RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 review

19 Oct 2011

An improvement to the original, but not enough to keep up with the best of the smartphone competition

Price when reviewed: 
425inc VAT
3

Apple’s iPhone stands astride the smartphone industry like a colossus – millions have been sold in the past four years, and that trend shows no sign of slowing. Yet for all Apple’s dominance there’s still a significant number of people for whom an iPhone will never be the answer – and for many of them, it’s the lack of a keyboard that rankles.

Despite RIM’s recent service troubles, then, we suspect the Bold 9900 will be a success. It combines a styling overhaul with the addition of a touchscreen remarkably successfully. We’re not so convinced about the new BlackBerry Torch 9810, though.

RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810

That’s partly because there doesn’t seem to be much that's new. Physically, the new Torch is identical to its predecessor. It’s still a little frumpy looking, comparatively thick and weighty, and RIM has done nothing about the rather rattly, flexy build quality and awkward lip surrounding the keyboard. This makes typing feel more cramped than it should do, and in particular makes the Alt and Shift keys uncomfortable to press.

Look closer, however, and there are some improvements. The 3.2in screen resolution has been bumped up, from 360 x 480 to 480 x 640; this still isn't anything special in a world where even 480 x 800 screens are beginning to look old hat, but at least it’s a good performer. Our tests show its brightness is up there with the best smartphones at 444cd/m[sup]2[/sup] and contrast is excellent too. The camera now records video at 720p, to go with the 5-megapixel camera on the rear, which boasts a flash, image stabilisation, autofocus and is impressively responsive.

The processor and memory have been boosted, too, to 1.2GHz and 768MB from 640MHz and 512MB respectively. In combination with the latest version of RIM’s smartphone OS (BlackBerry OS 7), this remedies the original handset’s biggest flaw – performance. The Torch now feels as responsive and fluid as most other flagship smartphones; the benchmarks back this impression up. The phone completed the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark in a rapid 2,258ms.

RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810

There are still some niggles, though. Page render speed remains off the pace. Our tests repeatedly saw heavy web pages load at speeds the best Android and iOS phones would be embarrassed by: seven seconds for the desktop BBC homepage over a fast Wi-Fi link is nothing to write home about. There’s still no native support for Flash, and battery life is disappointing. After our standard 24-hour battery test, the gauge on the Torch’s battery had dipped to 50% - worse than the 9800. The new Torch, inexplicably, has a lower-capacity battery than the old one.

These aren't insurmountable problems, and the updates are all welcome, but the problem for the Torch is that it still doesn’t feel terribly modern, and the price is simply too high. The updates are welcome, yes, but now that the Bold is touch too – and with a screen that’s just as good – it feels as if it isn't only the rest of the smartphone market that’s left the Torch to flounder, but also RIM itself.

Details

Price ex VAT £354
Price inc VAT £425
Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £41.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider www.vodafone.co.uk
Overall rating 3
Features & Design 3
Value for Money 2

Battery Life

Talk time, quoted 390hrs
Standby, quoted 13 days

Physical

Dimensions 62 x 14.5 x 111mm (WDH)
Weight 161g
Touchscreen yes
Primary keyboard Physical

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 768MB
Camera megapixel rating 5.0mp
Front-facing camera? no
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 3.2in
Resolution 480 x 640
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Other