BlackBerry Torch 9800 review
The Torch is RIM’s latest attempt at producing a touch screen BlackBerry, after the ill-fated Storm devices. Does the touch/Qwerty combo or work, or is the BlackBerry still best experienced in its classic form? Find out in our review.
RIM’s BlackBerry Torch finally brings version 6 of the BlackBerry OS out into the light. That’s a first, but it is not the only first this handset offers – there are two others to consider.
The second innovation is the touch screen. RIM has struggled with touchscreens in the past with its Storm and Storm2, but it’s having another crack at getting it right. This time, instead of using the Storm’s gimmicky technology of a fully depressing screen, we are in standard touchscreen mode here, with a capacitive screen that supports pinch to zoom. It is a joy to use as it is extremely responsive.
The screen is large at 3.2 inches across diagonal corners and delivers 480 x 360 pixels. This resolution isn’t particularly high by modern standards, and we’d have liked a few more pixels on offer.
The other innovation is the way RIM has handled its miniature Qwerty keyboard. At first glance it seems as though there isn’t one. Underneath the screen is a panel containing Call and End buttons, RIM’s menu and back buttons, and the optical trackpad sensor that RIM likes to use on its smartphones these days. No keyboard.
But the Torch 9800 is a slider. Raise the base section and you’ll see a small qwerty keyboard ready for use. We aren’t entirely sure we like this arrangement for several reasons. It is quite tricky to flick the upper section of the handset out of the way and reveal the keyboard without either tapping a button or touching an icon on screen. Either way you can do something unintended.
The keyboard itself is isn’t that great to use. It is surrounded by a ridge which makes it a little tricky to hit the keys on the outer edges.
Keys are smaller than we are used to, and because of the weighting of the handset we felt it was a little insecure in our hands when typing one handed. The keys don’t depress very far, which meant we had to type a little more slowly than we are used to on BlackBerry devices to be sure we were typing accurately.
You don’t have to use the slide-out keyboard, though as there are tall and wide on screen touch keyboards too. The tall screen one is a bit cramped, but both are responsive.
The final negative about the slide format is the overall size of the Torch. Both closed and opened this is greater than the norm. Closed the Torch is notably thick at 14.6mm though its width and height are fine at 62mm and 111mm. Opened it grows to a massive 148mm which makes it feel like you are holding something very substantial to your ear. It weighs fairly heavy at 161.1g too.
BlackBerry OS 6 makes its debut on the Torch and the good news is that it doesn’t look or feel hugely different to what’s gone before so the learning curve is not vast, but there are lots of tweeks and tricks.
So some examples. The main apps menu can be swept left and right to get to favourites, media, downloads and frequently used apps as well as the full apps list. Tap the status bar at the top of the screen and you get a new settings area for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and alarm settings.
Tap the search icon below this for the new universal search tool, or tap the bar its sits on to see notifications that include missed calls, RSS feeds, social media alerts and upcoming diary events. Tap and hold something in icon or thumbnail display – an app or a picture for example, for context sensitive menus.
A new Social Feeds app brings together Twitter, Facebook, Google Talk, MySpace and other notifications in one place making it easy to see what your friends are up to.
And there is plenty more, with the same solidly reliable business functions and improved multimedia performance, although RIM still hasn’t mastered the art of putting a decent camera in its phones.
Overall we like OS6 a lot and think it is a good, positive step forward for RIM. The Torch hardware we aren’t so sure about, though.
Price: £457 SIM-free
Value for Money: 7/10
Overall score: 8/10
Written by Sandra Vogel. Originally published in Smartphone Essentials magazine.
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