A phone with fast Internet and email, message and entertainment features is good -- a phone that can use them simultaneously is better. Marketed as a "global phone," the BlackBerry Tour can access high-speed 3G service worldwide. You can check messages from up to 10 email addresses without opening a Web browser and view and edit Microsoft Office documents on the handset.
It also has a 3.2-megapixel camera, music player, instant messaging and a microSD slot that, combined with the internal memory, leaves it with more than 2-gigabytes of storage space. The Tour offers similar multimedia features on the Curve and has an even better screen than the Bold. While most main screens have half the resolution, the Tour offers 480-by-320 pixel clarity. Both Sprint and Verizon have released the phone -- and the one I reviewed is from Verizon.
The Tour is slick to the touch, fits in the palm of the average-sized hand, and is slightly chubby, but has about average thickness for a smartphone. It's not the most pocket-friendly phone, which means the swivel holster that comes with the phone should come in handy. Metallic piping frames the black design, allowing the screen stand out. Below the display is a horizontal bar containing, from left to right, call and menu keys, a trackball for navigating the screen, and return and end/power off keys.
The keyboard is arranged in a slight downward arc. And the keys are backlit, raised, and curve slightly in one corner to help avoid hitting a neighboring key when typing. Meanwhile, on the back, the device is soft, with a subtle ribbing in the center and camera lens tucked in the top left. The left has a speaker and convenient voice command key -- the right has, from top to bottom, a headset jack, volume keys, a convenience key for opening a particular app and a micro-USB port. Lock and mute keys are located on top.
The Tour's size is average for a smartphone. The color is predictable, but effective, and the slight curve on the keys helps you keep typing accurate. Still, devices like the Snap and the Dash, both from HTC, plus other larger BlackBerry models have benefited from going skinny and adding height to make more screen and keypad room.
Out of the box, the Tour comes with a handsfree 3.5-millimeter stereo headset, travel charger with international adaptor clips, 2-gigabyte microSD card -- pre-installed -- USB data cable, swivel holster, documentation kit, user guide, quick reference guide, VZAccess Manager CD -- for mobile broadband connection -- and a pre-installed SIM card
A 1.3-megapixel camera is considered low-grade, a 2-megapixel camera will do the job and a 3.2-megapixel camera is top-notch. So having a 3.2-megapixel camera is a definite asset. The camera takes crisp, colorful pictures that pick up detail, shadow and contrast well. You can't exactly read fine print in pictures, but images are close-to-life. Pre-picture adjustment tools are plentiful. Before the picture is taken, you can set the flash to automatic, on or off. In addition, you can change the white balance for sunny, cloudy, night or normal conditions or incandescent and fluorescent lights. Lastly, there's image stabilization for action shots.
Photos come out at 2,048-by-1,536 pixel resolution, but can be downgraded to 1,024-by-768 or 640-by-480 pixels to save space. In addition, image quality can be set to fine, superfine or normal, while color effects include normal, sepia, whiteboard or black and white. You can also choose to store photos to the phone's memory or a memory card.
Still, the Tour can't take a great picture every time. Sharpness varies depending on how steady your hand is, and dark conditions aren't the best places to use the camera. The shutter takes a while to activate too, especially when the flash is on, which means if you're fatigued, your hands may take an out-of-focus shot or miss the target completely. Editing tools can help cut out issues, but unfortunately it won't improve colors or sharpness.
The camcorder, meanwhile, has options for video light, color effects and records at 480-by-352 or 176-by-144 pixels. You can only send video via MMS at the lower resolution. Audio on the videos sounds a bit like you're speaking through a tube and clips are as good as your shaky hands.
Photos come through with decent quality, but not as nicely as I would hope with a 3.2-megapixel lens. They're dark without the video light and appear pixilated. But still, don't rule out the Tour as a video player. The built-in video demo is detailed and the audio is crisp enough to convince anyone watching videos made by other people on this phone is a wise choice.
Overall, the Tour has a high-quality camera that takes great pictures and has plenty of adjustment options. But a few more editing options, especially for the camcorder, would be nice. Video quality is not as good as the photo quality and the audio isn't very clear, but the camcorder will do for quick recordings made in well-lit areas.
The Tour comes packed with the usual apps -- an alarm clock, memo pad, calculator, voice dialing, voice recording, password keeper, tasks and a calendar. It also has a media center for storing and viewing pictures and video and organizing songs and ringtones -- and that's about it. Verizon's Tour doesn't differ from Sprint's model, except Sprint plans to launch a Wi-Fi-enabled version in 2010.
The 2.6-inch diagonal screen on the Tour is smaller than many touch screens but about average -- and in some cases a bit above it -- for the average smartphone. It also offers the highest resolution available on any BlackBerry display. Menu screens are easy to read and easy to navigate, but a bit drab in some areas. Few designers have mastered an eye-pleasing way to set up messaging and calendar menus, and the Tour's format is no exception. Also, some of the menus are a bit dark, which goes against the reason for having a mostly-black phone -- to showcase color on the screen.
Fortunately, videos can take advantage of the hidden framing. The 65,000 color screen is on the low-end, but the Tour gets the most out of those colors with 480-by-340 pixel images, sharp video images and great picture quality, thanks to the 3.2-megapixel camera. The LCD is a good size with good quality. Unfortunately, menus don't always take advantage of the color possibilities that would be best accented by the handset's black shell.
The power of the side speaker is exceptional when playing music, videos and ringtones -- pumping out music at volumes louder than some laptops can reach. The only issue with the speaker is that it's located on the left side of the handset. Dual-speakers on both sides would pack a wallop of sound and spread out the tunes for a better stereo effect.
The stereo headset gets great sound quality as well. The handset comes with 68 built in ringtones and sounds, although only eight of those are song-style tones, meaning you'll be shopping for ringtones. Those tones, as well as song downloads, are available by downloading VCast Music with Rhapsody.
The phone plays audio well but isn't so hot at recording audio. Voice notes recorded onto the phone sound about as clear as a digital voice recorder, but sounds recorded on video sound like they've been taped in a tunnel. The Tour packs a punch with crisp song and ringtone sounds. It could use a few improvements, though, when it comes to audio recording quality on the camcorder. The left-side speaker cranks out the music louder than many devices on the market. But a right-side speaker for balance would be a nice addition in a future version.
The Tour supports text and short messaging and multimedia messaging, as well as Internet-based services like email and instant messaging. One limitation to every BlackBerry when it comes to those Internet-based services is that they're BlackBerry-centric. Instant messaging comes through BlackBerry Messenger instead of ones more common on PCs, like AIM, Yahoo and MSN Messenger.
Its email account can also come through BlackBerry, but that isn't a necessity. The phone is equipped with push delivery that will instantly alert you when a message is sent to a personal or business-based email. Up to 10 personal and work accounts can deliver email to the Tour.
Images and documents can be viewed on the phone, including Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Adobe PDF and WordPerfect files, plus JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG and TIFF files. Word to Go, Sheet to Go and Slideshow to Go apps allow you to create and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents. It also comes with a spellcheck feature -- so basically, you can work on the road. While instant message services are limited, the Tour has a plethora of options to keep track of multiple email accounts. With speedy 3G service, emails come in and go out quickly, and a wide variety of files can be read on the phone.
This is where the Curve's influence is seen. The Tour has great audio, comes with a headset, has plenty of memory and a microSD card, plus it has music player features like shuffle and listing songs by artist, album, genre or playlist. These factors, combines with easy access to VCast with Rhapsody song downloads and the ability to sync a music library with your PC make the Tour a great place to store and listen to songs. Both the headset and the booming speaker on the left help the little Tour play big sound.
With the best screen resolution of any BlackBerry, the Tour would be incomplete without video streaming capabilities. Unfortunately, there aren't many available to stream on VCast Video aside from news, entertainment, weather and sports clips. Luckily, the phone allows you to upload iTunes and Windows Media files, which expand to movies and TV shows.
It also allows for video messaging and recording, but really shines with videos either uploaded from iTunes or synced from Windows Media Player files. Videos appear with the resolution of any Blu-Ray player and you can also stream news and sports clips, so if you have existing files, upload them to take advantage of arguably the best screen available from BlackBerry.
There are also five built-in games: BrickBreaker, Word Mole, Texas Hold'Em King 2, Sudoku and Klondike.
The Tour has plenty of standard smartphone entertainment methods, including media file sync, a song player and games. But the addition of video clips shown on a high-resolution screen and great speaker quality, the Tour has an edge over some of its counterparts in the BlackBerry family. Still, it doesn't have quite the edge on Verizon as the Tour has when provided by Sprint -- Sprint has channels that provide TV and movie files that can really take advantage of the Tour's screen.
The Tour's name was inspired by its ability to find Internet service around the globe. In North America, the handset connects to Verizon's high-speed 3G Ev-Do Rev. A network. On other continents, the device can access 3G UMTS/HSDPA networks. Either way, Internet service is available on 3G, which means fast download and upload times.
The service is great, but the browser is not. Pages load quickly and buffering rarely takes long. There aren't any major flaws with Internet Explorer Mobile, but the BlackBerry browser isn't the easiest to navigate. The issue is no different with other BlackBerry devices.
The smartphone uses VZAccess Manager to connect to Mobile Broadband on Verizon. Internet service is quick and reliable, but is only available through the phone's Internet connection. Wi-Fi is not included in either Verizon or Sprint models -- but the latter said it will launch a Wi-Fi-enabled version -- something Sprint now requires on all of its smartphones -- early next year. Overall, you're virtually assured to find service across the globe, but Wi-Fi would have been nice for those times the phone can't find a 3G network.
The Tour has 256-megabytes of memory -- 115-megabytes are free to play around with. It also comes with a 2-gigabyte microSD card built into the back. That outshines some smartphones that come with as little as 60-megabytes free. The Bold, for example, comes with more than 800-megabytes of memory, but only 32-megabytes are available out of the box.
Not only is that a lot of free memory, but adding the slot means downloading music from a PC is simple. Packing the memory card into the back is nice aesthetically because most cards have to be plugged into the side, making them stick out like a sore thumb on an otherwise sleek design. The Tour has a lot of memory to play around with and come with a microSD card, saving you the expense of buying one in order to store a song library on the phone.
The handset gets five hours of talk time but just 14 days of standby time -- a full week less than similar smartphones.
The Tour lets you to connect to a PC and sync music and files, store items on a built-in memory card, and use Bluetooth accessories. Bluetooth options include data transfer, connecting to a computer, selecting an audio source, remote control of audio and video functions and the ability to listen to music on a headset. The Tour is as connected as most smartphones, with PC sync and Bluetooth options to spare.
The Tour boasts high-speed Internet service across the continents, a lightweight and compact design with grooved keys that allow for nearly mistake-free typing, and the ability to instantly review messages sent to up to 10 personal and/or work email accounts. You can also read a variety of document and photo file attachments and edit Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents right on the phone.
It easily doubles as a personal music player, too. You can organize playlists, shuffle songs and find tunes by artist, title or genre, listen to songs on a headset, and play tracks in booming, clear audio from the side speaker. VCast Music offers a variety of downloads, but if you're looking to save money, you can connect to a PC and upload a music library. And luckily, given the free memory, you can store a lot.
Still, there's room for improvement. A dual-stereo setup would best compliment that side speaker. The 3.2-megapixel lens delivers vibrant shots, but takes dark, pixilated video with awful audio, and there are few post-shot editing features to use. In addition, messaging and email are solid, but the Tour needs more instant messenger choices, especially since the BlackBerry Messenger is so phone-specific. The Verizon version doesn't take advantage of the top-notch screen because VCast Video's news and sports clips don't offer as much variety as Sprint TV, which have episodes and movies. And the screen also goes dark a bit too fast for people that get distracted easily.
You'll like the Tour if you want to send, receive and edit lots of documents, store plenty of files, listen to music on the go and take advantage of high-speed Internet. But if you travel to areas that have Wi-Fi, or you want better video, skip this and move on.
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Categories: Business | Fun | Messaging
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TFT / Light Sensing Technology
Tour is Great!
I upgraded to the Verizon Tour last week. I bought the BlackBerry Storm back in April and hated it. It's a good phone in theory and the OS is good, but it wasn't mature yet.
But the Tour is a different case completely.
- The best screen on a phone I've seen
- Excellent design
- Keys seem are not too large or small, perfect for texting -- narrower than the Bold
- Fast processor
- Loud volume (speaker and headset)
- Good call quality
- No Wi-Fi -- biggest drawback
- Dirt and dust gets into the cracks between the keys that can be easily seen when the keys are backlit
- MicroUSB port is on the "wrong" side -- I prefer the left side
- Battery life is nice but short with heavy multimedia use
- Loose battery door
Overall, the Tour is a great phone.Was this review helpful to you?
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