Having touched upon some of the hardware specs already, it's worth summarising the rest of the Torch's features. These include an auto-focussing five-megapixel camera, which has an LED flash and "facial recognition". You'll also get 4GB of on-board memory that can be supplemented by microSDHC cards up to 32GB in capacity, though apps can only be stored on the 512MB Flash memory. Bluetooth 2.1, 802.11n Wi-Fi and A-GPS are all included as well, as one would expect.
Though the screen isn't particularly high-resolution by modern standards, it's plenty bright and colourful enough for viewing videos and photos. It's just a shame the resolution is as low as it is, especially considering the likely competition (e.g. the HTC Desire, Samsung Galaxy S and iPhone 4) all feature greater pixel density. This really shows when viewing web pages in the new Webkit-based browser, where text isn't as sharp and well-defined as we've become accustomed to of late.
One thing is for certain, though, the new browser is a significant step forward for RIM where web browsing is concerned. It has all facets of a modern mobile browser; including pinch-to-zoom and text reflow, though HTML5 and Flash aren't supported just yet. Unfortunately, due to the processor, the rendering speed of the Torch is considerably less than competing devices, and apart from a hardware upgrade there's not much that can be done about that at this juncture.
This new browser is part of a wider software update that constitutes BlackBerry OS6. We're not going to give you the full blow-by-blow now, but the fundamentals lie in RIM's desire to make everything a little more customisable and accessible. Leading this charge is the app dock at the bottom of the screen, where you can access shortcuts to your most used applications, services and contacts. Hold down on pretty much any item and you also get a pop-up context sensitive menu, which is nicely presented and should cut a few corners here and there.
Also new is the Universal Search, which is bound to become a popular feature. As you'd expect given the name, it searches more or less everything on your phone: apps, contacts, mail etc. It can be accessed from pretty much anywhere and, unlike the browser, didn't appear to be impeded at all by the speed of the processor.
In general use we found the interface to work relatively well. Though the smoothness of the touch elements (e.g. swiping, zooming etc.) wasn't quite up to the likes of iOS 4 or some of the better Android devices, the actual responsiveness of the screen and interface was just fine and current BlackBerry users shouldn't have too much trouble adapting to the new interface.
Of more pressing concern is whether this is a device that current, and potential, BlackBerry users are likely to flock to. Here there is clearly some doubt, and this is where pricing will be vital. Should the Torch be competitively priced its slower processor could be easily forgiven, making it a good mid-range smartphone and messaging device akin to the Palm Pre Plus.
It definitely isn't ready to slug it out with the big boys, however, and we hope RIM has something of greater impact in its coming soon pile. Until then, check out more images of the Torch on the following page, and keep an eye out for a full review of the Torch when it's launched in the UK in a few weeks time.