Review

Review: BlackBerry Torch 9800

Today we're reviewing the brand new handset by Research in Motion (RIM) with their all new BlackBerry Torch 9800. The touch-screen with full QWERTY keyboard device comes with the brand new BlackBerry 6 OS, which shows great improvements over the Bold and Curve 8900.

The Hardware
The BlackBerry Torch has all your standard BlackBerry buttons, including the send key, quick menu, trackpad, escape/back key and the end/power key. The trackpad is very smooth and very sensitive on this device when compared to other BlackBerry phones; this allows you the freedom to select even the smallest of objects on the web or within application. The Torch also comes with a silent and lock button located at the top of the phone, for quick access.

The QWERTY keyboard does take some getting used to if you're not familiar with BlackBerry phones; the keys are a little smoother than normal as RiM tried to keep the phone as thin as possible. The keyboard has a little more room of play between the edge of the keys and the screen, so your fingers aren't making contact with the edge of the device when you type.

The right hand side of the phone has your standard 3.5mm headphone jack with your standard up and down volume buttons and a convenience key to open up any assigned application, which can be configured in the operating system.

The Phone
The phone has a nice weight to it, an important thing I look for in a phone, at least that way I know it's in my pocket and not lost on a bar stool The phone weights 5.68oz (161.1g), just slightly heavier than the iPhone 4. The phone is also slightly bigger than the iPhone 4, at 4.37” (111mm) closed, 5.83” (148mm) opened, 2.44” (62mm) width and 0.57” (14.6mm) depth.

The BlackBerry Torch also has a ribbed, rubber backing, so it doesn't feel slippery in your hand.

Display
The Torch has a high resolution 3.2” HVGA+ touch screen (480x360), with light-sensing and proximity detecting sensors to adjust the screen brightness. A very solid and smooth touch-screen, which has exceptional accuracy compared to other touch-screen smartphones out there.

Camera
Having a sharp camera is needed these days in any mobile phone, so it's no wonder the BlackBerry Torch 9800 features a 5.0 MP camera, with an auto-flash, auto-focus, 2x zoom and has video recording capabilities. Although the still camera and video camera are separate applications on the device, the quality has excellent output. The playback has a lower quality than what can be displayed on your PC, simply because of the screen limitations.

The camera supports up to 2x zoom, which can be controlled by sliding your finger on the screen, but like many smartphone cameras, can not be configured once you are filming. The camera captures colours very vividly, check the gallery at the bottom for some sample phones with the BlackBerry Torch.

RIM has improved upon the shutterlag too of the phone.  Previous versions of the OS suffered from horrendous lag, the Torch has a solid 1 second delay which is better than previous iterations that had 2-3 second lag.  But when compared to other phones like the HTC Incredibele, the Torch feels slow. 

Internal Hardware
A smartphone isn't complete without 3G, WiFi and GPS capabilities, and the BlackBerry Torch 9800 is no exception. The Torch supports tri-band 3G UMTS networks, as well as quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks. The phone also supports WiFi 802.11b/g/n, for quick surfing at home.

The Torch packs a 624Mhz CPU with 512MB of RAM, with a 4GB internal storage, upgradable to 32GB. The processor is decent for this phone, under light to normal usage. Advanced users might be a little frustrated at times with the processor speed, but it does do a fairly good job overall.

Battery
Even though I've haven't had a long time to thoroughly test out the battery, I haven't noticed any problems with it. The battery does perform well, and gave me a charge of two full days of normal usage before I had to plug it back in again. However, it does come with a 1300 mAhr removable battery, with a 5.5 hour talk time, an 18 day standby, 5.8 hours on UMTS, 30 hours of music playback and 6 hours of video playback time.

Operating System
The BlackBerry Torch comes equipped with the brand new BlackBerry 6 operating system, which has more graphical enhancements and an updated Webkit browser.

The Home Screen has an all new look, with an adjustable menu to show more or less icons and has more room for other things, like your social network feeds. The social feeds include Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk, MySpace, Windows Live Messenger, AIM, Yahoo, and of course, BBM (BlackBerry Messenger). The OS alerts you of any new direct messages or updates through your feeds, which alerts you on the operating system and on the phone itself, through a blinking red light when you have unread feeds.

BlackBerry 6 supports universal search, so you can find contacts, emails, applications and many other things through a quick search. I found this very responsive and helpful when trying to find applications through all the pages on the device.

The all new webkit browser, software that RiM acquired through an external source, works fairly well, including a pinch-to-zoom interface, which makes it very easy to read. It supports multiple tabs, so you can easily flip through different websites. I did experience some problems with the browser, where the page would crash and return me to the home page without giving me any warnings or notifications something occurred.

Music & Video
I found that music through the headphones is very clear, but that depends on your audio quality sample. I was using a 320kbps audio track to test both the headphones and built-in speakers. The phone speakers, including speaker phone is clearer than what I've experience on other phones, such as the BlackBerry Peal and Bold.

The video quality is again limited to the screens resolution, but it does support a wide range of video and audio codecs, including MPEG4, H.263, H.264, WMV3 and AMR-NB, AAC-LC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, WMV, Flac, Ogg Vorbis.

BlackBerry 6 supports YouTube and MobiTV, which allows you to watch streaming TV and videos, but is restricted to the United States, so I couldn't test MobiTV. The YouTube application was a bit of a let down, it acts as a shortcut, so it just forwards you to the mobile webpage.

App Store
No smartphone is complete without an app store, something which has become the norm for all mobile devices in the last little while. The BlackBerry Torch isn't any exception, so it does come with a minimal app store, but doesn't look pretty at all. The store does have a variety of free and paid applications. Compared to the Apple App Store on the iPhone, this BlackBerry store does not match up. However, it does get the job done, and allows you to at least play games and use apps on your phone.

My Thoughts
I actually really do like this phone, but I would like to see a slightly faster processor to keep up with the iPhone 4, a higher resolution screen, so I can at least see the photos I've taken clearly. The App Store could use an overhaul, because it's not the most appealing thing in the world, something which might deter me from buying applications if they don't look good.

I do like the touch-screen, with a sliding QWERTY keyboard on the phone. The BlackBerry Torch feels very nice in my hand, and feels well built. The ribbed, rubber backing is a nice feel and addition to the phone, where the iPhone 4 feels very slippery and smooth in your hand, like you're going to drop it at any moment.

Check out our video review of the BlackBerry Torch 9800 below.

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59 Comments

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Maybe it'll be my first Blackberry Phone. I'll wait after six months to see the users' impressions.
Nokia and Apple tought me a lesson...

I'm not a Blackberry fan for me the best model was Bold 9700 but anyway Blackberry suck big time their AppStore suck big time so as far as I'm concern iPhone 3GS is the best phone and forget about android phones it's good for the trash can.

plantemichel said,
I'm not a Blackberry fan for me the best model was Bold 9700 but anyway Blackberry suck big time their AppStore suck big time so as far as I'm concern iPhone 3GS is the best phone and forget about android phones it's good for the trash can.

ahah, my HTC desire beats any iPhones. You clearly have no idea what you're talking about. Android 2.2 + HTC Sense = best OS
You're clearly a blind fanboy. iPhone are so overated.

2xSilverKnight said,
ahah, my HTC desire beats any iPhones. You clearly have no idea what you're talking about. Android 2.2 + HTC Sense = best OS
You're clearly a blind fanboy. iPhone are so overated.

Being an HTC Legend owner myself, to me you sound like an Android fanboy.

Not single reason i should buy that... outdated. GUI/OS wise even symbian^3 passed that from left and right. And what a weird design...

Do you reckon that the processor speed is that important? I mean if the OS requires less Mhz to do what we need isn't that better as it will drain the cells slower and won't loose as much energy through heat. As long as the system is balanced, lower Mhz is a preference for me.

RageOfFury said,
Looks exactly like a Palm Pre...
no it doesn't.... you need some new franking glasses...if you don't have a pair, get some!!!!!!!

Not really impressed with anything in this phone except for the camera, which seems to be better than the iPhones in the shots you took

The lag in the software is ridiculous. They're trying to take a business-orientated phone (which I love, because it does messaging well) and make it compete with more media-based handsets, and it's such a fail compromise it's almost embarrassing. First thing RIM needs to do is get their finger out and improve the optimisation of the hardware - having the flagship phone lagging as much as some cheap tacky LG is not good.

I once had a sub-100 MHz high-tower computer and it costed about 1000 USD (at the time).
Now all the cool kids have super-computers, internet in their pockets.
If that doesn't impress you, I don't know what will.

As much as I love blackberry, and I love my 8530. When I can upgrade I am either going to get the HTC Incredible, or Droid x, or the new droid 2. Or by then hopefully the Iphone if it does come to verizon. I will miss how long the battery lasts though.

Gutierrez said,
too big. And touchscreen phone dont last that much. Thats why I dont like them.

You must be remembering the old LG phones. I know someone with my old iPhone 2G, and the touchscreen still works.

Gutierrez said,
too big. And touchscreen phone dont last that much. Thats why I dont like them.

Umm what? Everybody is on touchscreens now-a-days. Think of it like an industry standard for technology now-a-days. If you don't have a touchscreen, then the OS or device is pretty old. I think all smartphone companies now have them on their smartphones.

If you use feature-phones...this isn't what Neowin posts news articles about... Only once have I saw that happen, it was the Kin, and guess what, it's dead. This just shows that nobody wants a Kin, more specifically the Kin One, which had no touchscreen.

Electric Jolt said,

Umm what? Everybody is on touchscreens now-a-days. Think of it like an industry standard for technology now-a-days. If you don't have a touchscreen, then the OS or device is pretty old. I think all smartphone companies now have them on their smartphones.

If you use feature-phones...this isn't what Neowin posts news articles about... Only once have I saw that happen, it was the Kin, and guess what, it's dead. This just shows that nobody wants a Kin, more specifically the Kin One, which had no touchscreen.

The kins had touch screens, both of them. And the kin didnt suceed because 1. people didnt want it to suceed, and 2. it was priced out of range of its 'target' demographics.

Btw ther are now more kin users now that its been canceled.

Will this phone eventually be available for verizon as well? I like the apps web browsing capabilities available for the android OS, but i liked the fact the BB did the job of a phone and texting device incredibly well, plus good battery life out of the box. Really torn if i should go back to crackberry or keep my 'droid. too bad RIM cant mod the android OS, keeping the features that make the blackberry work so well, along with all the added capabilitys of the operating system in one device.

I find that Blackberry 6 OS is trying to compete with WinMo 6.5. Good to see that they take business users seriously.

looks like it runs about as well as the wp7 emu.

good work RIM. You've convinced me to wait until WP7 devices hit the shelves.

Kudos to Andrew for a great review. I appreciate neowinians bringing the best to the web.

dotf said,
looks like it runs about as well as the wp7 emu.

good work RIM. You've convinced me to wait until WP7 devices hit the shelves.

Kudos to Andrew for a great review. I appreciate neowinians bringing the best to the web.


+1

Looks good Andrew.

Although, I dunno if anyone else noticed this, but itlooked a little laggy when scrolling and moving around throughout the different parts of the OS.

Nice review, Andrew.

I like RIM a lot, and as a former BlackBerry user I definitely want to see them succeed, but it looks like this still needs a little bit of work. Two of the reasons that I dropped the BlackBerry last year are the sheer ugliness of the apps and the uninformative nature of the app store. From what you said, it looks like the latter hasn't changed.

I really wish this phone wasn't exclusive to AT&T. Verizon needs a new BlackBerry. The Bold 9650 and Storm 2 don't compare at all to the Droid X or HTC Incredible.

As much as I want a Droid X I have to admit my Tour 9630 is a great phone. Stable, good battery life and a great Twitter app.

V-Tech said,
Any idea if the OS6 will be coming to 9700 aswell?

Yeah, the 9700 is the new 9000 in that it will run but it will have barely enough to fit it all. 256MB is the minimum. THe 9650 on the other hand has 512MB RAM.

SHoTTa35 said,

Yeah, the 9700 is the new 9000 in that it will run but it will have barely enough to fit it all. 256MB is the minimum. THe 9650 on the other hand has 512MB RAM.

It's a little bit frustrating since the 9650 is better then the 9700 in every way except that it doesn't have HSDPA. Hopefully a new HSDPA bold is on the way.

ascendant123 said,

It's a little bit frustrating since the 9650 is better then the 9700 in every way except that it doesn't have HSDPA. Hopefully a new HSDPA bold is on the way.

There is. It'll be called the Bold 9780. Don't know when it will be released yet, but hopefully by the end of the year.

BlackBerry's phone design and operating system is starting to look really dated compared to many other smartphones. I was expecting bigger UI changes for OS 6.

TDQuiksilver said,
Agreed. iOS and Android are leaps ahead of RIM's offering.

I'm torn. With that fugly UI you get amazing stability and business-class application performance which I can't say that either my droid or winmo devices possess - yet.

.Neo said,
BlackBerry's phone design and operating system is starting to look really dated compared to many other smartphones. I was expecting bigger UI changes for OS 6.

Android looks outdated against Blackberry 6...to be fair, Android was always ugly...

zkid2010 said,

I'm torn. With that fugly UI you get amazing stability and business-class application performance which I can't say that either my droid or winmo devices possess - yet.


It isn't just the UI that sucks, the underlying OS does too, BlackBerry is the Windows 98 of smartphones. Sure there they did a good job with email and business managability needs, but it doesn't matter how well writtne the email app is if my OS locks up and I have to hard reboot it.

Stability, not really, the device has to reboot for minor app updates and lockups are not uncommon. Performance, not really, the OS does not have primitive multitasking, meaning that the UI becomes sluggish and unresponsive if anything is going on in the background. This all coming from a guy who has used nothing but Blackberrys for the last 10 years and has used just about every model released (yes, I am holding my new 9800 right now). Sadely, OS 6 might have a fresh new looking UI, but you will see the same sluggish performance and frequent reboots, not much has really change under the covers.

What are you doing with your BlackBerries??? I've had them forever ans they are the most solid devices I've ever owned! Sure they're not perfect but your comments don't reflect the experiences I've had with the probably hundreds of BB's I've dealt with.

MarkusDarkus said,
What are you doing with your BlackBerries??? I've had them forever ans they are the most solid devices I've ever owned! Sure they're not perfect but your comments don't reflect the experiences I've had with the probably hundreds of BB's I've dealt with.

+1 I have never had the kind of issues that sphbecker is talking about.

Sartoris said,

+1 I have never had the kind of issues that sphbecker is talking about.

Me neither. I've had my curve for over 2 years, and it's been fantastic. Yes, you have to reboot for stupid app updates, but aside from that, it's been solid as a rock. I really want to try an android phone, but I know I have to live with my phone, whatever I get, for a couple of years. I'm not sure I could live with an Android phone that long. The blackberry's been such a solid, stable phone, I would hate to take a step back.

bluefisch200 said,

Android looks outdated against Blackberry 6...to be fair, Android was always ugly...

Not if it's got another UI on top of it, such as HTC Sense, which then shows just how outdated the Blackberry UI is.

neo158 said,
Not if it's got another UI on top of it, such as HTC Sense, which then shows just how outdated the Blackberry UI is.

Agreed.

MistaT40 said,
I want to upgrade my 9700 so badly.

I just got a 9800 yesterday, so far I am not super impressed. I might switch back to my old 9700. It is a little bigger and a lot weightier than the 9700. There is really nothing wrong with it from what I can tell. It isn't god-awful like the storm (which I used for about 2 week until I could take nomore.) However, there really isn't anything all that great about it either. To me it feels like one of the many iPhone copy/cats that has a touch screen just because. The sliding keyboard might seem like you get the best of both worlds, but the phone is awkward to hold with the keyboard out and has a cheaper feel than older QWERTY models. Maybe after a few days I will warm up to this device, but so far I miss my 9700.