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BlackBerry Torch 9810 Review: a solid touchscreen phone that is distinctly Blackberry

As many of you know, this week RIM introduces 3 brand new Blackberrys all running the brand new Blackberry 7 operating system.  The trio–the Bold 9930, Torch 9810 and Torch 9850–will likely constitute RIM’s flagship lineup until a QNX based operating system arrives sometime next year.   The Torch 9810, an updated version of last year’s Torch 9800,  appeals to those who want the best of both the tactile and touchscreen experience.   But unlike last year’s premature release, the Torch 9810 is a respectable step forward for RIM–a device that respects the best of Blackberry past and adopting the best of what’s out there to create a Blackberry future. Read on!

The Blackberry Torch 9810

Looking at the press release for the three new Blackberrys, the Torch 9810 seems like the biggest non-story.  Last year RIM announced the original Torch 9800 with high expectations.  RIM thought the form factor would be a huge success–satiating its traditional base by implementing a slide-out version of its legacy QWERTY keyboard and satiating those with touchscreen envy with a 3.2 inch capacitive touchscreen.  But with an underpowered 624MHz processor, reviewers, including myself, were unimpressed.  The laggy experience, full of delays and clocks of death, soured the overall experience–causing most to throw out the baby with the bathwater.  Hang in there, my history lesson has a point.

The new Blackberry Torch 9810 is a perfected version of last year’s Blackberry Torch 9800.  The combination of a revamped exterior, a beefed up processor and a new operating system, provides a smooth experience that reminds me of the RIM of yesteryear–a smartphone company that put out phones that above all else were simple, reliable and functional.  The Torch 9810 is a reliable modern smartphone that is distinctly Blackberry.

Form factor: While not actually new, now that the Torch is (sorry to be harsh) a usable smartphone, I have really started to take a liking to the Blackberry Torch 9810 as a slider.  The slide out keyboard really seems like the perfect way forward for Blackberry.  New young consumers are all about content consumption and want the screen to take up the entire face of the device.  Yet anyone who has tried to type out a decent length message knows that you just can’t beat the traditional physical RIM QWERTY keyboard.

Processor: The processor is DOUBLE as fast as its predecessor–1.2GHz–and it shows.  In two days of testing, I have not experienced any lag nor encountered a single black clock of death (is there already a catchy name for that dreaded black-clock?).

Blackberry OS 7: Every phone/computer device is a combination of both its hardware and software.  Hardware improvements and general spec upgrades are great, but without knowing how the software interacts with the new hardware it is nearly impossible to make judgments on the overall experience to the consumer–the only real thing that matters.  While Ronen covered Blackberry OS 7 in depth, I want to take a minute quickly highlight a feature of the new operating system that makes the updated Torch 9810 a more pleasant experience than its predecessor.  Blackberry OS 7 uses “Liquid Graphics TM technology for fluid animations, instant response times and stunning graphics.” (Source: Press Kit) For an operating system that relies more heavily on touch controls than previous iterations, the added emphasis on the smooth interactive screen experience was a good investment.  An instant and smooth on screen response to finger inputs creates a truer feeling of interactivity, making me almost forget that I was using a computer (smartphone).

Memory: The 9810 comes with 8GB onboard memory and supports microSD cards up to 32GB in size.  In contrast, the original Torch 9800 only came with 4GB onboard memory. (Update: this section has been corrected.)

Camera: While the camera remains the same for the most part, the 9810 supports geo-tagging, has face detection software, and records video in HD.

Power: Batter power has been extended from the original 5.5 hours of talk-time to 6.5 hours of talk time.

Updated casing: While the original Torch 9800 was all plastic, or so it felt, the new Torch 9810 has a distinctive metal casing. The metal feels like brushed aluminum (unverified) and feels more substantial than the original.  The back plate has a checkered pattern that is both a aesthetically pleasing and functional, providing a better grip than any other Blackberry I have handled.

Conclusion: While there are larger more subtle issues to be discussed later (like the upcoming QNX based Blackberry operating system), it is refreshing to see RIM back in the game. With the new trio of superfast phones, it seems as if RIM has finally recognized what it is good at–reliable speedy devices with physical buttons–and built a modern experience on top of that.  But most importantly, it is nice to feel excited again about a Blackberry product. Well done RIM. Now keep em comin

Note: a test unit was supplied for this review

8 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. The price is what makes it more appealing than the Bold 9900. $150-200 is no joke.
    I love that they kept the old camera on it and didn’t sacrifice it for a non focus camera… 😀

  2. the box still looks the same.. opps.. hehe

  3. Overall good review….though I can’t agree with you on the back plate. I find it over done and not “aesthetically pleasing” at all. I think I’d go as far as saying I find it ghastly looking.

    Maybe it looks better in person?

  4. I want to take exception to your comments and missrepresentation of the 9800 in your article. While your right that the 9800 is less powerful and than the 9810, the article shows that you have not tried the 9800 since the original version of the software came out. Throwing it out with the bath water is just not fair to it. I do not suffer from the problems you relate to at any where near the frequency you suggest. I find it a perfectly acceptable unit.

    You also make implications in your article about the lack of features on the 9800 when compared to the 9810. For the record the 9810 has 8Gb of Media memory and the 9800 had 4 gb of memory for the same function. The 9800 also supports 32 GB of SD card memory. The 9810 has 768 Mb of onboard memory for applications while the 9800 had 512Mb. Please compare equivalent memory. By the way, I have some 50+ apps on my 9800 and still have about half the memory for apps left. I don’t suffer a memory shortage.

    You tout the 9810’s camera features. Except for the HD recording capability, the 9800 has the SAME features including geotagging and face recognition.

    If you’re going to do a comparison, please be accurate.

    I’ve used the 9810 and it is superior. There is no doubt that given a choice, I would get the 9810 over the 9800 but I won’t be turning the 9800 in anytime soon.

  5. Would a 9800 skin/hard cover fit the 9810?
    I can see the name 9810 skin is kinda rare online and a lot of reviews (and I do mean a lot) say that they have the exact same body and design.
    My question again, is it physically the same or just to the naked eye from a distance???

  6. I love my 9800; I use it all the time for work and also for personal use (I pay for it personally) and I am looking forward to the 9810 very much. Can’t wait to handle it! It sounds like I might miss the battery door on the 9800 though, because I like the feel of it. But I might get a case for the 9810 anyway. And I like what I’ve been reading about OS 7. And, FWIW, I’ve not come anywhere close to using up the memory, despite trying out many, many apps.

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