Blackberry Torch 9800 Review

I’ve been using the device for a solid 6 days.  And I must say this device is the best Blackberry yet.  When I initially got the device I had to get use the the new OS 6. I was so use to the previous OS that my Blackberry reflexes had me pressing the wrong things on the phone. As I setup most of my apps and all of my settings on the phone it began to shine. Let’s break the device down and see what we have.

Screen size and quality:
The screen has a standard resolution of 480 x 360. By comparison with the new iPhone and new Android devices it is very underwhelming. But it’s adequate for what typical Blackberry users do; email, text messaging, and casual web browsing. The 3.2 in screen is just big enough for us Blackberry users, but I wish the resolution was a tad bit higher especially when we want more data on the screen. When it comes to media such as video the Torch loses by a mile against the iPhone 4 and the series of brand new Android devices (Droid X, Droid 2, Samsung Captivate). Their screens are bright and as sharp as ever and it’s one area where I’m envious and wish the Torch had. The colors for the Torch tend to be a slightly washed out, but it’s brightness makes it very visible in bright rooms or outdoor environments. But before you trash the low res of the phone keep in mind that the Torch has a higher resolution and pixel density than the previous generation of iPhones which is only 480 x 320.

Camera:
The camera is quite good. At 5mp it takes decent pictures and the LED flash is sufficient for taking pictures in dark or low lit areas. One of the could-be-better areas is video recording. Most newer phones are able to record at 720p, whereas the Torch can only do 640 x 480. So if you’re looking to record some decent family videos you’re still going to need to carry a seperate HD cam. I’m sure it’s not hard for RIM to implement HD recording. It’s probably due to the underpowered CPU that runs the phone (more on that later.)

OS 6:
One of the reason to get the new Blackberry is that it’s the first model to come with the brand new Blackberry OS 6. This new OS tries to simplifies access to apps and settings. What RIM really wanted to is to reduce the amount of searching for commonly used settings and options. So with OS 6 many of the apps and options can be access with much fewer clicks and taps. The best feature for OS 6 is how they combine the touch and keyboard usage of the phone. You can use the phone entirely based on the keyboard and trackpad or just from the touchscreen. You can forgo all the touch screen stuff and still be productive. But the magic is when you combine the physical keyboard with the touch features. Keyboard shortcuts plus touchscreen access makes working on the Torch much more effiecient and quicker. If you thought you were fast on your old Blackberries, then you should get your hands on this device. Granted there is a little learning curve for this new OS, but experienced BB users will feel right at home. New BB users may get frusturated and confused at times, but it’s all part of the learning process for any new device.

One of the downfalls of the OS 6 is its fixed pages. You get 5 pages; All, Frequent, Media, Downloads, and Favorites. These pages can’t be deleted and there’s no way of creating your own custom ones. I’m a minimalist and I like to hide and delete all the stuff I don’t need and just have shortcuts for all my apps and tasks. So having a bunch of those pages that I don’t use is an eye sore and inefficient use of space.

Build Quality:
I’m actually on my second Blackberry Torch. My previous one had the front button plate coming off. The top part of the device (the screen) wiggled up and down slightly which made a ‘clacking’ sound when I typed on the screen. After replacing the phone the button plate is still on and there is no clacking noise at all. My old Torch may have been from a bad manufacturing batch. Who knows?  So far the replaced device is great. The sliding mechanism is solid and it’s as good as any sliding phone can get. There’s no looseness or play present when the device is opened or closed. But there’s one thing that stands out from previous Blackberries is that the device is heavy for its size. It weighs in at 5.7 ounces. By comparison the iPhone 4 is 4.8 ounces. You can definitely feel the heft of the Torch in your hand, and it’s one thing to be careful of when weilding the phone in your palm, ala Ari Gold-style, you need to make sure you keep a good grip on it otherwise it can be a dangerous projectile. The weight of the device can go both ways, as for me it adds more of the industrial feel to it and for others it can feel like a bulky phone.

 Web Browsing:
The other reason to get this phone is that it comes with RIM’s newest browser based on Webkit. It’s a million times better than their previous browser and it was the one thing that RIM was seriously lacking on their phones. The new browser works similar to Apple’s Safari and Android’s browser. You can pinch zoom in and out, scroll up and down, and pan webpages. Their tabbed browser feature is equally just as amazing. It’s simple and easy to use.

Final Thoughts:
Like I said before, there will be a learning curve because of the new OS. BB veterans will pick it up quickly, but new users will need some time to get acclimated to the layout and UI. The device uses the same 624 Mhz processor as with the 9700 model. The only only internal components that are different is that it has double the internal memory and a 5 MP camera. I would have expected RIM to throw in a much more powerful CPU, but they manage to use their existing chip to power their latest device. Even with all the new features and higher requirements of OS 6 the Torch runs pretty smooth. But it’s not to say that it runs smoothly all the time. There is some noticeble lag, but they aren’t show stoppers. The lag appears depending on what you’re doing with your phone and how many processes and apps are running in the background. The Torch is a great device if you’re looking to upgrade. If you want the Blackberry experience but with a better browser then the Torch is it. But if web browsing is not important to you than upgrading is not nesecessary. I think if you currently have a 9700 or a 9650 getting the Torch will enhance your experience slightly. It’s the browser where you’ll be getting the most of it. So if you’re still running a BB that still has a trackball then the Torch is a worthy upgrade for anyone. If you’re looking for media and gaming focused device than the iPhone or an Android would fit the bill.  The Blackberry is hands down best in handling text messages and emails. It’s a communication driven device and that’s what the Blackberry known for.

Rating: ★★★★★★★½☆☆

Pros:
OS 6 – good use of keyboard and touch
Efficient interface for accessing apps and settings
Physical keyboard
Webkit browser

Cons:
Slight lag during usage
Unable to change/delete or add homepages
Underwhelming screen resolution and quality

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