IntroductionThe BlackBerry Torch 9800 is not only holding RIM’s legacy, but it’s also presenting a rebooted platform which is optimistically trying to get a slice of the everyday consumer pie, a slice that they’ve been unable to constantly attract. With RIM’s all new form and competition looming on their turf, will the BlackBerry Torch 9800 be the one to hold out against all else while projecting itself as a worthwhile competitor in segment of the industry?
The BlackBerry Torch 9800 doesn’t stray far from the usual solidity of their hardware, but it’s also their very time utilizing a sliding portrait QWERTY keyboard. Chrome plating accentuates most of the front and sides which is combined with a plastic rear cover that has a patterned soft touch layer for better grip. The bottom of the phone is curved, which provides an ergonomic grip in your hand. The BlackBerry Torch manages to feel somewhat normal sized without coming across as bulky; however, you can easily notice its weight of 161g. Despite having sturdy exterior, there is no doubt the damage it will suffer from a fall, especially when it uses a sliding mechanism.
The Torch is by no means something innovative from a design perspective, but it clearly stands for some of the best design elements used in previous devices and combines them. The Torch 9800 is sticking with a tried and true stationary touchscreen without any tricks. Coming with a 3.2” HVGA+ 360×480 pixels display, it doesn’t impress against the WVGA and upward resolutions used by some contending smartphones. With slightly less space than the Storm2 and retaining the same resolution, the level of detail remains unchanged but sometimes texts may come out to be smaller and sometimes fuzzier. Viewing the device outdoors under direct sunlight is satisfactory since it had spot on viewing angles.
The buttons below the touchscreen may be mistaken as touch sensitive ones but they’re physical buttons that have a responsive feel to them. Placed smack in the middle is the usual optical trackpad that RIM has apparently decided to stick with something that actually works well and comes in handy. The left edge is almost empty except for the microUSB port, while the right side contains the 3.5mm audio jack, rubberized volume up/down control, and two-level camera button. On the top, both the lock and mute keys are discreetly combined into the surface with a small cut out in the middle for the speaker mode. Behind, you’ll find the upgraded 5MP camera with LED flash with the Torch name engraved into the surface. Removing the delicate plastic rear cover will provide you access to the SIM card slot, a 1300 mAh battery, and microSD card slot.
The sliding portrait QWERTY keyboard’s opening and closing mechanism feels solid and requires a slight nudge to open or close it. As for the QWERTY, it closely resembles the ones found on both the Bold 9650 and 9700 with its sensible feedback; however, it’s less noticeable and more at level with its adjacent surface. On the other hand, individuals with bigger fingers will find it a bit cramped since the buttons lack spacing in between. Overall, the QWERTY very useful with the on-screen options especially with its visible white backlighting. With the portrait or landscape style full keyboard in use, we found it to be responsive to the touch and casually typed with a few mistakes mixed in. The experience was pretty satisfactory with no slowdown or unresponsiveness when typing.
The BlackBerry Torch 9800 won’t let down world travellers since it’s a quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and UMTS (850/900/1900/2100MHz) device which means it’ll work in many locations but unfortunately CDMA is unavailable. The Torch also features Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 and aGPS, if that helps.
With the WebKit based browser, pages loaded in a reasonable amount of time in a zoomed out view. Double tapping a specific area will resize the text to fit the display; however, we did come across some inconsistencies in certain pages. Multi touch gestures allow you to specify the zoom level but text won’t automatically adjust itself. Scrolling is a breeze once a page is fully loaded, but we did experience cases when images and sometimes text requiring some time to render. Although the Torch has improved on wed browsing, it’s only at the tip of the iceberg in this category when compared to the Motorola DROID X or Apple iPhone 4.
During calls, our caller’s mentioned that our voice was somewhat muted with no evidence of static noise in the background, but still distinct enough to comprehend words. Our end was quite clear with voices that weren’t muddled with any distortion. The volume from the earpiece however, was quite weak even when set to maximum which made conversing in noisy environments quite challenging. The speakerphone emitted stronger but muffled sounding tones. Overall, the calling performance on the Torch was just about average.
The BlackBerry Torch doesn’t disappoint as it was stress-tested with one solid day of heavy usage with leftover charge for the next day. We could have further optimized our time by manually lowering the brightness level to the lowest setting and closing down unused apps.
Pros and Cons
The Torch comes with a responsive QWERTY, which is good news for texting lovers. The decent battery life is also a plus.
The issues we came across with rendering some web pages and its outdated interface are the only faults we could find thus far.
RIM’s attempt in enticing new users may be difficult despite a revamped platform that appeals the everyday consumer. From a hardware viewpoint, it shies away in the presence of some high powered devices with 1GHz processors and high-resolution displays. The BlackBerry OS 6 also doesn’t affirm a level of confidence in attracting non-BlackBerry users since other platforms place a lot of weight on presentation and integration and the social networking integration may be a little too late. The BlackBerry Torch 9800 is able to keep the fire burning for Samsung but unless they focus on the everyday consumer like its competitors, it will be a very tough battle indeed.