Updated from 7:28 a.m. EDT

It's too bad we had to wait this long for the BlackBerry Bold. It's a winner.

I was privileged to have Research In Motion's ( RIMM) President and Co-Chief Executive Mike Lazaridis visit TheStreet.com months ago to show me an early version of this terrific new phone. And then -- nothing.

RIM and its minions went into stealth mode. The Bold was on its way, but no one was sure when we'd actually see it. The phone was then released in Canada and other locations around the world, but not in the U.S.

Bloggers and other reviewers were getting their hands on Bolds from other places, but RIM was tight-lipped about a true U.S. version. Two weeks ago, Orange UK announced it had stopped all sales of the Bold until a "3G problem" could be fixed. I decided to wait until the new BlackBerry was officially released to review a final U.S. version despite the fact that we at TheStreet.com have been a content partner helping with the development of a new program (Mobi4Biz) designed especially for this phone, so we've had a beta Bold floating around for a number of months.

I'm not sure why AT&T ( T) delayed the release for so many months. One might speculate that the company was busy with Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone 3G and wanted to devote its full resources to the Bold.

Maybe AT&T's 3G wireless network would have been further overloaded if the Bold was released too close to the iPhone. Or maybe Apple put its foot down. All of that no longer matters. The Bold is now a reality. Actually, its official name is the BlackBerry Bold 9000.

Let me tell you about the phone itself. The Bold is the first BlackBerry world phone to take advantage of HSDPA, high-speed, 3G data networks. That means you should expect really fast download speeds. Add to that a super-beefy CPU -- running at 624 MHz -- and you have a lot of fast computing power in your hand. This is a BlackBerry for business professionals and power users.

Among the many other Bold features:
  • Measures 4.5 by 2.6 by 0.55 inches and weighs a solid 4.8 ounces.
  • Operates on UMTS: 2100/1900/850 MHz, GSM®: 1900/1800/900/850 MHz, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS and HSDPA networks.
  • 1GB on-board memory and 128MB of flash memory
  • MicroSD card slot (up to 16 GB cards accepted)
  • 1500 mAhr removable/rechargeable cryptographic lithium battery (up to 4 hours talk time; more than a week of stand-by)
  • 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi
  • Built-in GPS -- plus support for photo geotagging
  • 2 MP still/video camera with 5X digital zoom
  • Stereo speakers as well as stereo headphone jack (supports stereo Bluetooth, too!)
  • Full QWERTY keyboard with trackball navigation
  • miniUSB port
  • DataViz Documents To Go (view/edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files)
I'm probably leaving a gazillion terrific features off my list. All you need to know is that this is the ultimate Blackberry (for now, at least). I'd gotten used to the new BlackBerry Flip (from T-Mobile) and its new operating system "look and feel," so the Bold was easy to master quickly.

For me, the Bold's best feature is its screen. It's not a touch screen and it's not especially large (compared to some touch-screen smartphones that my readers might be familiar with) but qualitywise, the Bold's 480-by-320, half-VGA, TFT display is spectacular. Sharp, clean and clear are all adjectives I would use to describe the quality.

Same for the great new Web browser. The new HTML program is now able to download and display Web pages with desktop browser-like clarity, plus support for streaming videos. Even normal Web mail looks great on the Bold.

Now for the Downer

On the other hand, these great new features make it all the more upsetting that viewing certain features on that great screen is not such a pleasurable experience. I'm talking about video. I was excited when I realized that AT&T's CV, or cellular video, provides a link to an optional HBO video service, and that I would watch and rewatch the latest episodes of Little Britain USA on the phone.

But the experience was not all it should have been. possibly due to that 3G problem that forced Orange to halt sales in England. On the Bold, the video was barely watchable, with lots of starts, restarts and buffering. This wouldn't be so terrible, except I was able to compare the Bold video to a brand new Samsung Epix (a 3G, Microsoft ( MSFT) Windows Mobile smartphone). The Samsung had no such problem dealing with the same exact video transmitted over the same exact 3G network. I think that's something that needs a little tweaking by RIM.

Bold Is Golden

Bottom line? The Bold is a winner. I'm pretty sure that RIM will be able to improve the video-streaming qualities and anything else it might find wrong in the near future (just ask Apple and Google ( GOOG) about having to upgrade their smartphones).

Nov. 4 is the official release date for the AT&T Bold. Prices will start at $299.99 with a two-year contract in addition to qualified voice and data plans.

One last thought on the subject. With the spectacular-looking Verizon ( V)/Blackberry Storm touchscreen smartphone about to be released in the next few days, one wonders why everyone waited so long to release the U.S. version of the Bold. I'd love to hear the real story.

Gary Krakow is TheStreet.com's senior technology correspondent.

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