BlackBerry Torch 9810 4 Stars

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Phones that offer a combination of QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen seem to be all the rage at the moment – witness the Samsung Galaxy Pro, Nokia E6, and HTC ChaCha – and BlackBerry has jumped on the bandwagon with the Torch 9810. However, is it really a winning combination or is the Torch 9810 a jack of all trades?

The Torch 9810 looks pretty much like the one released last year, aside from its good-looking reverse, which features a relief square pattern on a silver background. The screen is surrounded by a black frame.

Get writing

We’re not surprised to see the keyboard/touchscreen combination making such an impact. Virtual keyboards are all very well, but nothing really beats the typing experience of a real-world keyboard – especially when they’re the quality of the ones found on BlackBerry devices. It’s the reason why business users are so enamoured with the BlackBerry (along with its high security offerings and speed mailing abilities).

The only problem is that a real keyboard takes up such a lot of space on a device, which means that these kinds of phones always suffer from a small display. You’ll find a 2.6in screen on the HTC ChaCha, for example, while the BlackBerry Bold 990 has a 2.8in screen.

Blackberry has come up with a solution for its Torch handsets – it slides the QWERTY keypad behind the screen. This means you have the benefit of a bigger display, which means it is more suited to media, as you get a better screen for watching video or viewing pictures.

Big fun

Trying to fit so much on one small device has some other knock-on effects. The Bold 9900, for example, has a great touch display but it is too small to use well, while the Torch has a good sized display but is a big, heavy handset. This seems to be an unsolvable problem – unless you either lose out on the excellent typing offering or the touchscreen option.

The 9810 has a good QWERTY keyboard – it is a little narrower than the excellent one found on the Bold 9900, but nevertheless is a very reasonable offering.

The 9810’s screen looks good too. It measures 3.2 inches and has a resolution of 250 ppi (the bold 9900) has a superior 286ppi. Nor is it in the same league as the displays on offer on the Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray or iPhone 4, but nevertheless it looks bright and colourful and shows lots of detail.

It is certainly a good screen for watching video – tap on video and you’ll be transported to the relevant app in App World. It’s a nifty feature; it’s just a pity that once in BlackBerry App World you’re likely to be disappointed – especially if you’re used to downloading your choices from Apple’s App Store or Android Market.

The dearth of apps to choose from is always an issue with BlackBerry handsets – as is the cost of them. This is a hangover from the days when most BlackBerry users were business users, and it has yet to be properly addressed.

A pair of benefits

There are two benefits to the Torch 9810 – if you start to type in a message and you have the keyboard closed – up pops the onscreen version. Okay, it’s not on a par with the real-world one, but it does have an added bonus – it is able to offer you alternative spelling ideas, something the real keyboard cannot do. But we were disappointed that when it inserts its suggested word it fails to add a space after the word – not a deal-breaker, just rather annoying. We’d have been pleased to see a virtual number keypad as well – it can take some time to input phone numbers on a QWERTY keyboard.

Lucky 7

The 9810 also has the benefit of the most up-to-date BlackBerry OS – 7. It’s not so different from the

previous incarnation – version 6 – so if you’re an existing BlackBerry user you won’t be completely flummoxed. But we would have liked it to be a tad more user friendly. One of the main differences is the improved web browser, which sees a speedier surfing experience for the user.

Chip quicks

The 9810 has the same 1.2GHz processor as the Bold 9900, yet doesn’t seem as speedy. We’re certainly not saying it’s sluggish, but we did find an issue with the accelerometer’s speed; this was also a problem with some of the early Storms, RIM’s first touchscreen BlackBerry handset.

It’s not that there’s no power under the hood – we were amazed at the 14.4Mbps data speeds for downloading that were racked up. Plus there’s excellent battery life – you’ll want to charge every night as with most smarties, but a fully charged battery will give you a good day’s worth of power.

There is no NFC facility – but as the rest of the world has yet to catch up, you won’t as yet be missing out on the ability to make contactless payments.

Taking pictures

The five-megapixel camera has a reasonable flash for lowlight photo taking. Neither autofocus nor shutter lag will slow you down here, plus the handset has a dedicated camera key, which is a bit of a bonus. It’s been placed in exactly the right spot when you hold the phone in landscape mode – press the key half down to autofocus, and a full press will take the snap.

Not pleased with your shot? Fine, an X will appear and you can quickly choose to delete it. But if you dither over the decision, the X disappears and it is a more long-winded process should you wish to dump an image.

Our conclusion

The Torch 9810 offers a good keyboard and a large screen, but the payoff is that you end up with a rather sizeable and weighty device. If you’re after something more portable, take a look at the new Curve 9630 (unless you want touchscreen) or the Bold 9900.

Pros:
Great keyboard; impressive screen; speedy processor.
Cons:
The handset is heavy and large; disappointing choice of apps.
Rating:
  • Look and Feel 3 Stars
  • Ease of use 4 Stars
  • Features 4 Stars
  • Performance 4 Stars
  • Battery life 4 Stars

Final verdict: 4 Stars

Review by Mobile Choice