Blackberry Tour 9630 Review: An A+ Rev-A Phone!

User Rating: / 8
Monday, 27 July 2009
blackberry tour 9630

Blackberry Tour 9630 for Sprint/Verizon: An "A+" Rev-A PDA

RIM's latest Blackberry model, the Tour 9630, was released this month for both Sprint and Verizon and has already proven itself to be extremely popular - and well worth the hype!

For those familiar with existing Blackberry models, the Tour is quite similar in size and layout to the uber-popular Blackberry Curve (8330), but offers a lot more in terms of performance and features. Like the Curve, the Tour has a full QWERTY keyboard, a track ball for navigation, and the menu/back/call/end convenience buttons. It also features lock and mute buttons on the top of the device and a volume rocker, 3.5mm headphone jack, and Micro-USB port on the right. The Tour's QWERTY keypad is excellent and makes emailing and texting easy; the keyboard is roomy and the rectangular keys are raised with a slight ridge. The keyboard also has a white backlight, making typing in the dark a breeze. Size-wise, it is nearly identical to the Curve, although it is very slightly taller and a few tenths of an ounce heavier. The size of the screen is about the same on the two models, but the resolution on the Tour is far superior.

blackberry tour 9630 vs blackberry curve 8330
The older Blackberry Curve (left) is almost exactly the same size and layout as the new Tour (right)

While all Blackberrys feature web access, the Tour is only the second model (after the Storm) to offer Rev-A capabilities, meaning web browsing is much faster than Rev-0 models and makes it a great option for tethering (see more on that below). The web browser is very similar to previous Blackberry models, but the high-res screen and high-speed EVDO Rev-A make loading web pages and downloading files much, much quicker. Unfortunately, the Tour - like all Blackberry models - does not support tabbed browsing like the iPhone, but the web browser is easy to use and the Rev-A speeds more than make up for that one missing feature.

The Tour, like all Blackberrys, is packed with functions for email and "work". The BlackBerry Tour can sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise server, with support for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise, and of course you can also add up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts. There's also an attachment viewer for opening Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, and GIF files on the go and of course all of the standard productivity tools, like calendar, task list, memo pad, voice recorder, and a calculator. 

It's not all work and no play, of course - the Blackberry Tour has plenty of "fun" functions, too. The Tour comes with preloaded instant messaging clients like AIM, Windows Live, Yahoo Messenger, Google Talk, and obviously Blackberry Messenger, and includes social networking apps for sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Flickr. To compete with other app-friendly phones like the iPhone and the Palm Pre, Blackberry has also launched its own app store, "BlackBerry App World", so Tour users will be able to download third-party apps like Pandora, Weather Channel, and many many more.

As for multi-media, the Tour easily stacks up to other media-ready PDA's on the market. Its built-in media player supports a wide variety of formats, including MP3, WMA, WMA, AAC, AAC+, and eAAC+ files, and MPEG4, WMV, and H.264 video clips. Thanks to the high-res screen, video looks excellent, and the built-in speakers sounded loud and clear. It also features MP3-player type functionality like a search function, playlist creation tool, and shuffle and repeat functions, and since the Tour can support up to 16GB memory cards (the Verizon version ships with a 2GB card, the Sprint version ships with a 1GB card) you could certainly replace your MP3 player with the Tour.

That's not all! Other important features on the Blackberry Tour:

  •  3.2-megapixel camera with 2x zoom, auto focus, flash, and image stabilization.
  • Video recording capabilities
  • GPS (the Tour comes with Blackberry Maps built in, and both Sprint and Verizon offer turn-by-turn navigation service for an additional cost)
  • Global-capable
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • Other standard features are of course included: speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging.

Finally, as mentioned above, the Tour is an excellent candidate for tethering. Because of the Rev-A capabilities, the Tour is capable of providing the same speeds as a dedicated EVDO device. Both the Sprint and Verizon versions ship with the necessary USB cable for tethering, and in our tests the Tour worked perfectly with all of the Cradlepoint routers running the latest firmware (the Tour is not officially supported by Cradlepoint, so we can't make any guarantees about it working - but it worked perfectly for us and many others are using it as well). Tethering the Tour is a great solution for temporary or backup internet access for folks that don't need a dedicated EVDO device!

The bottom line on the Blackberry Tour

What we love:

  • EVDO Rev-A
  • Tether-capable
  • While not officially supported by Cradlepoint, in 3Gstore's tests this phone tethered successfully with the MBR1000/CTR500 running firmware version 1.6 and the CTR350/PHS300 running firmware version 2.4.
  • Superb QWERTY keyboard - extremely easy to text and email
  • Global capable
  • Easy syncing with Windows (uses the same Blackberry Desktop software as older Blackberrys)
  • Easy to use interface

But we're not as fond of:

  • Battery life is not as great as the Curve (you can use the MP1800 battery pack to add up to 12 hours of talk time, though!)
  • No sync software for Mac's (yet - it is coming soon)
  • No WiFi
  • No tabbed browsing
  • No antenna port (no Blackberry has one)

Overall grade: A+. With the Rev-A, tether-capabilities, router compatibility, excellent keyboard, and ease of use, the Tour is a can't-lose for PDA-lovers.

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Last Updated ( Tuesday, 28 July 2009 )
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