The Blackberry 8520, codenamed “Gemini,” is the latest addition to the popular Curve family. The Curve 8520 is intended as a well equipped, but entry-level device that comes in at a slight step below the Curve 8900. In more ways than not, the 8520 is effectively the 8900 trapped in a different body.
Arguably the biggest departure from the rest of BlackBerry’s lineup is noticeable at first glance. The traditional trackball that has graced most every BlackBerry in recent memory has been replaced in favor of an optical trackpad that provides the very same functionality.
As a big BlackBerry trackball fan, I’m sad to see it go, but admit that the trackpad works just as well (though you may have to crank the sensitivity up for a little more pep). Unlike me, those that have had their trackballs break on more than one occasion may take to the streets in celebration.
The Curve 8520 has the standard volume rocker and app launcher keys, defaulted to voice commands and camera as usual. The volume rocker and convenience keys, however, are enclosed in the same rubbery plastic that surrounds the mid-section of the device. As RIM has made a great habit of, the 8520 includes a standard 3.5mm headphone jack and micro-USB port for charging and synching.
On the back of the BlackBerry Curve 8520 is a 2 megapixel camera with video recording capability. Unlike the Curve 8900, the 8520 does not have a flash. You’ll also notice that the charging connectors found on the back of the 8900 are not present on the 8520, making the device incapable of drawing juice from a desktop charger.
The Curve 8520 offers BlackBerry’s standard email and messaging prowess. The device’s QWERTY looks and feels almost identical to that of the 8900. Both keyboards are a bit clicky, but offer adequate spacing between keys and a satisfying tactile feedback. There’s support for enterprise email as usual, as well as capacity for up to ten additional IMAP, POP, or popular web email service accounts from providers such as Gmail, AOL, Yahoo and Windows Live. Of course, you can download and view most email attachments on the 8520. The handset is also pre-installed with 6 instant messaging clients, including BlackBerry Messenger, AIM, Google Talk, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, and Windows Live Messenger.
With its newest BlackBerry, RIM has elected to cater slightly more to the media-hungry consumer, adding media controls to the top of the device. There’s a track advance and back button, as well as a play/pause button that also doubles as the mute key. The device has 256MB of on-board memory, but is expandable with support for a microSD card.
Pre-installed games include BrickBreaker, Texas Hold’Em, Sudoku, Klondike and Word Mole. The device also features support for BlackBerry App World, which provides access to thousands more games and applications for the handset.
Like every other BlackBerry of its generation, the 8520 is equipped with a full HTML browser. Pages are navigated using the trackpad to control an on-screen cursor. Of course, pages can be zoomed in and out on the accommodate the device’s screen size.
While some purportedly higher end BlackBerrys soldier on WiFi-less, the Curve boasts the ability to browse the web and email over a WiFi network. The handset is also equipped with Bluetooth v2.0, with support for profiles including stereo (A2DP), headset, hands-free, serial port, SIM access, dial up networking, A/V remote control, and phone book access.
Running BlackBerry OS version 4.6, the user interface on the Curve 8520 is standard fare. Expect the same minimalistic but sleek interface as found on the BlackBerry Curves, Bolds, and Tours of the the world.
Sure, the Curve 8520 is being billed as an entry-level device with an appealing sticker price, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less of a BlackBerry. The lack of 3G is a disappointment, and the absence of some of the bells and whistles like a camera flash and GPS is to be expected, but the 8520 will surely satisfy anyone looking for BlackBerry’s renowned messaging power along with a solid media experience.