Following hot on the heels of the Blackberry Bold 9900, RIM has introduced an updated version of the Torch. As well as the new Blackberry OS 7 software, it also has a beefed up processor, more memory and an improved camera that's capable of shooting HD video. But is there enough on offer here to temp new user to switch to a Blackberry device, or is it just preaching to the converted?
Externally, the Torch 9810 doesn’t look all that much different to the previous version of the handset. The colour scheme has been changed slightly, so the phone now has a black and sliver look, rather than the dark chrome finish used on the previous model. There's also a dimpled pattern on the battery cover that makes the phone a bit more grippy to the touch. However, the dimensions of the handset are pretty much identical to the old version and its weight is unchanged at 161g. As a result, it still feels like quite thick and a tad old fashioned when placed next to most other touchscreen smartphones around at the moment.
In part its chunkiness is due to the QWERTY keyboard, which slides down from behind the screen. The sliding mechanism feel pretty solid, if a little on the stiff side. And the keyboard is quite comfortable to use. It's got similar keys to those found on the Bold 9900, so each key has a rising edge on the side nearest the centre that helps make them easier to hit with your fingers and thumbs. However, the fact that all punctuation marks are accessed via the Alt key is a tad annoying. Also, the predictive text engine lags behind what you get on the iPhone, Windows Phone 7 or Android OSes, as it only really picks up the most obvious mistake. At least the keyboard is backlit, though, which is handy if you're trying to tap out an email or text message while walking home late at night.
One area that has been improved substantially, compared to the previous phone, is the screen. It's still the same size at 3.2icnhes, but the resolution has been upped significantly from 480x360 to 640x480 pixels and the difference is remarkable. Packing that many pixels so tightly together really does make everything look razor sharp -- from text and icons to photos and videos. It's bright too, with excellent contrast and bold, vivid colours.
Beneath the screen you get the usual line-up of buttons including the optical joystick in the middle, along with two call controls buttons, the back key and the Blackberry button. There's really little need for the optical joystick, seeing as you can just reach out and touch the screen to zip through menus or scroll around web pages, but we guess Blackberry just includes it for those who are used to it from their previous, non-touchscreen handsets.
Naturally, the lock and mute buttons remain at the top, while the volume control rocker switch and programmable key (which is set by default to control the camera) are found down the right hand side. Unfortunately, Blackberry has also put the headphone jack here, so it tends to snag when you're taking it out of your pocket.