After months of anticipation, we're now witnessing the largest global launch of BlackBerry Smartphones ever, with Research In Motion rolling out five models of BlackBerry 7 Smartphones to 225 carrier and distribution partners around the world. With the new phones all based off the same hardware and software platforms and delivering mainly similar features and performance, perhaps the most critical decision to be made by would be purchases is determining what design form factor to choose.
The Torch 9800's sliding form factor is for people who want that full touchscreen experience but don't want to give up a keyboard. Be sure to visit our BlackBerry Torch 9810 Pricing and Release Date post for carrier information relevant to you.
The 1.2GHz processor and updated display serves the BlackBerry Torch 9810 well. Add 768MB of RAM to the mix with an updated browsing experience and BlackBerry 7 software and you have one solid, tried, tested and true BlackBerry device.
The battery door is hideous, but luckily it can be swapped out. It's a rehashed device and current Torch owners looking to upgrade may feel ripped off from that new device feeling. Some issues found on the original BlackBerry Torch have the potential to arise here as well.
The Bottom line
If you're a slider fan but felt the original BlackBerry Torch to be underpowered, you owe it to yourself to at the very least, put this device in your hands and take it for a spin. It's a solid, faster Torch experience and as much as we hate to repeat ourselves, is what the original BlackBerry Torch should have been. First time Torch owners will love the power the device brings!
With the release of the BlackBerry Torch 9810 many folks are wondering, is the update worth it? Not only for already existing Torch owners but those who are considering picking up a BlackBerry Torch for the first time. Truth is, I can't really answer that. I can only highlight the differences between the new version in relation to the old version and from my experience with the BlackBerry Torch 9810.
Overall, from an outward look, you'll not notice many hardware changes at all. Sure, you get some new brushed metal on there, a new battery door for better or worse and the screen is visibly better, but side-by-side many folks would be hard pressed to realize the difference between the two. It's only when you pick the device up do you start to notice that, hey ... this really is a different device. The internal changes here are what really matter and in that respect, it's certainly an upgrade.
When the BlackBerry Torch 9800 arrived on the scene it was a change for RIM, many people hated the slider design, but at the same time many people loved it and still do so today. For those already existing Torch fans, you'll love everything about the BlackBerry Torch 9810 in my opinion, but you'll be sacrificing the good feeling the comes along with the purchase of a brand new device.
Appearance, Form Factor, Build Quality
Before sitting down to write this review, I did go back and take a look at Kevin's BlackBerry Torch 9800 review, which in it's own right was an epic feat. I was curious to see what exactly, after all this time, may still ring true for the BlackBerry Torch 9810 -- and given the fact that not a lot in regards to physical appearance has changed -- quite a bit of his review remains the same here, but one portion stuck out to me personally:
It's no easy task to describe the appearance of the BlackBerry Torch 9800. I wouldn't call the design industrial nor would I call it sleek or contemporary or even sexy. That's not to say it looks old or ugly, because it doesn't. The best single word I could come up with to describe the Torch 9800 is unpretentious. Sitting on the desk with the slider closed or slid open in the hand, the Torch exudes a sort of understated vibe. It's not trying to grab your attention via unnecessary bling, it's just there to be a reliable phone and get the job done.
In comparison to say, the BlackBerry Bold 9900, the BlackBerry Torch 9810 doesn't have any "bling" factor for me. It sticks out as one of those devices that has it's core audience of fans but only the minor few are picking this device up based on its looks.
When we put build quality into play here, I have to say that the BlackBerry Torch 9810 feels quite nice. One exception to that though is in the battery door. Why RIM decided to go with the silver finish battery door this time around, I'll never know. I assume it was to keep the device in line with the new color scheme they chose but realistically, the battery door just feels cheap. If, after you read this review, you plan on picking a Torch 9810 up -- do yourself a favor and score a different battery door. The Torch 9800 battery doors fit fine as kind, so finding one shouldn't be hard.
While the BlackBerry Torch 9800 took on a dark silver color, the Torch 9810 adopts a brushed aluminum look this time around. Other colors such as white are coming, but the brushed aluminum silver version is first out of the gates. While I was fond of the 9800's darker tone, I have to say the silver does the device justice even if it didn't appeal to me at first. Over time, the color scheme has now grown on me and it really does make the device look more quality.
RIM has maintained the exact same weight, and sizing for the BlackBerry Torch 9810 although holding both in your hand at the same time, the Torch 9810 does feel ever so slightly lighter. I don't have a digital scale to put them to the test to see if one is off moreso then the other but if it is -- it's not by much. The features and specifications information pegs them both at 5.68 oz / 161 g so we'll go with it.
Again, RIM has decided to forgo making a left side convenience key available to users. The reason for it does in fact still remain a mystery but at this point, most users are getting used to it. While I'm not a fan of the fact, I've learned to move beyond it and realistically BlackBerry developers like ShaoSoft have stepped in to fill that void with tools such as ExtraKeys. Hopefully, something that will continue to live on as we transition into the BlackBerry 7 software.
On the right is where you'll find the one convenience key RIM did leave on the device. You can adjust this key to whatever you need to do so of course which is nice. Nothing new but the fact it remains there is quite awesome. Also on the right, you have your standard 3.5mm headphone jack and to go along with it, your volume up and down rockers. The buttons here have the rubber coating on them that has become familiar on a lot of BlackBerry devices past and current. You'll have no issues with the buttons -- they're not too easy to press but not too hard either.
I did have some issues on my original Torch 9800 where the volume up button stopped working though after minimal use. Something to be mindful of but looking back at a couple of things, my original Torch was in fact a revision 1 build. I know this, due to the fact it was literally stamped on the device. Odd, I know -- but I've seen later revisions and this issue was seemingly addressed. I have no reason to believe RIM would repeat the same mistakes here.
One question I've noticed users asking about the BlackBerry Torch 9810 is whether or not the lock and silent buttons at the top have changed in any sort of way. Reason being is that some folks found the buttons entirely too easy to press often causing accidental locking, unlocking and some pocket usage. Let me just say, if you had issues in the past, you will be repeating the same issues on the BlackBerry Torch 9810. The buttons have in no way changed and they are 100% identical to that of the original Torch 9800.
One thing I've come to realize about the the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and BlackBerry Torch 9800 series is you're either a fan of the all-in-one design it has going on or you're just simply not. The design of the device is unique, unassuming and can really be anything you want it to be.
Want it to be a touchscreen device? It can do it. Want it to be a work horse with a physical keyboard? It can do it. Want it to be a workhorse with a physical keyboard that also allows for touchscreen interaction? It can do it.
It may not do all those things perfectly but it pulls each and every one of them off and does so all while still feeling like a quality device.
Processor / Chipset / Performance
All of the newly-announced BlackBerry 7 Smartphones, including the BlackBerry Torch, are running the Qualcomm Scorpion MSM 8655 processor clocked at 1.2GHz on the Snapdragon chipset. An Adreno 205 GPU (graphics processing unit) is also on-board, powering BlackBerry 7's hardware accelerated graphics, which RIM has dubbed "liquid graphics." At 1.2GHz, the processing power is roughly double the speed of previous generation BlackBerry Torch. In addition to more speed, this hardware platform upgrade addresses a lot of the other nagging wants we've had for a while now, including 3D graphics support (has been lacking to date on GSM BlackBerrys), HD video recording and more RAM. The BlackBerry Torch 9810 comes with 768MB of RAM.
So what the heck does all this mean for BlackBerry 7? Will an already existing BlackBerry Torch 9800 owner find the value here? In short, you're getting a really kick arse upgrade internally. Things that used to slow the BlackBerry OS down to a crawl no longer do. Deleting an application or even downloading multiple apps on previous BlackBerry devices is painful. It basically means you stop whatever you are doing for the next 5 minutes until your device decides what it is doing and even after that, you likely still have to wait for a reboot.
Well, no longer is it such a pain. I'm in no way saying your device will never again see the dreaded hour glass -- in fact, I promise it will. But, what I am saying is that in most cases when you do it see it -- you're seeing it because it's there to tell you that your device is doing something rather then before when it popped up to basically say "Sod off, I'm busy". You can, for the most part carry on doing things now. You can download 4 applications at once, all while composing an email and sending it off. The only time it will slow down is when it reaches the point of installation -- then you're stopped for a few seconds.
Keyboard / Typing
Physical Keyboard - Heading to one of BlackBerry smartphones best features -- the keyboard. We have some debate here when we compare the BlackBerry Torch 9810 to that of the BlackBerry Torch 9800. RIM says that the keyboard is minutely wider then that of the one found on the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and while I can't see or for that matter even feel the difference, I'm sure diehard Torch fans will notice it. To me though, it's the same keyboard. It has the same "clicky" keys that will eventually soften over time and become less noisy and is as responsive as anyone would expect a BlackBerry keyboard to be.
Virtual Keyboard - The virtual keyboard on the BlackBerry Torch 9810 and ultimately, BlackBerry 7 did get a makeover for the better. While I find I still dislike typing on a BlackBerry virtual keyboard due to the fact I'm a fan of RIM's physical keyboards, the new layout does justice to the devices. While it may only be a minor change in the placement of the keys, I found the layout to be more natural I guess you could say.
The pop up keys work quite nicely and I found myself navigating the layout easier on the 9810 more so then on the 9800. You really do need to be the type of individual who enjoys typing on a virtual keyboard to use it but the good thing here is, you're not forced to use it if you don't want to.
Personally, I still say the iPhone has the best virtual keyboard in the business. RIM doesn't meet that keyboard here or excel past it but when it comes down to it, in my opinion, it meets the keyboards found on any Android device running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. That statement of course doesn't take into account that you can install a multitude of different keyboards on an Android device but vs. stock Android -- RIM is on par here now.
To put the keyboard conversation to rest, let me just say that it is nice to have the combination of virtual and physical keyboards. On my original Torch 9800, I found I was using the physical keyboard more so then that of the virtual keyboard. With the BlackBerry Torch 9810 and it's new virtual keyboard layout, I found I was using a good mix of both finally -- which is the intended usage for the device. The thing about it though is that it could depend on quite a few variables. My mood, laziness or even the urgency of the matter at hand. If I need to bang something out quick, you bet I'm going physical. If I can take my time with it, chances are I'll go virtual and take my time.
While it's not noted any where in the specs, I'm sure RIM did improve upon the Touchscreen found on the BlackBerry Torch 9800. The real question is whether they came at the software level or hardware level. Either way, the screen does feel overall improved from that of the BlackBerry Torch 9800. Accuracy is the thing I noticed most. When touching the same items on both devices I found the Torch 9810 was the one coming out on top for accuracy. Again, software or hardware? I really don't know -- the best I can say is that the Touchscreen on the Torch 9810 works quite fine.
Internal Storage: The BlackBerry Torch 9810 comes loaded up with 8GB of internal storage on the device. This does differ from that of the BlackBerry Torch 9800 were you got 4GB of internal storage and a 4GB SD Card to go along with it. What you do with the storage is entirely up to you. Music, videos, photos -- what not. You have plenty of room on board for it all and you can always extend that up to 32GB with an external SD Card. (whether or not a micro-SD card comes in the box will be carrier dependent - the Bell unit reviewed here did not ship with a micro SD card)
Application Storage: This information always causes some people to question what the heck RIM is doing. Why don't BlackBerry devices have a ton of room for applications? Well, fact of the matter is BlackBerry applications really don't require a lot of space -- not sure why everyone gets in an uproar about this. Out of the box, my BlackBerry Torch 9810 had 191.6MB of application storage available to it. Right now, currently -- it has 169.8MB available to it.
This is AFTER downloading every possible app I would use on my device. Twitter, Facebook, Socialscope, Wordpress, Flixster, Poynt, BlackBerry Travel, Evernote and more. If you're running out of room on your BlackBerry device then I really have to question how much of the stuff you have on your device you're actually using. There is more then enough room for applications you use with BlackBerry devices.
Now if you find yourself asking, "Well, what about the new games and such the use 3D content and are heavier?" and to that I say -- if developers are making their apps according to the guidelines RIM has set in place this shouldn't be an issue. Developers have an allotted limited to make their apps -- anything over and above that can be added to the app as a download when you first open the application.
The data will then be downloaded over WiFi and any content downloaded now has access to the SD Card for storage. No, you cannot store and run apps off the SD Card this way -- but, the additional content needed for apps can be stored there. Application storage for the new BlackBerry devices is quite sufficient when placed directly in comparison to the size of the applications available.
Battery life on the original Torch 9800 wasn't exactly the best -- it's pretty much fact at this point. However, that said; there was quite a few things that impacted this. Out of the gates, the battery optimization deep down in the OS just seemed to not really be there -- to go along with that, later OS releases were found to cause excessive battery drainage on the device. Sadly, a lot of people may have gone on this way for quite some time due to how RIM rolls OS updates out. An issue was found in the BlackBerry Torch 9800 OS' between OS 126.96.36.1996 to 188.8.131.526 and unless you upgraded to a leaked OS you were stuck with pretty crappy battery life until your carrier rolled out a better OS.
With that information out of the way, it seems RIM was proactive in this area with the release of the BlackBerry Torch 9810. I'm assuming they used the knowledge gained from those issues to help optimize the BlackBerry Torch 9810 battery, even with it being based on a new 1.2GHz processor. While we're still looking at some current issues with the BlackBerry Bold 9900 battery, from my usage of the BlackBerry Torch 9810 I can say I'm quite pleased with it thus far and mainly because I've been spending and equal amount of time on both devices and the Torch 9810 is outlasting the battery of life of that in my BlackBerry Bold 9900.
Granted, it does have a bigger battery at 1270mAh vs. 1230mAh in the Bold 9900 but one wouldn't think that extra 40mAH would make all the much of a difference. Like all things battery related though, it depends on many variables such as coverage and usage so your mileage may vary. I've made it a general rule these days to purchase a spare battery for all my devices because let's face it -- we're not rocking RIM 950's here. One AA Energizer isn't going to keep these things going any more.
Here is how RIM lists the BlackBerry Torch 9810 Standards For Battery Life:
Talk time: Up to 6.5 hours (GSM), up to 5.9 hours (UMTS)
Standby time: Up to 12.8 days (GSM), up to 12.3 days (UMTS)
Music playback time: Up to 54 hours
Video playback time: Up to 7 hours
Phone and Audio
Call quality and speaker phone quality is something often overlooked these days in reviews but, for some it remains a very important feature of a smartPHONE. When it comes to the BlackBerry Torch 9810 and RIM devices in particular, I saw heard no issues. Calls placed were loud enough for those on the other end to hear me with no noticeable distortion, no hollow sounds -- everything came out quality sounding.
To test it even further, I went to the mall to put myself in dreadful coverage zone and even at it's worst while riding EDGE the BlackBerry Torch 9810 performed well. In good coverage the speaker phone was great for those on the other end. I would have loved for it to be a little louder on my end but it worked quite alright and I'm guessing will be sufficient for most users. That said though, speakerphone in bad coverage is pretty bad. I gave up trying, not sure what would have caused it to be any different then holding the device, maybe the distance but either way it wasn't usable.
Cameras / Video Recording
Unlike the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and its use of EDOF (Extended Depth of Field) the BlackBerry Torch 9810 makes use of a 5MP auto focus camera that works quite well. Again, reaching back to Kevin's review of the BlackBerry Torch 9800 he noted:
While the 5 megapixel camera captures images with a resolution of up to 2592 x 1944 pixels, unfortunately the video camera recording caps out at only 640 x 480 resolution. I have a hunch the actual camera hardware is capable of recording in higher resolutions (I bet it can do HD), but again this is a limitation of the current chipset used in the Torch.
And as much as I hate to say it, he was right. The camera on the BlackBerry Torch 9810 now does do 720p HD video. Images can be snapped at 2560x1920 as a max now and video goes up to 720x1280. Probably the best addition in this area over the Torch 9800 and likely part of the BlackBerry 7 software as well, is the fact videos and images can be created in landscape or portrait. Yes, you could do that on the Torch 9800 but videos came out sideways and never looked right on Youtube. Now, you can capture video in landscape mode, upload to Youtube and they turn out looking normal.
Unfortunately, I realized that fact after having taken the above video in portrait mode. Which, comes out rather oblong due to the sizing of the BlackBerry Torch 9810's screen. Similar scenarios are found on the iPhone, Android devices as well -- if you really want to capture video, do so in landscape of deal with the dreaded oblong format. Either way, the BlackBerry Torch 9810 captures great video and images in my opinion. But keep in mind I'm also the type of person who believes no one should buying a smartphone to use as their main precious moments in life capturing tool. I also realized I'm a pretty shaky individual, and should lay off the energy drinks.
Other Internals - Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi
Bluetooth: Pretty standard operations here. Headsets, my MacBook and even my PlayBook all connected fine through testing. None of the devices ever dropped the connection at any given point either. In the past, and especially on my Bold 9780 I had some issues with it being rather finicky on what, and for how long it wanted to stay connected to but none of that was witnessed here on the BlackBerry Torch 9810.
GPS: This is an area that a lot of people have been wondering about for the new BlackBerry 7 devices. With the inclusion of a digital compass, Magnetometer the real question is whether or not GPS performance has benefited in anyway. From testing the Torch 9810 and using my Bold 9900 I am totally convinced that GPS performance has improved. My BlackBerry Bold 9780 used to come close to my location within a few meters but the BlackBerry Torch 9810 can pinpoint the exact location of where I live. Even though it says it may be a few meters off, it's dead on.
WiFi: Another one of those areas where I have had no issues with the BlackBerry Torch 9810. WiFi connects fast on my ISP's Motorola WiFi modem and while out and about, I could easily attach to WiFi connections at locations like Starbucks and McDonalds. 802.11 b/g/n are all supported on the BlackBerry Torch 9810.
WiFi HotSpot / NFC: You'll find neither here. However, you MAY have some hope for seeing WiFi HotSpot in the future as well as UMA calling. The HotSpot feature may come as a software update at a later time according to some information but you shouldn't buy the device counting on it -- just like you shouldn't buy it counting on it getting an upgrade later to QNX.
As for NFC, I'll hold my personal comments on that feature and just say that the BlackBerry Torch does not have it on board. If you were looking for it to be included, you're better off looking elsewhere for it.
BlackBerry Torch 9810 Accessories
For some, this alone might be reason enough to look at getting a BlackBerry Torch 9810. Where the device remains for the most part cosmetically unchanged from the BlackBerry Torch 9800, most accessories purchased will fit the BlackBerry Torch 9810. The only things that may not work is anything form fitted around that keyboard, however - I can't even recall seeing anything the would cover the keyboard and specifically over the keys. You can use some of the money saved on BlackBerry Torch 9810 accessories to grab your self something for your BlackBerry PlayBook or for that matter -- put it towards a PlayBook fund if you don't already have one.
BlackBerry Torch 9810 Hardware Wrap-Up
The BlackBerry Torch 9810 has everything all-in-one that a lot of users can make use of. Touchscreen, physical keyboard and now, with the 1.2GHz Qualcomm processor and 640x480 display plus that 768MB of RAM it really does pack a punch. It's a fast device and one that can handle anything a BlackBerry users is going to throw at it. It still has that tool-like feeling of the original Torch, but time will tell.
Yes, the changes for the most part are internal, and the device is still using the same old easy to bump lock button and the slider mechanism here doesn't seem to be any different from the BlackBerry Torch 9800 but that's ok. If you're a fan of the original BlackBerry Torch but after time felt it underpowered, you owe it to yourself to at the very least, put this device in your hands and take it for a spin. It's a solid, faster device and as much as I hate to repeat myself -- is what the original BlackBerry Torch should have been.
BlackBerry 7 OS Impressions
What started life as BlackBerry 6.1 has now transitioned into the new BlackBerry 7 OS. Code optimization, liquid graphics. Swiping, zooming and scrolling all while maintaining the same BlackBerry feel just in a faster, improved environment. That about sums up BlackBerry 7 from a RIM standpoint. But how does all that translate to a current BlackBerry user? Quite nicely in fact.
I'm not going to blow the RIM smoke and say that it's a totally transformative experience that'll change the way you look at the BlackBerry OS but I will say things do generally feel better on BlackBerry 7 vs. BlackBerry 6. With built-in features you can tell RIM is getting ready to transition into something bigger, being QNX. But the fact they took the time to clean up the useless code left over from when the BlackBerry OS first starting out shows they're still relying on BlackBerry 7 as we know it to get them through things.
BlackBerry 7 overall feels better then BlackBerry 6 all while maintaining the familiar BlackBerry feeling. Something that I'm sure some will say is a bad thing at this point, claiming RIM needs a complete overhaul to QNX on their smartphones but realistically - RIM will do fine with BlackBerry 7 for now. Coupled with the hardware improvements, even if liquid graphics is something they just made up; they've since turned it into something real by making the changes visible to the end user.
Add in the ability to manage panels, bake in BlackBerry Protect and BlackBerry ID and a browser that is on par with iOS, Android as well as vocal universal search and you add some value to the aging OS for users that is visual and there for all to see. When it comes down to it, RIM should have done this a while ago -- clean up dirty code, get hardware up to snuff and make things more stable but they didn't. We're getting it now, for some it maybe too late but at the same time -- not everyone wants a overnight overhaul into QNX and for those anyone who is fine waiting for RIM to do it right, BlackBerry 7 is a nice subtle change with some real deep down changes.
BlackBerry Torch 9810 Conclusions
If I had not used the original BlackBerry Torch 9800 and picked this device up, it would be a quick sale for whomever was close by to sell it to me provided they never showed me the BlackBerry Bold 9900. However; being a former BlackBerry Torch 9800 user, I can't envision me in store buying this device. Yes, the updates to it are great -- they really are. But purchasing a new device should give you the feeling the you are actually getting something new and despite all the awesome internal changes here it just feels more of the same. If you're an already existing Torch 9800 owner and are totally fine with knowing that you're just getting a faster version of what you already own then by all means -- get one.
If you're new to the BlackBerry Torch 9810 and have never previously owned a BlackBerry Torch 9800 then you'll have that new device joy, you'll be thoroughly pleased with how fast the device is and you'll certainly appreciate the deep down changes found in BlackBerry 7. The keyboard is great, the touchscreen is really responsive, the processor is fast and finally -- the browser rocks!
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