BlackBerry Torch 9810 : My Review

Last year RIM introduced the BlackBerry Torch 9800, a touchscreen/QWERTY-keyboard hybrid. Almost exactly a year later, the BlackBerry Torch 9810 ($50 with a two-year contract from AT&T as of August 16, 2011) has arrived.
Designwise, the two smartphones are pretty similar. The real change is in the software: The 9810 (along with the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 and the all-touch Torch 9850/9860) ships with the new BlackBerry 7 OS. However, although BlackBerry 7 OS is a big step up from the previous version, it still lacks a modern, cutting-edge feeling. On top of that, I noticed a few performance issues with the Torch 9810's browser.

Like the Torch 9800, the Torch 9810 gives you the best of both worlds: a physical keyboard and a full touch display. While the 9810 is almost identical in design to the 9800, it is slightly thinner, measuring 4.3 by 2.4 by 0.54 inches (as opposed to the 4.4-by-2.4-by-0.6-inch Torch 9800); it weighs 5.6 ounces, the same as the original Torch. The 9810 has a silver and black color scheme, which gives it a fun, flashier look in comparison with the mostly black and chrome 9800. I do prefer the textured rubber battery cover on the 9800 to the 9810's hard cover, which makes the 9810 feel plasticky and not as well constructed as its predecessor.
The slider mechanism feels sturdy and solid, and slides up smoothly to reveal the full QWERTY keyboard. The keyboard is pretty much identical to the original Torch's, as far as I can see. It's slightly wider, but you can barely tell from using it or looking at it. Nevertheless, it is a bit on the narrow side, so users with larger fingers might find it uncomfortable. Keys are sculpted and nicely sized, and include a handful of useful shortcut buttons. The Torch 9810 also has a software keyboard that you can use in portrait and landscape mode, but both variations feel pretty cramped.
The 9810's 3.2-inch 640-by-480-pixel display is an improvement over the original Torch's screen (3.2 inches, 360 by 480 pixels), but it still seems lackluster next to Samsung's Super AMOLED Plus displays or the qHD displays we've been seeing on the latest Motorola and HTC phones. It is also quite small by today's standards for touchscreen smartphones. If a larger screen is what you crave, the all-touch (no keyboard) Torch 9860 will fit the bill. The Torch 9810's display is powered by a technology (on all of the latest BlackBerrys) that RIM calls Liquid Graphics, which is supposed to give you a "smoother, more fluid touch experience." While I definitely noticed an image-quality improvement in moving from the 9800 to the 9810, I didn't exactly find the touch experience to be "fluid." I'm not sure if this was due to the processing power in the Torch 9810 or the software, but pinch-and-zoom in the browser stuttered, and scrolling wasn't as smooth as on other smartphones. On the bright side, I noticed less pixelation in images in a side-by-side comparison with the original Torch, and text looked sharper and easier to read as well.


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