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BlackBerry Torch 9800 review

Gordon Kelly



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Review Price £438.00

"This is one of the most important product introductions in our history," said RIM president Mike Lazaridis at the official launch of the BlackBerry Torch 9800. Phrases such as "uncompromising", "exciting" and "amazing" were also banded about, highly unusual language for a company which tends not to believe in hype. It was clear the pressure exerted by iOS and Android was telling and here was RIM's best shot at striking back.

The Torch represents RIM's most daring hardware and software to date. It is the first BlackBerry to combine a physical sliding Qwerty keyboard with a multi-touch capable touchscreen and it is also the launch device for BlackBerry OS 6.0 - the heavily overhauled platform which RIM hopes will add a consumer-attracting polish to the typically perfunctory OS.

From the outset, however, there's an immediate sense of apathy. The design of the Torch itself isn't inspiring, being part BlackBerry Storm, part Palm Pre. Its dimensions (111mm x 62mm x 14.6mm closed, 148mm x 62mm x 14.6mm open) are somewhat bulky and at 161.59g it isn't light. Construction is also adequate, if not inspiring. The plastic back feels hollow and cheap with the mix of matt and glossy finishes tacky alongside the rubberised volume and camera buttons.

In fairness the Torch does feel good in hand, BlackBerrys often do - but the 3.2in touchscreen, while responsive, feels small for late 2010; at just 480 x 360 pixels there is a lack of sharpness compared to the iPhone 4 (960 x 640) and latest 800 x 480 Android and Windows Phone 7 handsets. This wouldn't be so bad if RIM has installed a first class physical Qwerty keyboard, but though pleasingly tactile it is narrow and the reduced size of the keys mean typing fast will take time to master. To use it isn't a patch on the Bold 9700. Infuriatingly, RIM still positions its 3.5mm headphone jack on the side as well - useless for listening to music if you carry the phone in your pocket. In short it feels like a design constructed by committee, an attempt to draw gasps which instead generates shrugs.

Internally things get little better. The 624MHz processor lags behind the circa 1GHz chips seen in its rivals, internal memory is limited to 4GB and video recording is just VGA at 24fps, when 720p HD has become the new smartphone minimum. The five megapixel camera is a BlackBerry first, but while it improves upon the 3.2MP shooters seen in the Bold and Storm shots lack sharpness and colours look washed out. Storage can be bolstered via the microSD expansion slot and the usual essentials are there (3G, WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, a Proximity sensor), though the lack of a digital compass is disappointing. Battery life is good, lasting well over a day even with heavy use, but as the flagship device for a brand new operating system it is desperately lacking in inspiration.

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October 25, 2010, 2:18 pm

Its not a critism but this seems a surprisingly short review for what was arguably RIM's most talked about phone, their first real fightback against the iPhone? Is that perhaps a reflection on how "meh" the phone seems to be from what has been written comared to Android/web os/iOS?

Im disappointed if the Torch isnt that great, I have always been impressed with work blackberrys, and also recently I quite like RIM's plans for their "playbook" tablet and how your blackberry and tablet would intereact. Also their Blackberry Messaging service would be a godsend for me with my family and friends spread out across the world, however I am an Apple iPhone user who is desperatly trying to find a viable alternative to iOS and the iPhone hardware, especially since ive bought a few things in iOS that I would have to ditch/buy again if I switched, and currently nothing on Android tempts me to make the switch so far and the webOS hardware Palm/HP is putting out isnt tempting me at all! I had hoped RIM would be that alternative but it seems I will have to keep on waiting :-(


October 25, 2010, 3:32 pm

@Stelph - it's nowhere near good enough, neither is BlackBerry OS 6 right now. It's not a serious competitor sadly and initial sales figures are also showing that. I'm sure RIM can and will do better.

Hamish Campbell

October 25, 2010, 3:50 pm

Why don't they just stick their OS on an HTC device?


October 25, 2010, 4:31 pm


I wish Palm would do that. I'd love to have WebOS.


Have you tried WhatsApp for your IM needs? Works across iOS, RIM, Symbian and Android.


October 25, 2010, 5:06 pm

@Gorden - Thanks, I had assumed that was the case, shame but maybe Blackberry OS 7 will be better!

@rav - Wasnt aware of that, thanks! Although the only issue I can see with WhatsApp is you still require a data connection when using it, what appeals with BBM is (as I understand it) its free to use, even when you are overseas where as I image WhatsApp would be expensive if you were travelling!


October 25, 2010, 5:39 pm


Didn't know BBM was free worldwide. Assumed that there would be roaming data charges just like any other service. Good to know.


October 25, 2010, 5:50 pm

The keyboard needed to be horizontal imo, like Sony's x10 Mini Pro. It's the only way the keyboard can be made better!


October 25, 2010, 7:02 pm

@rav - Well dont quote me on it but thats what I have been told! although after a quick google it seems that it isnt true and it actually uses a small amount of data to send a bbm


so roaming charges would apply, thought it was too good to be true!


October 25, 2010, 11:17 pm

@rav & @ Stelph

The compelling reason I stay with BlackBerry (and increasingly, the only one)is the unique data compression used by RIM through its own servers for email and BBM. This means that while roaming throughout Europe and Asia on business I keep data costs down to a minimum; I never have to switch my BB off while travelling and have excellent push email. A week spent in China is typically a £2 or £3 data charge. Browsing would push that up, but as we all know, BB browsing is not a pretty experience - even my 3G Kindle is better :)

If cost were not an issue, I would be a iPhone user, but until I can be sure that Apple can match BlackBerry's data compression and reliable push email, I will not make the switch (Anybody want to convince me?)


October 27, 2010, 2:48 am

I heard real horror stories from all sorts of reviewers about that squeezy touchscreen thing on the Storm. Seems after all the initial scepticism about a lack of tactile feedback with the original iPhone, we've had such a mass conversion that even a minimal vibrated keypress system has been deemed unnecessary by handset makers.


October 30, 2010, 11:19 pm

@Gordon - While I doubt it will be as popular as the iPhone 4 or HTC Desire HD (and I was considering these), I have recently bought the Blackberry Torch and love it. I almost didn't because of reviews like this, however they are somewhat shallow in that they tend to focus on the processor speed, etc., rather than the usability. I'm coming from an Android phone and while the openess and apps are great, it is just not polished enough yet as an OS. On the opposite side, having used an iPhone, it is too restrictive, and less of a phone, more of a pda, and the communications experience is just not that great.

It is true, if you are a gamer or want 1000s of apps then this is not the phone for you. However, if what you want is a communications device, then I don't think you can beat a Blackberry, and the main reason not to go for one (i.e. the horrible browser experience) has just been resolved. All the communication apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, MySpace, etc. apps are all great and onboard or a download away.

In addition, I don't think I could ask for a better form factor as having a slide out keyboard means that I don't have to deal with a touch screen keyboard, yet it is small in the pocket. Now while I hear that many people are fine with a touch screen keyboard, I'm not one of them, and I have found myself writing more messages on my phone since I got the Torch than I did the whole year I had the Android phone. In addition, because the keyboard is not on the screen, it frees up the screen to display to show what the typing affects, and this is no more prominent than on the browser where you can use the standard Blackberry keyboard shortcuts to whiz around the browser and phone in general. In contract to a previous commenter, I think the portrait form factor for the keyboard is the best, as I don't want to turn my phone sideways in order to type, and most of the websites I read are better in portrait than landscape.

All in all, very happy with the Blackberry Torch, I highly recommend one if you are a people person.


November 4, 2010, 4:51 pm

@Alexander While I understand your points, I think they are general and flawed. Your primary defence of the Torch is that BlackBerrys are the best communication handsets, which is more of less true, and the second is you only want to use it for limited things.

I would counter that you're having to buy the most expensive BlackBerry ever made for a sliding keyboard/touchscreen combo you could find on many budget/midrange Android handsets. I'd also contend that BlackBerry OS is extremely limited currently, but the main thing is you are happy. The review doesn't say everyone will hate the Torch - if you have very specific needs and a large budget - then it is perfectly fine. For the majority, however, they should give it a miss.

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