BlackBerry Torch 9800

The Torch 9800 combines a touchscreen interface with a fully fledged QWERTY keyboard

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BlackBerry Torch 9800 The Torch 9800 packs a touchscreen and a QWERTY keyboard. The latter is easier to work with however
By  Jason Saundalkar Published  January 27, 2011

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Key Specs

Bluetooth: Y
Camera: 5-megapixels
Data services: Y
Media player/capture: Y
Memory: 512MB

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The Torch 9800 is Research in Motion's (RIM) latest Middle East smartphone release. Is it worthy of the BlackBerry name?

The Torch is a two in one that combines the features of the Storm and Bold 9700. The result is what you see above, a smart looking handheld with a shiny gunmetal border and a 3.2-inch screen. Slide this screen upwards and you're greeted by a full QWERTY keyboard that takes design cues from the Bold. The phone is a little heavier and bulkier than the Bold, though the keyboard itself feels more cramped thus requiring users with bigger fingers to use their nails.

The Torch is equipped with the long awaited BlackBerry OS6, complete with a Webkit browser and a Webkit/HTML e-mail client, in addition to a new ‘Universal Search'. These features are eons ahead of its kin and add a refreshing touch to the platform. That said the 624MHz CPU and 512MB of RAM seem insufficient for the new OS; noticeable lag is the order of the day.

However, the OS brings the BlackBerry up-to-date on the interface front, in that previously boring text has now been replaced by icons that are separated intelligently, thus making the user experience more fluid and intuitive. The Torch allows navigation through finger swipes on the touch screen display as well as through the trackpad. Whilst typing messages, the virtual keyboard is still clumsy unfortunately, so you're better off with the physical equivalent, which is more accurate.

The 5-megapixel camera is adequate at best in the best conditions but can't handle low light situations at all, despite the presence of a built-in flash. As a multimedia device the Torch stumbles further because 640 x 480 pixel video looks far too compressed on the Torch's 360 x 480 pixel screen. With displays that moved to 800 x 480 pixels and higher a year ago, Blackberry's offering on this device is far too basic.

The overall sensory experience of handling the Torch is unique however. It has a ribbed, rubberised back cover and faux metal frame. Clean lines accentuate the guise and the four essential Blackberry buttons on the bottom keep it collared up. On the whole the Torch, despite its new OS and features, is a better business device than one that everyday consumers will appreciate. The only real trump card the Torch has is its free messaging applications though that isn't unique to the Torch.

We don't think the Torch is a phone current Blackberry users would switch to. Not because it can't handle anything that the Bold or Curve can but purely because it's not a Blackberry in essence. It's bulkier, thicker, heavier, it slides open, it has a touch screen, an iffy virtual keyboard and various other features that tries to serve one too many user types.

For: BlackBerry OS6 offers a splashy interface, keyboard is decent to work on, reasonable battery life.
Against: Dated screen, camera is quite basic, touchscreen keyboard isn’t very accurate, poor performance.
Verdict: In its current form the Torch 9800 is a solid business device but its star appeal is handicapped by its deadweight consumer features.

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