Typing speed on the small keyboard is as good as you can hope for from such a small device. But delays soon surface once you venture online. The lack of 3G connectivity is noticeable when downloading large attachments or using BlackBerry's idiosyncratic browser. Pages take an age to load and formatting is often annoyingly vague given the wide screen it has to work with.
The Curve is much better at plain old voice calls, with a clear, crisp loudspeaker and -- impressively -- voice dialling that actually works. You can just speak a phone number out loud, at a normal speed and with background noise, and the 8300 will usually recognise it. It's slightly less reliable on contact names from the phone book.
The 2-megapixel camera shows how new RIM is to the whole multimedia thing. It has only basic features and images are miserable, suffering nasty colour tints, blurry detail and dull exposure. The media player is better, with tunes sounding acceptable, especially through decent headphones.
Even without a GPS connection, the Maps application is useful. There are no extraneous points of interest or city guides to clutter up the clear 2D maps, which download quickly and for free. It can pull down cross-country journeys in moments, delivering turn-by-turn directions or a zoomable route map. It's not full GPS with location finding, but then you don't have to wait minutes for lock on, or worry about the battery draining away before you reach your destination.
Battery performance overall was good, lasting two full days of fairly intensive use.
The BlackBerry Curve certainly deserves a wider, consumer market. It's sleek, small and simply effortless to use -- even if the trackball did have us itching for a Missile Command game to play with. But the Curve's push email remains defiantly text-only, the browser is quirky and 2.5G data access just doesn't hack it in today's multi-megabit HSDPA world.
Compare the Curve to Motorola's Q 9, which has blistering data speeds, HTML push email and can edit Office documents on the move, and the BlackBerry starts to look less like a potential CEO and more like a failed Apprentice.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield