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Review of T-Mobile's BlackBerry Curve 8520 with optical trackpad controller

Review by Michael Oryl on Thursday August 13, 2009.

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RIM's BlackBerry Curve 8520 is the third generation of the company's compact, full-QWERTY messaging smartphone line. It features the same basic form factor as the original 8300 series devices, but gets some nicely upgraded features and more modern styling in a package that is roughly the same sized as the more expensive Curve 8900. We reviewed a T-Mobile USA version of the Curve 8520, which supports the company's UMA(INFO) based HotSpot @Home VoIP calling service.

Physical Aspects

At 106.5g (3.8oz) in weight and measuring 109mm x 60mm x 14mm (4.3" x 2.4" x .6") in size, the new Curve 8520 is slightly lighter than the Curve 8900, but basically the same size. The keyboard on the device is much like the original's and offers great feel, but the backlighting and color of the keys on the blue model we tested makes reading them difficult in dimly lit rooms. We suspect that the black version of the 8520 will be easier to read in such environments. The call keys and the menu and escape keys on the 8520 are flush mounted on the face of the device, but they still offer a good tactile click when pressed.

The new optical trackpad controller takes the place of the trackballs that we've seen on most BlackBerry devices for a few years now. The trackpad is basically an optical mouse that has been turned upside down. It works quite well in general, though is probably a bit more difficult to control than the trackball. The upside, however, is that the trackpad won't get gunked up by dust or facial oils the way a trackball will. In the end, I think the switch to a trackpad is a fair trade that works out for the user in the long haul.

On the top of the phone things changed up a bit from prior BlackBerry models. There is no lock button any longer, and we now have dedicated next and previous track music controls that sit on either side of the dual-purpose mute and play/pause button. A 3.5mm headphone port is located at the top of the left edge of the phone, just above the micro-USB charger and data connector.

As was the case with the more expensive Curve 8900, the overall build quality of the Curve 8520 is very good with one exception: the rear battery cover. It fits better than the one on the 8900 does, but is still slightly loose at times and can make some noise when the phone is used. It's not a deal-breaker by any stretch, however. Otherwise, the build of the device seems quite good, and the new built-in, rubber convenience and volume keys on the edges of the device look like they should be very durable, all the while keeping dust out of the phone.

The only thing about the BlackBerry Curve 8520 that is likely to leave many folks unimpressed is the display. Like the Curve 8300 series before it, the Curve 8520 sports a QVGA (320 x 240 pixel) display. While more than bright and crisp enough for most uses, the display lets the phone down when it comes to web browsing, as you can see in our videos. But using components like that QVGA display and the fixed-focus 2 megapixel camera, which is located on the back of the phone, is how Research In Motion was able to keep the cost of the phone down. For people that just want a BlackBerry for messaging, this will work out just fine.

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good @ 6:53:29AM EDT on Tuesday August 18, 2009

why you people have double standards while writing the reviews? last year you wrote about samsung i780's trackpad that - it will be a deal breaker for some people. And now you are writing about blackberry 8520's trackpad that- its simply great, even better than the trackball....Why is it so? simply because i780 was a samsung and 8520 curve is a blackberry? can you explain it Mr. Michael Oryl ?

Michael Oryl @ 7:43:23AM EDT on Tuesday August 18, 2009

Sure, that's easy to explain. The trackpad on the 8520 is much better than the one found on the i780 and the BlackBerry OS supports it much better than Windows Mobile does. Quite simple.

good @ 3:51:34PM EDT on Tuesday August 18, 2009

thank you so much Mr. Michael

vinayak @ 8:24:09AM EDT on Thursday August 27, 2009

sir i`m interested in buying a phone n i`m confused about nokia e71 and blackberry curve 8520....
i need music looks n performance... or shud i wait for the nokia e72... wen will e72 will be launched... please help me out... i`m in a gr8 mess.... thanks in advance...

Tilda @ 6:39:55PM EST on Saturday November 14, 2009

This is my first BB and its all very new to me. So far I've had good reactions from other people but don't be fooled by the Blackberry label...
Its memory is appalling; i cant even take videos on it because that requires a memory card. I cant keep more than 10 photos on it either.
The blackberry case which I was advised to buy, costed 15 from the Carphone Warehouse and doesn't even cover the top of the phone - a pointless purchase as somewhere down the line, the top of the handset will become scratched despite being in its official case.
The internet is lacking speed - no 3G. If you are in places with little signal it is almost painfully slow.
Despite these little niggles, it is a really good phone. Personally, my favourite features are the LED light that flashes when you have a text, the trackpad which has alterable sensitivity, the wide and bright screen, its keyboard - which makes texting a hell of a lot easier, and the shape, feel and weight of the actual handset.

hawaiianflight @ 7:34:20PM EST on Sunday November 15, 2009

I'm a tad confused whether to go Nokia E63 or the Blackberry 8520. The Blackberry looks a nicer and easier to use handset esp with the keypad and nice menu layout but Nokia is cheaper by about $250. I find it hard reading font that is too small so any help would be good. Your advice would be HUGELY welcomed. Thanks, confused.

jeff thomas @ 11:46:47PM EST on Saturday December 19, 2009

the blackberry is a nicee fonee for anyone . Most ppl will love dis fonee. the display is not amazinq but its preety good . the 8900 display is better. on the 8900 the over is more metally and looks more expensive. this fonee the coverinq is more rubber and looks moree cheapy .

andrea @ 9:11:33AM EST on Thursday December 24, 2009

i absolutely love the blackberry 8520.. its not big and bulky at all, and is more feminine. the track pad is so much better then the tracking ball, i seem to have little control over the tracking ball and it sticks after a while. also the applications are amazing because im a person that loves to get on facebook and yahoo and the 8520 has these already installed. i read a comment on here about covers for the phone, well that all depends where you shop for them, there are a load of different covers and faceplates for this phone. hard ones too so that way if you drop ur phone the actual phone doesnt break or get scratched the cover does. i'd much rather spend 15 dollars on a new cover then a couple hundred on another phone. and 3g actually depends on your network and the area your in. the 8520 is known as a smartphone and is also one of the newer versions of blackberry so it should have no problem picking up 3g as long as ur area is 3g... i love my blackberry!! hope this helps.. merry christmas!!!

Damian @ 9:42:58AM EDT on Monday July 12, 2010

i just got a blackberry 8520. i really like it but im not used to the trackpad. how reliable is it and should i worry about a replacemtnt in the future.

Babyv @ 1:57:41PM EDT on Sunday July 18, 2010

This phone is really good and I really want one i have got a friend who has got one and i go on it all the time and it is really good you can do so much on it !

jioli @ 2:58:24PM EDT on Monday August 2, 2010

I have T-mobile account, and I just got this 8520 from a craigslist. I thought I could access the web, but the phone says that I need data plan. T-mobile rep says that I need the data plan too. Is that correct?

alesha @ 11:10:09AM EST on Friday December 24, 2010

ohhh ive had nothing but problems out of the 8520 it freezes ive had 3 of them before i got a different phone from tmobile very very disappointed never had an issue with blackberry til now i currently have a blackberry 9300 and works great

rose @ 8:09:47PM EDT on Wednesday April 13, 2011

so im looking at this phone my friend is selling but i just keep hearing so many bad reviews about the bb 8520 keyboard going out so im very cofused and need to know if it is true...anyone help pls!

dr khurram @ 9:36:15AM EDT on Wednesday April 20, 2011

i have a question non of ur videos cover i wana knw hw to delet a number aftr makin a cal frm the device ,,is deleting it from the options tht apear fr individual numbrs when u pres the green dial key is engh?
dr khurram

About the author

Michael Oryl
Michael is the Philadelphia based owner and former editor-in-chief of MobileBurn.com. You can follow him on Twitter as @MichaelOryl

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