The BlackBerry Torch 9860 uses a 3.7in LCD display with a resolution of 480 x 800 pixels. This makes it entirely middling on most fronts but don't let that put you off. Its ~252ppi pixel density makes it nice and sharp while it produces really punchy colours and has good viewing angles. There's a bit of contrast and colour shift when viewed from extreme angles but nowhere near enough to concern us. It's not spectacular but it gets the job done.
The same can be said for this phone's CPU. The single-core 1.2GHz chip keeps the phone zipping along nicely but on a technical comparison it trails the dual-core or even 1.4GHz single-core chips used on much of the competition. For general navigation this difference isn't really noticeable as RIM has done an excellent job with what it calls its "liquid graphics". This refers to the smooth, stylish animations that accompany you as you move around the interface that always ensure you feel like you're in control.
That said, every now and again you do encounter the odd pause that we just know would be avoided on a dual-core handset. Also as app support improves and more and more powerful apps and games become available, the slower chip may become a limiting factor.
Benchmarks on mobile phones must always be taken with a pinch of salt but they give a small indication of just what sort of a performance difference you may feel between handsets. As such we ran the browser-based SunSpider and RightWare BrowserMark benchmarks and found the 9860 to be a surprisingly strong contender, posting scores of 2704 and 50992 respectively. These compare to 4057 (lower is better) and 37827 (higher is better) on the iPhone 4. Showing just what dual-core can get for you, the iPhone 4S posts scores of 2261 and 89530.
Wireless connectivity is decent with the requisite 3G, Wi-Fi 02.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0 and GPS/A-GPS all accounted for.
We had no problems obtaining and keeping a strong signal and found call quality to be excellent. In fact, it was better than than the Bold 9900 in our tests (though a certain amount of this may have been signal dependent) with plenty of volume on tap and a full realistic sound. The speaker is also a return to form after the disappointing one on the Bold 9900. It's among the loudest and clearest on the market, making it great for handsfree and conference calling, and of course blasting music to all your highly appreciative fellow train and bus passengers.
Battery life on the other hand is only average. Use the phone heavily and it'll run dry in a day but using it more sparingly it will last for two or three. In fact, if you're particularly sparing it will keep going for an age but then that's hardly sensible usage.
What does annoy, though, is how temperamental BlackBerrys can be about what can and can't charge the phone from flat, with it refusing to work using some microUSB cables and chargers. Moreover, you can't use the phone straight away when plugged in but must wait quite a while for it to charge before it will spring into life – most annoying if you just want to quickly check something while you have access to power.