BlackBerry Torch 9800 - Getting it Right

Launch SRP: S$999

Overview & Design

The Flames of Succession

If anyone vaguely remembers the BlackBerry Storm and Storm 2, you might also remember how we felt about BlackBerry's first foray into the touch screen arena. Back then, with little experience in touch screen technology, the use of its SurePress feature on the Storm was a usability disaster. Moving a year ahead, the Storm 2 arrested the problems faced by the clicking problem of SurePress, but it just wasn't enough to combat how the BlackBerry OS wasn't optimized for touch screen user interfaces just yet.

Fortunately, Research in Motion (RIM) is no quitter. Its latest BlackBerry Torch 9800, announced in August 2010, is a testament to that. The Torch was a big leap for RIM, showing how it is much more prepared than its BlackBerry Storm and Storm 2 predecessors.

Before we had our hands on the Torch, the general impression was that it could be bulky and cumbersome to use with a weight of 161g. Being proven wrong upon testing the phone was definitely a blessing in disguise, since the Torch manages to distribute its weight quite evenly. To prove this point, the Torch didn't feel off-balance when we slid the display up, which typically makes a device slightly top-heavy. The one grouse we had was when we pushed the slider up, it was apparent that our thumb tends to slip and rub across the optical trackpad.

Sliding the display might see your thumb swiping onto the trackpad by accident.

Sliding the display up doesn't make the Torch top-heavy, nor throwing it off-balance.

On the whole, the Torch is easy on the hands. The QWERTY keyboard isn't a burden on its profile, keeping it reasonable at 14.6mm in thickness. Its left profile is kept simple with just a lone microUSB port. This leaves most of its buttons on the right, including the 3.5mm audio port. Like most of its BlackBerry designs, the crown of the device is saved for the lock and silent buttons.

The left side is kept relatively clean, with only the microUSB port parked there.

Its right profile houses most of important controls and the audio output port.

The lock button is accessible, but not to the point that it unlocks the phone by accident when it's in your pocket.

Traditional BlackBerry users would rely mostly on its optical trackpad to interact with the Torch. But for us, we find the touch screen to be a better option with its responsive and comfortable size. The 3.2-inch touch screen display, by itself, is competent enough for you to interact with the Torch. Right below that, are the usual physical buttons, such as the optical trackpad that's flanked by the call/end, menu and back buttons. What lies beneath the display when we slide it, is a physical QWERTY keyboard, much like the ones we see on the BlackBerry Bold 9700. Differences are apparent, and we noticed the keys are more flushed into the body than usual.

The familiar QWERTY keyboard is hidden below the sliding display.

The keyboard is similar, yet different in some ways as it's more flushed with the body.

Nonetheless, what both camps can agree on is the usefulness of its physical QWERTY keyboard, the trademark of any BlackBerry device. While it is still relatively easy to type quickly and accurately on the keyboard, the top rows could be slightly restricted by the Torch's display. If that doesn't sit too well with you, there's still the on-screen keyboard to fall back on.

Due to the slider design, the keys on the top row can be slightly restricted by the display.

8.5
Design
8
Features
8
User-Friendliness
8.5
Performance
8.5
Value
8.5
The Good
Vast improvement over earlier BlackBerry Storm and Storm2
Best of both worlds with touch screen and QWERTY keyboard
Intuitive BlackBerry 6 OS
The Bad
Lagging behind in hardware specifications
Average battery life despite more manageable processor
Imaging quality appears overly warm