Pre-release review time! Rumors of the BlackBerry device model with the codename "Onyx" have been floating around for a while now and were proven legit when the first photos of it surfaced here at CrackBerry back on May 10th. After going hands-on with the Onyx, I think it's safe to say THIS IS the traditional (no touchscreen) BlackBerry smartphone so many of us have been waiting for. It always seems that every new BlackBerry smartphone makes a compromise somewhere on its specifications and feature sheet - be it the Bold's camera, or the Curve 8900's lack of 3G, or the Tour 9630's lack of WiFi, or the Storm's lack of memory and snappy OS.
RIM has finally packed it ALL into one device with the Onyx -- 3G, WiFi, GPS, 3.2 megapixel camera - and they've done it in a tight form factor. If you put the Onyx side by side with the BlackBerry Bold and compare the specs, you realize the triumph in engineering RIM has accomplished here. The Onyx is basically better in every way but has a much smaller footprint (though arguably the Bold's extra width makes for a better keyboard and physically wider display that some users may prefer). So if you're relaxing this Memorial Day weekend, grab a bevvie, sit back and read on to see tons of photos, a video and some first impressions of the BlackBerry Onyx.
* Disclaimer: Like all of our pre-release reviews, please note that this is non-commercially available device which means things will change by the time it comes to market. *
A Note About the Pre-Release BlackBerry Bold 9700 Device Review
While the pre-release BlackBerry Curve 8520 we recently reviewed felt like it could be going on sale tomorrow, it's apparent the BlackBerry Onyx reviewed here is in a much earlier stage of the commercialization process. While the hardware quality is quite good, the OS implementation is still young. In fact, on this device the OS has yet to be labeled with a version number. It's definitely a version of OS 5, but actually think it's an early build of OS 5.0.1 versus 5.0.0. Likewise, we're hearing that production on these isn't scheduled to begin until later this summer, which means the device is still pre-production and things could change up, like maybe swapping out the trackball in favor of the optical trackpad, which is said by BGR to be coming to the BlackBerry Driftwood (think T-Mobile version of the Onyx).
On the device model front, it's not certain (to us anyways) what the exact model number is yet, but the prevailing thought is that the both the Onyx and Driftwood may be part of the 96xx series. We've heard the Onyx is the 9600 (BlackBerry Tour 9600??), but visually comparing the Onyx to the 9630 the sides/back are so visibly different that one could argue a different model number could be justified. Of course RIM hasn't even officially announced the Tour 9630 yet, so we're talking pre-release rumors on top of pre-release rumors at this point.
Another item to note is UMA support. The Onyx's hardware is technically capable of supporting UMA, but whether we see it launch with it is another question. In North America the Onyx will be heading to AT&T and Rogers. We know (based on history and BG's info) that the AT&T version won't support UMA, but Rogers does offer their UMA TalkSpot service so we could maybe (hopefully!) see it launch with UMA there. In the video below I typed in that UMA was supported...but keep this paragraph in mind. Technically supported vs. what hits the market are two different things.
BlackBerry Codename Onyx - What's in a Name?
There's a little CrackBerry history behind the name BlackBerry "Onyx" that I just had to throw in here for our newer readers who may not be fully aware. Back in April 2008, before the official release of the BlackBerry Bold, the blogosphere referred to the device by its model number, 9000. We knew the BlackBerry 9000 would have to get a brand name, so at that time we held a CrackBerry contest to guess the name of BlackBerry 9000. A short time after, RIM announced the 9000 as the BlackBerry Bold, a name which none of our contestants had guessed. However, we went through the hundreds of names suggested and picked our favorite and gave them a prize anways. And the name we picked as the winner was..... the BlackBerry Onyx! Now I don't if it the Onyx was already in development at that time and we just got lucky, or if RIM was inspired by our name game and used it for a device (that would be pretty sweet), but either way it seems fitting that the BlackBerry Onyx is the device that can basically be seen as the next generation / upgrade of the BlackBerry Bold (as far as it's the next/best all in one BlackBerry).