BlackBerry Torch 9810 review:

Photo gallery: BlackBerry Torch 9810 (AT&T)
Photo gallery:
BlackBerry Torch 9810 (AT&T)

Despite BlackBerry’s continued popularity around the globe, RIM has been on the receiving end of some bad press in the past year. iOS and Android handsets are dominating the market, leaving RIM in the dust as it struggles to catch up with the competition. BlackBerry OS 6 was not the savior it was supposed to be, and though the Torch 9800 was not a bad device, it didn’t quite win the hearts and minds of those not already in the BlackBerry fanbase. It was clear that BlackBerry needed a substantial upgrade to not only its operating system but its hardware as well.

Which is why the Torch 9810 is rather disappointing. The hardware design is very similar to that of its predecessor, with the same size touch screen and similar portrait sliding keyboard as before. Under the hood, it offers a number of improvements like a faster 1.2GHz processor, a crisper display, 720p HD video recording, upgraded apps, and BlackBerry’s new OS 7, but it’s an incremental upgrade on the whole. We do think the Torch 9810 will please those already entrenched on BlackBerry’s side, but not so much everyone else. Still, for only $49.95, we think it’s an absolute bargain for budget-conscious consumers who want an alternative to iOS or Android.

Design
While the Torch 9800 debuted a brand-new form factor for RIM, the Torch 9810 is mostly a repeat performance. When placed side by side, you can’t tell them apart unless you take a closer look. The Torch 9810 has the same portrait slider design with a touch screen dominating the front, and its measurements are the same as well: 4.4 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick. Indeed, the only noticeable difference at first glance is that the Torch 9810 has a silver paint job instead of black. If you flip it around, you’ll also notice the Torch 9810 has a textured plastic back instead of the soft touch finish that was on the Torch 9800. The Torch 9810 still has a nice solid heft in the hand, but the plastic backing cheapens the otherwise premium feel of the phone.


The Torch 9810 looks very similar to the Torch 9800.

The display on the Torch 9810 is where it starts to set itself apart from its predecessor. It still measures 3.2 inches diagonally, but it now boasts a 640×480-pixel resolution instead of the 480×360-pixel resolution of the Torch 9800. OS 7 also promises a new Liquid Graphics technology that RIM says allows for improved graphics, and we have to say we agree. Graphics simply look smoother and sharper, and text is crisper than before thanks to the improved pixel density. The display is not quite as glamorous as the Super AMOLED Plus displays we’ve seen lately, but the vibrant and colorful display is clearly an improvement from the previous Torch.

We found the touch screen to be remarkably responsive, perhaps thanks to the aforementioned Liquid Graphics technology in conjunction with the Torch 9810’s new 1.2GHz processor. We experienced zero lag when navigating the phone and launching applications. Scrolling felt zippier and more fluid than before, which was especially noticeable in long Web pages. It takes only a split second for the accelerometer to kick in. For basic navigation, we thought its speed was on par with Android smartphones that have dual-core processors. As with the previous Torch, the Torch 9810 has a proximity sensor and supports pinch-to-zoom gestures.
Located right underneath the display are the Send, Menu, Back, and End/Power keys with BlackBerry’s traditional optical touch pad in the middle. While it might seem redundant to have both a touch screen and the optical touch pad, the touch pad allows for finer and more precise control in certain applications. Still, we found that the touch screen alone worked well enough most of the time.

If you want to type up a quick text, you can choose to use the onscreen keyboard. It works both in portrait and landscape mode, and is surprisingly spacious, with large keys and sufficient room between each key. Our only complaint is that the screen’s smaller-than-usual size reduces the text input area significantly when the onscreen keyboard is on display. The OS 7 keyboard boasts improved text prediction, and indeed, perhaps because of our proclivity toward onscreen keyboards, we actually found it faster and easier than the physical version.

But if you insist on using the latter, fear not, as the Torch 9810 slides open vertically to reveal that famous BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard. The slider mechanism is smooth, solid, and springs securely into place in either the open or close position. As we mentioned earlier, this is the same form factor as on the original Torch 9800. Yet, the keyboard is just a touch wider on the 9810, and it’s not quite as thin as before. We still think large thumbs might need some time to acclimate to it, but on the whole, we found typing to be quite comfortable. The keyboard is roomy enough for a portrait slider, and though the keys are small, they’re raised so it’s still easy to text by feel.

The rest of the phone’s external controls mirror that of the Torch 9800. You get the lock and mute buttons at the top of the phone, the Micro-USB port on the left spine, and the 3.5mm headset jack, volume rocker, and customizable convenience key on the right. The camera lens and LED flash are on the back, while the microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover.

AT&T packages the Torch 9810 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a polishing cloth, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

User interface and software
Much that is different about BlackBerry OS 7 lies under the hood, and is not visible at first glance. Indeed, OS 6 and OS 7 feel incredibly similar. The user interface is the same, with the Quick Access area (it houses the date, time, and connection settings) at the top, the notification bar below that, and the navigation bar that leads to apps and content in All, Favorites, Media, Download, and Frequent categories. The navigation is the same as well–you can collapse and expand each of these areas, and you can swipe left and right between the different categories.

We’ve already mentioned the most noticeable OS 7 change, and that’s the new Liquid Graphics interface that promises richer graphics and performance. OS 7 also improved upon existing OS 6 features like adding a voice function to universal search. Simply tap the microphone icon to the right of the search field, and you’ll be prompted to speak with a “Listening…” dialog box. After you’re done speaking, tap the Done button and it’ll display the spoken text in the search field. As with OS 6, you can search the entire contents of your phone, plus you can extend the search to Google, Facebook, YouTube, BlackBerry App World, and third party apps.

Other OS 7 improvements include a revamped BlackBerry browser with a just-in-time JavaScript compiler and HTML 5 video support, 720p HD video recording, and support for augmented reality applications. An example of the latter is Wikitude, an app that integrates with BBM and other location-based social network services (Foursquare, Gowalla, Flickr, Twitter, etc.) to let you know if your contacts are nearby just by using your phone’s camera and magnetic compass. Wikitude has also partnered with a few businesses like Hertz car rental and Starbucks to show you those locations as well. BlackBerry OS 7 also supports NFC, but that is unfortunately not available with the Torch 9810.

Features
The RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 is a quad-band world phone featuring 3G and HSPA+ technology, which AT&T defines as “4G.” It also supports Bluetooth 2.2, Wi-Fi, and GPS. You’ll also get the usual speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, visual voice mail, and text and multimedia messaging. The latter is combined into a unified inbox with other messaging systems and supports threaded conversations and group chat. As we hinted at above, you also get support for any instant messaging client as long as you have the app for it.

BlackBerry’s strength has always been its strong e-mail integration and it’s no different with the Torch 9810. It’s able to sync with BlackBerry Enterprise Server as well as Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, and Novell GroupWise for all your corporate e-mail needs. You can also use a free but limited version of BES that lets you sync your Exchange calendar, contacts, and tasks. If you want to check your personal e-mail, the Torch 9810 lets you access up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts in either separate or combined in-boxes via BlackBerry Internet Service. There’s a handy setup wizard that walks you through the process of setting up your BlackBerry ID and connecting that to your e-mail address. If you use a web mail service like GMail, Yahoo, AOL, or Windows Live, it’s as easy as entering in your login information–you can also set up your own POP3 and IMAP4 account if you wish. We were able to get our Gmail account added in just a few steps, but it did take almost 20 minutes for the phone to sync up our inbox.

RIM is keen on social network integration with its new BlackBerry handsets, so it’s no surprise that the Torch 9810 comes bundled with the latest BlackBerry editions of the Facebook and Twitter apps. You also get Social Feeds 2.0, an app that houses a variety of RSS feeds, podcast subscriptions, BBM, Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk, and more into a single hub. BBM has also been updated to BBM 6, which features tighter integration with apps like Foursquare or games so you can let your BBM contacts know of your check-ins and high scores. You can also start a BBM chat within any of those apps.

Other preinstalled apps include a memo pad, a calculator, a calendar, a tasks list, a premium version of Docs to Go, BlackBerry Balance, BlackBerry Protect, YPMobile, The Weather Channel, Fandango, Bloomberg Mobile, and Password Keeper. Instant messaging fans will also appreciate that Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and Google Talk are included as well. Six AT&T apps are also preloaded on the Torch 9810, and they are AT&T FamilyMap, myAT&T, AT&T Maps, AT&T Music, AT&T Live TV, and AT&T Code Scanner. You can purchase and download more apps from the BlackBerry App World store.

Web browsing and multimedia
As we mentioned earlier, one of the key new features of OS 7 lies with its Webkit browser. It has a new just-in-time JavaScript compiler that helps to load pages faster. We connected both the Torch 9800 and the Torch 9810 to a local Wi-Fi network to see if the browser is faster. Indeed, the Torch 9810 loaded the full CNET page in just 12 seconds, while the Torch 9800 needed around 20 seconds to load the same site. That puts the Torch 9810 on par with other Webkit browsers–the Safari browser on the iPhone 4 took around 12 seconds to load the full CNET page as well.

Another browser improvement is support for HTML 5 video. We tried out a few demo videos on html5video.org, and the Torch 9810 played them just fine. Those looking for Flash support will be disappointed, however. There’s no word from RIM if Flash support is in the future for OS 7. The rest of the OS 7 browser is the same as with OS 6, with features like tabbed browsing, enhanced URL sharing, pinch-to-zoom, text reflow, and more.

The Torch 9810 has pretty decent multimedia offerings for what is still a corporate-friendly handset. You get a dedicated YouTube app, Slacker Radio, and a new dedicated podcast app. The built-in music player also has a decent interface, with a Cover Flow-like presentation of albums and tracks. It supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, FLAC, and OGG audio formats, and the video player supports MPEG4, H.263, H.264, and WMV video codecs. To get media files on the phone, you can either load up a content-filled microSD card or drag and drop them to a connected BlackBerry like it’s a mass storage device. You can also use the BlackBerry Desktop Software to sync your media libraries. The Torch 9810 has 8GB onboard memory, but the microSD card slot can take up to 32GB cards.


The BlackBerry Torch 9810 takes good pictures on the whole, though it requires you to tweak the camera settings.

We’re mostly pleased with the 5-megapixel camera on the Torch 9810. It has a slew of settings like image stabilization, up to three resolutions, autofocus, geotagging, flash, and lots of scene modes that include face detection, night mode, and one just for capturing text. The result is pretty good photo quality for the most part. Images looked sharp and colors were accurate, especially in bright sunlight. Low light shots suffered a little bit, and looked softer than usual.

A big upgrade from the first Torch 9800 is that the Torch 9810 now supports 720p HD video. We took a few short video clips and were impressed with what we saw. Video was crisp and colorful, though we did encounter some graininess with indoor shots. We would recommend you disable auto focus, as the video camera kept trying to refocus the shot every time we moved the phone.

Performance
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was quite impressive on the whole. We experienced good signal strength and heard our callers clearly. They sounded quite loud as well, with voices that sounded nice and natural. There was a tiny bit of distortion at times, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.

Callers reported great results as well. They did say our voice sometimes leaned a little robotic, but it was quite natural sounding most of the time. Speakerphone results were decent as well.

RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 call quality sample
Listen now:

Instead of just regular 3G, the Torch 9810 now has HSPA+, which boasts improved data speeds with a theoretical maximum of 14.4 Mbps download speed. While we hesitate to call this technology “4G,” we did notice it was quite fast. We loaded the mobile CNET page in just 6 seconds, while the full CNET site loaded in around 14 seconds. We downloaded and installed a 1.3MB app in just 43 seconds. We experienced very little buffering when watching YouTube videos as well.

The BlackBerry Torch 9810 has a rated talk time of 6.5 hours (2G)/5.9 hours (3G) and up to 12.8 days (2G)/12.3 days (3G) of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the Torch 9810 has a digital SAR of 1.44 watts per kilogram.

Conclusion
The RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 offers several improvements over its predecessor, like a 1.2GHz processor, 720p HD video recording, HSPA+ speeds, a sharper display, and of course BlackBerry OS 7. The latter provides a new Liquid Graphics technology that makes the touch screen that much snappier, voice-activated universal search, improved applications, as well as support for new technologies like augmented reality applications. On the whole, however, it’s a rather incremental upgrade. The design is the same as before, with not a lot of changes to the portrait sliding keyboard, and OS 7 itself is not too different from OS 6 in terms of the user interface. Yet, at $49.95, it’s an absolute bargain for BlackBerry fans.

Photo gallery: BlackBerry Torch 9810 (AT&T)
Photo gallery:
BlackBerry Torch 9810 (AT&T)

Despite BlackBerry’s continued popularity around the globe, RIM has been on the receiving end of some bad press in the past year. iOS and Android handsets are dominating the market, leaving RIM in the dust as it struggles to catch up with the competition. BlackBerry OS 6 was not the savior it was supposed to be, and though the Torch 9800 was not a bad device, it didn’t quite win the hearts and minds of those not already in the BlackBerry fanbase. It was clear that BlackBerry needed a substantial upgrade to not only its operating system but its hardware as well.

Which is why the Torch 9810 is rather disappointing. The hardware design is very similar to that of its predecessor, with the same size touch screen and similar portrait sliding keyboard as before. Under the hood, it offers a number of improvements like a faster 1.2GHz processor, a crisper display, 720p HD video recording, upgraded apps, and BlackBerry’s new OS 7, but it’s an incremental upgrade on the whole. We do think the Torch 9810 will please those already entrenched on BlackBerry’s side, but not so much everyone else. Still, for only $49.95, we think it’s an absolute bargain for budget-conscious consumers who want an alternative to iOS or Android.

Design
While the Torch 9800 debuted a brand-new form factor for RIM, the Torch 9810 is mostly a repeat performance. When placed side by side, you can’t tell them apart unless you take a closer look. The Torch 9810 has the same portrait slider design with a touch screen dominating the front, and its measurements are the same as well: 4.4 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick. Indeed, the only noticeable difference at first glance is that the Torch 9810 has a silver paint job instead of black. If you flip it around, you’ll also notice the Torch 9810 has a textured plastic back instead of the soft touch finish that was on the Torch 9800. The Torch 9810 still has a nice solid heft in the hand, but the plastic backing cheapens the otherwise premium feel of the phone.


The Torch 9810 looks very similar to the Torch 9800.

The display on the Torch 9810 is where it starts to set itself apart from its predecessor. It still measures 3.2 inches diagonally, but it now boasts a 640×480-pixel resolution instead of the 480×360-pixel resolution of the Torch 9800. OS 7 also promises a new Liquid Graphics technology that RIM says allows for improved graphics, and we have to say we agree. Graphics simply look smoother and sharper, and text is crisper than before thanks to the improved pixel density. The display is not quite as glamorous as the Super AMOLED Plus displays we’ve seen lately, but the vibrant and colorful display is clearly an improvement from the previous Torch.

We found the touch screen to be remarkably responsive, perhaps thanks to the aforementioned Liquid Graphics technology in conjunction with the Torch 9810’s new 1.2GHz processor. We experienced zero lag when navigating the phone and launching applications. Scrolling felt zippier and more fluid than before, which was especially noticeable in long Web pages. It takes only a split second for the accelerometer to kick in. For basic navigation, we thought its speed was on par with Android smartphones that have dual-core processors. As with the previous Torch, the Torch 9810 has a proximity sensor and supports pinch-to-zoom gestures.
Located right underneath the display are the Send, Menu, Back, and End/Power keys with BlackBerry’s traditional optical touch pad in the middle. While it might seem redundant to have both a touch screen and the optical touch pad, the touch pad allows for finer and more precise control in certain applications. Still, we found that the touch screen alone worked well enough most of the time.

If you want to type up a quick text, you can choose to use the onscreen keyboard. It works both in portrait and landscape mode, and is surprisingly spacious, with large keys and sufficient room between each key. Our only complaint is that the screen’s smaller-than-usual size reduces the text input area significantly when the onscreen keyboard is on display. The OS 7 keyboard boasts improved text prediction, and indeed, perhaps because of our proclivity toward onscreen keyboards, we actually found it faster and easier than the physical version.

But if you insist on using the latter, fear not, as the Torch 9810 slides open vertically to reveal that famous BlackBerry QWERTY keyboard. The slider mechanism is smooth, solid, and springs securely into place in either the open or close position. As we mentioned earlier, this is the same form factor as on the original Torch 9800. Yet, the keyboard is just a touch wider on the 9810, and it’s not quite as thin as before. We still think large thumbs might need some time to acclimate to it, but on the whole, we found typing to be quite comfortable. The keyboard is roomy enough for a portrait slider, and though the keys are small, they’re raised so it’s still easy to text by feel.

The rest of the phone’s external controls mirror that of the Torch 9800. You get the lock and mute buttons at the top of the phone, the Micro-USB port on the left spine, and the 3.5mm headset jack, volume rocker, and customizable convenience key on the right. The camera lens and LED flash are on the back, while the microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover.

AT&T packages the Torch 9810 with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a polishing cloth, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

User interface and software
Much that is different about BlackBerry OS 7 lies under the hood, and is not visible at first glance. Indeed, OS 6 and OS 7 feel incredibly similar. The user interface is the same, with the Quick Access area (it houses the date, time, and connection settings) at the top, the notification bar below that, and the navigation bar that leads to apps and content in All, Favorites, Media, Download, and Frequent categories. The navigation is the same as well–you can collapse and expand each of these areas, and you can swipe left and right between the different categories.

We’ve already mentioned the most noticeable OS 7 change, and that’s the new Liquid Graphics interface that promises richer graphics and performance. OS 7 also improved upon existing OS 6 features like adding a voice function to universal search. Simply tap the microphone icon to the right of the search field, and you’ll be prompted to speak with a “Listening…” dialog box. After you’re done speaking, tap the Done button and it’ll display the spoken text in the search field. As with OS 6, you can search the entire contents of your phone, plus you can extend the search to Google, Facebook, YouTube, BlackBerry App World, and third party apps.

Other OS 7 improvements include a revamped BlackBerry browser with a just-in-time JavaScript compiler and HTML 5 video support, 720p HD video recording, and support for augmented reality applications. An example of the latter is Wikitude, an app that integrates with BBM and other location-based social network services (Foursquare, Gowalla, Flickr, Twitter, etc.) to let you know if your contacts are nearby just by using your phone’s camera and magnetic compass. Wikitude has also partnered with a few businesses like Hertz car rental and Starbucks to show you those locations as well. BlackBerry OS 7 also supports NFC, but that is unfortunately not available with the Torch 9810.

Features
The RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 is a quad-band world phone featuring 3G and HSPA+ technology, which AT&T defines as “4G.” It also supports Bluetooth 2.2, Wi-Fi, and GPS. You’ll also get the usual speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, visual voice mail, and text and multimedia messaging. The latter is combined into a unified inbox with other messaging systems and supports threaded conversations and group chat. As we hinted at above, you also get support for any instant messaging client as long as you have the app for it.

BlackBerry’s strength has always been its strong e-mail integration and it’s no different with the Torch 9810. It’s able to sync with BlackBerry Enterprise Server as well as Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, and Novell GroupWise for all your corporate e-mail needs. You can also use a free but limited version of BES that lets you sync your Exchange calendar, contacts, and tasks. If you want to check your personal e-mail, the Torch 9810 lets you access up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts in either separate or combined in-boxes via BlackBerry Internet Service. There’s a handy setup wizard that walks you through the process of setting up your BlackBerry ID and connecting that to your e-mail address. If you use a web mail service like GMail, Yahoo, AOL, or Windows Live, it’s as easy as entering in your login information–you can also set up your own POP3 and IMAP4 account if you wish. We were able to get our Gmail account added in just a few steps, but it did take almost 20 minutes for the phone to sync up our inbox.

SOURCE:https://www.cnet.com/products/blackberry-torch-9810/review/

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