First Impressions: BlackBerry Tour 9630

Aaron Baker
member from Dallas, TX
Published: July 12, 2009

Editor's Note: The device being reviewed is the Verizon version of the BlackBerry Tour 9630.

As most BlackBerry users know, CDMA users tend to get the shaft when it comes to new devices (with the exception of the Storm).  While the GSM side was enjoying the Curve 8900, Bold, and OS 4.6, CDMA users were stuck with the Curve 8330, the ancient 8830 World Edition device, and OS 4.5 - which was marketed as an upgrade, mind you.  Sure, the Pearl Flip 8230 landed on the scene last month, but despite the new design and OS 4.6, many overlooked it in hopes of a new QWERTY device.

Enter the BlackBerry Tour 9630, a much needed update to an aging CDMA lineup of BlackBerry devices - and one that's exciting to boot.  Verizon BlackBerry users will inevitably enjoy being able to catch up to their Bold and Curve 8900 toting friends with OS 4.7, a gorgeous screen, and a refreshed design.  But does the device deliver?  Is it a worthy addition to the lineup?

Truth be told, I attempted to purchase the Tour last night, as I had received several unconfirmed reports of Best Buy locations selling the device early.  Since Best Buy was pricing it at $99.99 for a new primary line and $149.99 for a new secondary line, I decided to forego the corporate store (and its $269.99 price tag).  Unfortunately, it was a no-go; none of the locations would sell to me last night.  So, I pre-ordered one and eagerly waited.  I picked it up this morning when they opened, with no major hiccups in the activation process.  

It wasn't until I was leaving the store that I realized that the first device was defective; the trackball would scroll up and down perfectly fine, but would freeze when going from left to right.  After visiting two other Best Buy stores in the district, I was able to find one that swapped it out for me.  This problem has been documented by others as well, so be sure to check your trackball before you leave the store.

I have personally owned (counting several models I've owned more than once) 37 BlackBerry devices, and the Tour 9630 is an absolutely fantastic device.  In my opinion, it ties for first place with the BlackBerry Bold, as both have things that I prefer and don't prefer.  I'll explain what I mean by that below, but in the meantime, let's dive into a few key points of the device.

The Tour is a product of the design shift that, while seen on most of the new GSM devices, is new to the CDMA side (sans Storm).  With looks modeling both the Curve 8900 and the Bold, it sports a bit more chrome on the sides, with a Curve shape and a Bold-like bottom lip.  I was pleasantly surprised with the back of the device.  When we first learned about the Tour, I was taken aback to hear about the carbon fiber battery cover, however it came out well.  The combination of carbon fiber and the rubberized frame looks professional, and creates a surface that gives the Tour some traction while on a surface.

One place the device shines above any BlackBerry device (again, in my opinion) is the general weight and feel in the hand.  Out of every BlackBerry that I've owned or tested, the Tour feels the best in the hand.  The keyboard is a sort of Bold/Curve hybrid - it resembles the Bold's keypad, but the keys "click" like the Curve 8330.  The Bold is still the reigning champion in terms of typing, but the Tour is a close, close second.  Much like the BlackBerry devices of late, the Tour has a gorgeous screen.

In conclusion, I'll list out a quick "Tour versus Bold" bullet point comparison:

  • Design: Tour.  Retains a smaller form factor (much like that of the Curve) while offering a Bold-like keypad.  Best of both worlds, in my book.
  • Keyboard: Bold.  The Tour's keyboard is a very close second, but the Bold still retains the first place slot due to the softness of the keys.
  • Screen: Tie.  Both look fantastic to me, although I wish that RIM would have taken a design cue from the Bold and extended the screen just a bit closer to the edges.

There's much more to cover, so stay tuned for my full review of the device!

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