The Blackberry Torch 9800 marks a new departure for RIM. On launch it was the first handset to include Blackberry 6 OS, optimised especially for touchscreens. It also sees RIM attempt to straddle two markets: core business users and the more mainstream smartphone market dominated by Android and Apple IOS. Will it be successful?
What we like
The Torch is a solid and well built device, with a micro USB port on the side, lock and mute controls along the top and soft volume controls on the right. Under the screen are call answer/reject keys, back and Blackberry control for access individual menu controls within each feature. Use the central touch-sensitive control to scroll up and down pages or through homescreens.
The full QWERTY keyboard slides out will be welcome for anyone who doesn’t like touchscreen keyboards. Although when extended it does feel a bit heavy, so we found it more comfortable to use two hands which proves a little cramped if you have large fingers.
Scroll left and right to swap between five homescreens: All, Favourites, Media, Downloads and Frequent, each with refreshed icons that look sharp and modern.
The 3.2 -inch screen is good size for browsing and multitouch which works well, making it smooth to swap between the applications and home screens
Browsing on the Torch is a pleasing experience. It’s the first Blackberry handset to include tabbed browsing, click on the icon to the right view thumbnails of all the pages that are open. Pinch to zoom works well for zooming in and out, alternatively double tap and the text aligns to fit the space, which is excellent.
Accessed by an icon on the top right of the screen, Universal Search is an exceptionally quick at scouring the entire handset, the web, Facebook or You Tube. Social Feeds lets you aggregate feeds from Facebook, Twitter,
Google Talk and Blackberry Messenger, it’s great for keeping up to date with your friends, but lacks the integration of HTC Sense.
Equipped with a 5-megapixel camera, pictures taken using the Torch are good rather than being amazing, with some image noise visible, although the shutter is fairly quick and autofocus works well.
Connectivity includes N WiFi and Bluetooth, but no HDMI or DLNA, although we don’t really expect the latter on a Blackberry (especially because it can’t capture HD movies), however it would be a nice addition. Now the Torch can be used to tether the Blackberry Playbook.
Blackberry fans will be please to know the email set-up and exchange support is as sublime as ever, helped by the new set-up function.
What we don’t like
While we appreciate the usefulness of having multiple homescreens, it’s a real shame that you don’t get the customise options of an Android or Apple handset. You can move icons around individual screens and add them to the Favourites screen (along with contacts and web pages), but there are only four folders and there are no live widgets.
The Blackberry Torch also captures 640×480 VGA movies, which aren’t great, the footage isn’t very smooth and colours are a bit blocky. Additionally the camera flash is woefully weak.
The phone market is changing quickly and unsurpsingly the Torch 600Mhz processor feels slow next to the dual-core LG Optimus 2X and the 1Ghz Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc. Although we should point out that for browsing, typing and emailing – which are the main reasons people buy a Blackberry – it is perfectly adequate.
Blackberry’s core users will really like the Torch. It retains the email, Blackberry Messenger and QWERTY keyboard the company is famous for, but adds a good touchscreen and new more intuitive interface. Although this is still a long way to go before it offers the customisation and apps of Android and Apple iOS rivals, although this shouldn’t matter to hardcore Blacberry fans.
Phone suppled by Three