It doesn't take the award for design, nor does it win many points in the luxury category, but the BlackBerry Curve 8520 is, without a doubt, the scrappiest device in RIM's lineup. With a shell that looks like it would withstand several drops to the floor (don't try) and an all-new trackpad, the 8520 seems to appeal to first-time BlackBerry buyers and those who need a durable phone. And I completely understand what they mean. As of late, most of the BlackBerry devices (think Bold, Tour, and Curve 8900) offer gorgeous displays and fantastic keyboards, but it comes at the expense of the device being less durable. The 8520, though somewhat rickety in areas, seems to fill a void in RIM's product line. Will it close the gap while providing the ever-so-popular BlackBerry experience?
Coming from someone who has always wanted a BlackBerry with a completely black housing, the exterior is, for the most part, aesthetically pleasing. The single most distinguishing element of the 8520 versus previous BlackBerry devices is the back. In a new design shift, the 8520 incorporates a rubberized texture on the top and top rear of the device, with media buttons (rewind, play/stop, and forward) replacing the lock and mute buttons on previous BlackBerry devices. Much to the happiness of those frustrated with the position of the charging port on RIM's latest devices, it has returned to the top left side on the 8520, similar to that of the Curve and the Bold.
At the expense of durability and to preserve costs, the 8520 returns to the screen resolution seen on the Curve 8300 series devices. It's not the greatest in terms of overall resolution, but it and the lack of 3G help in enhancing battery life. The keyboard is a bit of a mixed bag. Offering similar separated keys to those of the Curve 8300 series, the 8520's keyboard is a bit firmer, making it hard at times to type. I did like the actual shape of the keys, as they're longer and narrower than the keys from the 8300. Last but not least, the trackpad is a pleasure to use. It was surprisingly easy to operate (though I'll admit, I'm still getting used to it). I suppose it's similar to when RIM migrated from the thumbwheel to the trackball, but the migration to the trackpad from the trackball tripped me up every so often while testing the device. Once I realize what I'm using, it's a breeze.
If you're considering the 8520, are a member of the BlackBerry family, or like to stay on top of the latest phone news, stay tuned for a full written review, video coverage, and a Bold/Tour/8520 square-off article!