Bold made its debut, and while it remains a very solid device, it’s about time that a flashier, faster model took over the reigns. And that device would be the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700. Not only is it T-Mobile’s first 3G BlackBerry, but its sleeker design and performance enhancements make it a valuable addition to the carrier’s lineup. The Bold also offers UMA support for Wi-Fi calls, a faster processor, and an updated OS. The only major downside of the smartphone, and one that plagues all BlackBerry devices, unfortunately, is the Web browser. It simply doesn’t stand up to the competition in terms of ease of use or functionality. That said, if you’re after a powerful messaging smartphone, the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 certainly has our vote of confidence. It offers more speed and features than T-Mobile’s other BlackBerry offerings and gets the upper hand on the T-Mobile Dash 3G with its UMA support. As of press time, T-Mobile did not reveal a specific release date but said the Bold 9700 would be available in time for the holidays for $199.99 with a two-year contract.

Design
The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 looks nothing like its predecessor. Gone is the wide, masculine body, and in its place is a more svelte, compact smartphone that should fulfill RIM’s hope of attracting both men and women, and consumers and professionals. At 4.29 inches tall by 2.36 inches wide by 0.56 inch thick and 4.3 ounces, the Bold 9700 is certainly more pocketable and is even smaller and lighter than the BlackBerry Tour. It feels solid in the hand and features a similar leatherette backing as the original Bold to give it a classy touch. In addition, the chrome edges and lines between the keyboard rows add to the handset’s appeal.

The good: The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 boasts a sleeker design that includes an optical trackpad, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a brilliant display. The smartphone is 3G capable and offers Wi-Fi with UMA support, Bluetooth, and GPS. It also gets a faster processor and updates to BlackBerry OS 5.0.

The bad: The BlackBerry browser doesn’t compare to the competition. The handset’s compact size results in a smaller display and keyboard, but they aren’t deal-breakers.

The bottom line: The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 brings T-Mobile its first 3G BlackBerry and improves on its predecessor with a sleeker design and more power. We only wish it had a better browser to complete the package.

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