First Looks: BlackBerry Torch 9810
Torch Gets Upgraded
Research in Motion (RIM) finally got touch screen usage right with the BlackBerry Torch 9800 a year ago. The user experience on the Torch 9800 was more intuitive, thanks to the BlackBerry 6 OS which features a well-categorized menu for browsing apps, a handy drop down menu for notifications and settings, a webkit browser and an aesthetically pleasing user interface. However, the modest hardware specifications of the Torch 9800 couldn't quite match up with the competition. A year later, RIM figured that it was about time to give the model a refresh with a new OS, and hence the Torch 9810 was introduced. Did its refresh come about too late or does it still have what it takes to tempt current BlackBerry owners and attract new users? That's what we intend to find out in our hands-on article:
Staying True to its Roots
Honestly, if you put the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and Torch 9810 side by side, you can hardly tell the difference between the two devices. This is an inherent trait of BlackBerry smartphones, where almost all its devices in the same model range look somewhat similar to each another (except the new BlackBerry Torch 9860 which departs from the norm by adopting a full touch screen concept). If you are into numbers, below is a comparison chart between the two devices to explain the very slight differences:
|Specifications/Device||BlackBerry Torch 9810||BlackBerry Torch 9800|
As you can see from the comparison chart above, the Torch 9810 is almost an exact clone of the Torch 9800. Hence, you can expect the same handling as the Torch 9800 - an even weight distribution and a solid feeling in the hands. While there is nothing wrong with staying with a tried and tested design, we would have preferred a sleeker design.
The slider mechanism feels smooth in its operation and doesn't feel loose at. However, this mechanism makes the device look thick compared to many of the latest phones launched. Sliding it up will of course reveal the compact QWERTY keyboard. If you have tried the Torch 9800's keyboard before, you will have no problem using the Torch 9810 as the keyboard is practically the same.
Taking on the Apple and Android Armies
Dominating the front of the Torch 9810 is the 3.2-inch display. When you compare its display with that of the Torch 9800, you will notice that there's a difference in resolution. The Torch 9810 sees a bump in resolution from 480 x 360 pixels to 640 x 480 pixels. The viewing experience is better although it still trails behind the competition which boast bigger screens and higher resolutions (iPhone 4 has 960 x 640 pixels, Samsung Galaxy S II has 800 x 480 pixels, HTC Sensation has 960 x 540 pixels). For its size, the screen resolution is good, but the multimedia experience would still take a back seat to the competition's larger screen offerings. Perhaps the upcoming Torch 9860 can satisfy the big screen needs, but the Torch 9810 is perhaps one of the bigger upright slider style phone around to provide one handed messaging on its QWERTY keypad while providing a usable sized touchscreen display.
To remain relevant in the battle of smartphones, RIM has equipped the BlackBerry Torch 9810 with a single-core 1.2GHz processor and 768MB of RAM. This is a significant improvement over the 9800's 624 MHz processor and 512MB of RAM.
On the software side of things, the Torch 9810 ships with the new BlackBerry 7 OS. Compared with the Torch 9800's BlackBerry 6 OS, you'll see that the new OS is a slight improvement in the aesthetics of the user interface, has a speedier web browsing experience, voice activated searches and Liquid Graphics technology. If you want to find out more about what BlackBerry 7 OS has to offer, click here.
Usability and Performance
The overall user experience is generally positive. Navigating the user interface, loading the apps and web browsing are quick and responsive, thanks to the touch optimized BlackBerry 7 OS and upgraded hardware configurations.
We also had no problems using the QWERTY keyboard, which as expected is among the finest in the market. We were still able to type quickly and accurately despite the buttons being more flushed with the body. However, it can't match the awesome typing experience of the Bold 9900. Since the latter isn't a slider phone, it has more room to feature larger keys for a more comfortable typing experience. So if excellent messaging performance ranks high on your list, the Bold 9900 might be a better option as a trade off to its screen size.
Basic usage aside, the five-megapixel autofocus camera of the Torch 9810 delivers decent image quality. Do note that it lacks a front camera, so video calls on the Torch 9810 isn't possible .
Rounding up our performance findings, we subjected the Torch 9810 to our usual battery life testing procedure and found that it lives up to BlackBerry's reputation for long endurance. It clocked 6 hours and 6 minutes in our battery test suite, which lasted about 20 minutes more than the Torch 9800. Keeping in mind that our battery stress testing involves continuous video playback, from our experience, such good statistics indicate that the Torch 9810 can last an entire day or more without charging for more casual usage such as with phone calls, messaging and occasional data usage.
The BlackBerry Torch 9810 is a solid handset with great handling, design and hardware specifications. The touch screen experience is greatly enhanced from previous touch screen models from RIM, thanks to Liquid Graphics technology and the BlackBerry 7 OS.
The incentives for BlackBerry Torch 9800 owners to upgrade are a higher resolution display, a faster processor, more RAM, a better user interface and improved touch screen experience. Retailing at S$838 (SingTel) and $798(StarHub and M1), it will be difficult for existing Torch 9800 owners to consider upgrading.
For those who are sitting on the fence, the BlackBerry Torch 9810 is an excellent hybrid touch and QWERTY slider. The touch screen experience is almost on par with the likes of Apple iPhones and higher-end Android smartphones. Also, those who dislike touch screen typing and prefer conventional physical keyboards will not go wrong with the Torch 9810's QWERTY keyboard too. Should you feel the QWERTY keyboard beneath the screen a little too compact for your liking, our suggestion is to consider a proper candy-bar form factor phone like the Bold 9900 which forgoes screen size for an excellent keyboard.