From a distance, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the new BlackBerry Torch 9810 and its predecessor, the Torch 9800. But it’s what makers RIM have crammed inside this touchscreen-keyboard combo. Read on to hear about these changes, and how BB’s latest stacks up against the smartphone competition.

What we like

The 3.2-inch screen on the BlackBerry Torch has been upgraded to a respectable 640x480 resolution. With the new BlackBerry OS 7, the rest of the phone has also had a thorough polish with new icons sharpened for the new display. The new OS has improved the web-browser greatly, it’s faster and smoother, whilst the improved screen makes watching video a much more viable proposition.

Audio-wise, there's a headphone socket, whilst the loudspeaker is suitably meaty - perfect for those high-flying conference calls, or blasting out a YouTube video.

The BlackBerry Torch 9810 arrives with a capable 5-megapixel camera, and the continuous auto-focus feature ensured the majority of our daytime shots were in-focus. It’s a great feature missing from the Bold 9900, which has a less impressive enhanced depth of field focus.

Like the Bold 9900, the camera is capable of 720p HD video camera, which is pretty good at dealing with shifting between light to dark subjects. Like many smartphones, it does struggle to keep up with large moving objects

The hardware itself is as classy as as the previous Torch 9800; and reminds us that BlackBerry really know how to build these QWERTY keyboard smartphones. Solid, with a satisfying slider, the keyboard itself embarrasses the majority of the BlackBerry pretenders. The subtle contours on the keys mean that newcomers will quickly get to grips with the BB typing, whilst for BB veterans - it’s like you never left.

The convenience key on the right side of the Torch is another nice touch. Though it’s initially assigned to the camera (where we left it) you can reassign it to several different apps or functions, like messages, voice dialling, Facebook, Twitter and plenty more.

Combining all of your social media profiles in one place works well in the social feed app, and BlackBerry’s system of notifications for email, messages, calls and social network updates ensure you don’t miss what’s happening.

What we don’t like

There’s no escaping the fact that, despite this being one of the first to run the very latest version, the BlackBerry operating system and interface is seriously dated.  Check out the main complaints we had in our Bold 9900 review- but in a nutshell, it still doesn’t stand up to the functionality and slickness of its smartphone rivals.

Despite the boosted processor, we would often get trapped watching YouTube videos on the web-browser, or the phone would come unstuck browsing pictures in Facebook - there’s even no event tab in the Facebook app.

There’s the little things too; the volume rocker is only functional when videos or music is playing - you can’t increase or decrease the ringer when in menus or at the main screen - it’s a waste of those buttons.

We like the screen, it’s bright and very readable, though the resolution is at the lower limit of what passes for a high-resolution screen these days, and the dearth of options for the camera only confirm that BlackBerry phones are still playing catch-up with a lot of features.

Conclusion

It feels like we’re going over old ground, but the BlackBerry Torch 9810 remains a great phone for the fundamentals and email. If that’s what you’re looking for, in a solid, sturdy design, the Torch 9810 is a great choice.

Between this and the Bold 9900, it may not be as stylish, but many will like the better auto-focus camera, and choice of entry methods, offering a larger touchscreen, touchpad and keyboard entry.

With the likes of the HTC ChaCha chasing BlackBerry’s form factor with all the bells and whistles of Android, they need something to keep the BB faithful; there’s plenty of improvements since the Torch 9800, but RIM really need to make sure that the next generation of their phones, running QNX, are truly able to stand alongside top-end Android phones and the next iPhone.