For those who haven’t followed my smartphone history (and I suspect many haven’t), last December I gave up my BlackBerry Curve 8530 for an Android phone. It’s true, I was long a BlackBerry (and BlackBerry Messenger) addict, but as of December 2010, RIM left me with no other choice but to abandon ship. It had yet to provide, well, a modern-day smartphone — one with a great browsing and app experience. The Torch was its lone higher-end touchscreen option at the time, but the phone’s 624MHz processor made for a sluggish experience, its low-res screen was an eyesore, and the software was just too outdated. So, I threw off the mobile shackles (as I wrote at Engadget) and headed for the Droid 2.
The Torch 9810 is the successor to that original Torch and the third in a trio of new phones by RIM packing a new operating system — BlackBerry 7. Sure, from looking at it you wouldn’t necessarily know that RIM had made any changes, but the original pain points have been mended with a faster single-core 1.2 GHz processor, a higher resolution screen, and a zippier OS. Not to mention, the HSPA+ equipped phone is only $49.95 at AT&T (rather than the predecessor’s $199.99 starting price). So, is the new Torch the phone to pull me back to BlackBerry? Or is it too little too late? Read on for the full review.
Josh gave the Bold 9930 high marks for design (he even called it “the most beautiful phone RIM’s ever made”). Well, you’re certainly not going to find me giving similar praise to the 9810. I actually never had an issue with the aesthetic of the original, and as a fan of portrait sliders, I quite liked the form factor. But now the design is just passé. The 5.68-ounce phone measures .57 inches thick, and in comparison to the new .41-inch thick Bold or any slider it’s just chunky in pocket. Of all things, RIM decided to change the coloring of the back cover; however, the new spray-paint-like silver is tacky. I should note that others around the office haven’t been totally nauseated by it and it does seem to come in a darker color.
No design awards will be going to the Torch — unless, of course, RIM pays off a judge somewhere — but there’s still something about BlackBerrys that feel more durable than most other phones around. I can’t put my finger on why that is since the 9810 is primarily made of painted plastics, but it really does feel like a phone that will wear well and survive my constant drops and dings.
In terms of buttons and ports, you’re still looking at the same selection. For those in need of a refresher, the 9180 has a 3.5mm headphone port, volume rocker, and camera / shortcut button on the right. The left houses its Micro USB jack and the top edge lock and mute keys. Below the screen you’ve got the good old optical trackpad which is still straddled by call, menu, back, and end / power buttons.
Display and keyboard
One of the biggest changes to the 9810 is the addition of more pixels. The phone now has a 3.2-inch VGA (640 x 480) display (up from the original’s HVGA panel). It’s not as crisp or dense on the pixels as the 2.8-inch, 640 x 480-resolution screen on the Bold, but it’s a nice step up from the previous Torch, that’s for sure. On top of that, it’s decently bright and responsive.
Much of the Bold 9930 review was full of praise for its improved physical keyboard — the perfect angle of the keys, the roomy spacing. But as I said in the design section, there will be none of that here. As you may expect, the backlit keyboard is the same as on the original Torch, but there’s a lot I wish the guys in Waterloo would have improved. I’m not saying I can’t type an email at a decent clip on the slightly slanted keys, I just wish they were less plasticky and spacing was more akin to something like Dell’s Venue Pro.
Of course, those that don’t feel like pushing down the slider always have the software keyboard. Now, I’m not sure why you’d do that since — as Jacob described in the Torch 9850 review – the software keyboard is one of the worst out there. Predictive capabilities and autocorrect are just not up to snuff and it also takes up more than half the screen in portrait mode and virtually the entire screen in landscape.
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