BlackBerry Curve 8520 - One Week Later

BlackBerry Curve 8520
By Adam Zeis on 13 Aug 2009 02:27 pm EDT

I've had a little over a week to play with my new BlackBerry Curve 8520 and I have some mixed emotions at this point. There are some great features, and I think overall it is a great "intro to BlackBerry" device. I'm not going to get into a full blown review this time around, but rather just try and cover some quick points that may help make it easier to decide if the Curve 8520 is the right device for you.

My Thoughts

Keep in mind throughout that I'm not knocking the 8520 by any means, just conveying what goes through my mind as I use the device. Just holding it I instantly flash back to college and remember the old LG VX6000 I carried around with me. I think about how limited the capabilities were, and truly wish I had something like the 8520 to make my life easier. The feel and form of the device jumps me back to being a BlackBerry newbie. I love the shape and the feel. For some reason the full black design and lack of a shiny bezel makes it feel like a "non power-user" device. It feels out of the business class and more suited for students and new users. It doesn't feel cheap, yet it feels fun, light and small. I like the feeling of carrying it around and having it fit nicely in my hand and pocket and just be there when I need it. 

Design Impressions

The solid logo-embossed battery door is a nice touch, but I think that if RIM has chosen more of a rubberized door (like the Seidio rubberized battery door I had on my 8330) the flow into the design would have been much better. I like the fact that there are no moving parts on the door (no latch) but it still fits snug and isn't loose at all (like I found to be the case on my Tour as well as some doors on my 8330). Under the hood the SIM card fits nicely under the battery, and the media card slot is well placed off to the side. You don't have to remove the battery to get at it as on some devices, so that is definitely helpful.

BlackBerry Curve 8520
BlackBerry Curve 8520

The trackpad is obviously the biggest new feature of the device. I wasn't sure how I felt at first, but it has grown on me quite a bit in the past week. Once I adjusted to the feel (or lack there of) of the trackpad it wasn't as bad as I first made it out to be. I do miss having the "roll" of the trackball, but I can see the longevity and ease of the trackpad and understand exactly why it was implemented. The face of the device is smooth and just looks slick. The menu buttons and the trackpad all sit together with the screen and give the device that special something. I'm still a fan of the Curve keyboard as well. The buttons aren't "popped" as much as on my 8330, but they are spaced well and just the right height to get the job done. I like the covered side buttons too. On other devices the convenience and/or volume keys were tough to find at times due to their different heights and sizes, but I think on the 8520 they are the perfect feel and are very well placed. The fact that they are covered and sit right in with the sides of the device just feels good. The addition of the top-side media buttons is a huge bonus as well for those that typically listen to music or watch movies on their device. They make it a lot easier to navigate and are super convenient. The USB charging port is well placed, and the device can still be used when plugged in. I'm still out on whether I care for the circular LED as opposed to the standard LED. I think my eyes want to see the long "bar" LED and it annoys me a bit to just see a little "dot".

BlackBerry Curve 8520
BlackBerry Curve 8520

When it comes to the screen I have some mixed feelings. I think mostly I'm a bit jaded now that I have been using the Tour and previously the Storm, so taking a step from the 480x360 resolution back to the 320x240 just doesn't feel right. This will only be an issue for those that have used BlackBerry before and had a higher resolution device. For new users or 320x240 converts, there should be no such feelings. The LCD is overall clean and clear and fits well with the look of the device. The stock theme looks smooth, but some newer 3rd party app notifications may get cut short in the banner (ie my SocialScope notification). 


I'm impressed with the features in the device (not that there is much new to past users). The inclusion of the IM and social networking applications adds a lot to make this an "all in one" device. Everything is there for you, so if you are a student or first timer that has picked up the device, you really don't need to venture too far to get everything you need. One of the best features is the Wifi/UMA capability. This is a first for me (coming from only CDMA devices) and I can see what the hype is all about. Truly a great feature, especially for students or users on a limited budget since Wifi is readily available in so many places. College campuses are nearly all fully outfitted with Wifi, so you would really never be in need of voice minutes. UMA allows you to make calls without using your minutes, no matter if you are in your house, a coffee shop or roaming in an airport across the country. UMA automatically switches from Wifi service to cellular service, so when you leave the "hotspot" your call will be switched to your normal cell service so it can continue. For more on UMA, check out Craig's article that explains it in depth. The Wifi setup was straight-forward, and you can connect to any open network with a few clicks (secured networks take a bit longer since you have to enter an encryption key). Powering on the device and having it jump right on my home Wifi network is a good feeling. I started a few calls in my house on Wifi and then ventured out, and most times the 8520 swapped services fairly well, but there were a few drops from the loss of Wifi.


Overall I'm impressed with the Curve 8520. At this point I can't say I would use it daily due to my needs (and wants), but as I said previously I only wish it were around a few years back when I could have put it to the test. For me the deal breaker is jumping back to the lower resolution screen. The main thing to keep in mind is that the 8520 isn't necessarily an "upgrade" for current users, but designed as an entry level device for new users or those on a budget. It has nearly all the features of full powered devices like the Curve 8900, Bold and Tour, only with some slimmed-down specs. As Kevin put it a while back, the 8520 is like the BMW 3 Series. Its not the top of the line model or an upgrade for some drivers, but the need for an entry level option is always there.

Curve 8520 Highlights

  • Quad-band world phone with support for EDGE/GPRS/GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) Networks
  • 256MB Flash memory and 512MHz processor 
  • Available in black and frost colors
  • Built in Wifi (802.11 b/g)
  • 2MP digital camera
  • Expandable memory via hot swappable microSD/SDHC memory card slot
  • High resolution 320x240 pixel color display

Full details and specs can be found here. For more on the BlackBerry Curve 8520, check out my first impressions and Kevin's full 8520 review.

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Topics: Device Reviews

Adam Zeis Adam Zeis "Mobile Nations Content Strategist" 3740 (articles) 2892 (forum posts)

Reader comments

BlackBerry Curve 8520 - One Week Later


As a committed Storm user, who really enjoys not having to tote a separate keyboard around, and who enjoys the great screen resolution I'm not interested in back-stepping.

Perhaps ODIN will interest me down the road, but I'm perfectly happy where I'm at. As for Wi-Fi I have never seen the need for it, so I don't miss it. Another reason to look at ODIN down the road if they decide to go there.

For newbies, this might be a good entry, the price-point certainly will grab those who have never had the benefit of a better screen resolution, and those who appreciate having Wi-Fi available.

Storming my way around Colorado....enjoy your Crackberries my friends. There are a lot of versions. Perhaps too many, but they are all still far above competition in a business world. And, I get to have fun with my Storm at the same time. Win-Win....Ken

I do too much reading throughout the day for work and when it comes to reading a review...yes, I'm very interested in your opinion but I'm too tired/lazy to read. Could you post video review for devices? I think all the people out there who are illiterate would agree with me. :)

See this wasn't a bad review but the fact is, you are reviewing it as a step down...

I may be generalzing, but for most owners who will buy this from Wal-Mart or anywhere else, they are probably coming from RAZR's or cheap LG or Nokia "dumb-phones".

This will be their first blackberry most likely and it has tons of great features.

Going by your BMW analogy... You're used to driving a 7-series and so you take this 3-series out for a spin and can't help but notice the downgrades.

Again sorry for generalizing or insulting any owners out there, but the majority will be coming from 2002 hyundai's that had tons of problems and for them this a big step up.

I agree with this. You have to look at it as it is without comparing it to the 8900, bold, etc. Yep those may be better, but like this commenter said, if you are coming from a razr, krazr or just some randome phone, it will probably be great. I told my dad he should get one, although I think he'll end up with the pearl flip. If the off contract price wasn't over $300 I'd get one to be my back up BB.

Very good review. I think the lower res screen is a false economy on BB part. Especially since you can get a Tour at Best Buy for $99 or even below $50 online. Wi-fi is nice and should just be a given on any BB. Shouldn't even have to have that be a deciding factor. I've tried the optical pad and its pretty decent. Certainly should be more reliable than a trackball especially long term. With all the people on Verizon family plans they should sell this for $50 or so if they are going to keep the Tour price high. They would get a lot of people on a data plan.

This is my third blackberry and it's really not that bad. I kind of like how small it is and slimmer than other blackberrys I hate bulky phones. The screen is fine to me. My only disappointment is no flash for the camera. I read a different comment on a different site and someone complained about the internet and myspace cause it was to too blurry. I don't really use the internet that much unless I'm on the go and need info and I just maxmize the screen with the magnifer icon don't see the big deal. I mean I constantly change phones this is probably my tenth phone I'm a tech geek lol, but I won't be changing again anytime soon I am such a bb lover lol. So when getting this phone don't expect a huge miracle or anything surprising like bb storm because besides that one most blackberrys are the same except for the older models...

You can't compare the best sport sedan or sport coope to an entry level blackberry. People buying a BMW 3 series are purchasing a car at the top of that particular segment. Its not an "entry" level BMW. Its the ideal all other car companies are trying to emulate. Someone interested in a 3 series isn't looking to buy a 7 series. They are completely different cars with different agendas in mind. A better way to look at it is a person buying a Hyundai Genesis when they are used to a BMW 5 series or Mercedes Benz E class. Or if you want to stay in the same brand compare a 328i to a 335i and a M3. Talk about a "familiar" package that is worlds apart.

Personally I think it just needs to sell for about $250 without subsidization.

Great intro level device, has the necessary components. It would make a great replacement berry for buying outright also once the full retail price is lowered a bit.

Just ordered a black 8520 to replace/upgrade my 8220. It's nice to know about the shortcomings of this device. I think the 8520 will meet my needs very well. It'll be my first full-qwerty Blackberry device which is more or less what I was looking forward to the most. I don't need the extra bells and whistles of higher end BB's at this point.

I recently replaced my 8220 and got the 8520. I really like it a lot. Very happy with it so far. Only thing I really miss is the flash but hey at least it takes much better pictures than the flip did! The flip was a nice phone but I really wasn't that happy with it. This is my 3rd Blackberry. My first was the Pearl 8100. To me the 8520 has everything I need. So it's really up to the consumer and what they want from a cell phone. I really hate when people put something down just because it doesn't have all the goods or is not top of the line. Yeah freedom of speech, but everyone has different reasons why they like a particular product.

Samsung e105>Samsung e335>Motorola RAZR V3>Nokia 6101>Samsung t619>Samsung t509 - Silver>Blackberry Pearl 8100>Motorola W490 - Purple>Motorola RAZR2> Blackberry 8220>Blackberry 8520

I've been keeping my old Pearl 8110 as a backup BB for a few months, but after reading this review, I'm thinking I should sell it, and if I ever need a backup to my Bold (on top of the iPhone I have as part of a secondary line), I could just buy the 8520 when I need it.

Good review, but as many other commentators have noted, you've been spoiled by the Curve 8900, Storm, Bold and Tour!

sorry but a blackberry with no track ball is not a blackberry to me. the track ball is what made blackberry what it is today. as far as im concerned there taking a step backwards. what in gods name is rim thinking ???

Im not going to lie, but not a fan of the design at all. However, that doesnt take away its great features.

I currently have a Bold, but really like this phone. Ive only held it and havent tried using it, but it seems nice to hold and I think I would like the tracpad verses the ball. Im always worried about the day I will have problems with the ball on the Bold. Who knows? I may just switch to t-mo someday and buy one of these.

I bought this phone 2 days ago from T-mobile and the thing totally crashed on me this morning. I charged it all last night. When I unplugged it this morning I noticed that my battery bar was not full. I went to work and literally 2 hours later the phone died, I hadn't even used it at all~!!!!! I plugged the phone in to charge, and after 3 1/2 hours it's still dead, and now it won't even turn on. I am beyond frustrated at this point. I called T-mobile and they told me to please ship it back as the phones are defective, and I am currently waiting for my replacement (the curve 8900). Lets keep our fingers crossed and pray that there will be no issues with that one.

Im really thinking about buying the 8520, im so fed up with the trackball issue, but im a bit concerned about the screen resolution as im an individual who lives on the internet. I like the price range but im a little worried about the lack of flash. I wish they would do a more indept review of the trackpad and its longevity, bcuz that will be the selling point for me.

Seems Edwin 1987 has never seen a dirty track ball in action! It's like having a flat tire and no spare tire if your out on the road like me. I just got this phone and did not notice the missing flash I guess the track pad blinded me but Trust me the track pad is awesome and the keys are much nicer than the Tours keys. The Tour's keys requires that I regrow finger nails! Sorta reminds me of rubbing my fingers across the end of a dime which makes my skin crawl! LOL!!!
This BlackBerry feels like a Palm Pre to me in my palm which is nice too.

I am coming from a Curve 8330 to the 8520. I have had the 8520 for some time now. I have to say that I like the 8520 much better. I now prefer the track pad to the ball. The convenience keys have a much better feel. It is also much much lighter than my 8330 is. The only thing I miss about my 8330 is the flash for the camera. Really in truth when I got this phone I did feel like I got an upgrade. The hot swappable SD card slot is a lot better than under my battery. My girlfriend came from an LG phone and now she pretty much doesn't put hers down.

I have a 8520, and I agree with the review. But when you look at the value for money ratio, no smartphone in the world and that includes other BlackBerry models can compete with the 8520.
The only thing missing is GPS, other than that there is nothing other my BlackBerry phones can do the 8520 can't.
I also have a Vertu (cost me an arm and leg, very little functionality, at the time I thought I needed it, why did nobody stop me!!!) phone which I have not used it for over a year now and I must say that built quality and prestige takes a backseat to functionality in my book.
Please BlackBerry include FM radios in handsets!!
The 8520 rules. End of story.

I just got it, and after going thru the pain of dealing with a Nokia "smartphone" (E63) I simply love it! Please don't compare it to cars, it IS a phone, just try and if you don't love it return it and if you do, enjoy it... period!