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Full Review

The latest trend in mobiles seems to be to combine touch-screens and QWERTY keyboards – the Nokia E6, Samsung Galaxy Pro and HTC ChaCha, are all examples of this. And now BlackBerry brings us the Torch 9810. But does this combination really work or just make a device that is a bit of a jack of all trades?

Key points

It’s not surprising that this trend has appeared – after all, typing on a virtual keypad is nowhere near the experience of a proper one, especially if you like to write lengthy emails and texts. It’s BlackBerry’s keyboards that have gained it so many fans, especially among business users, along with its excellent fast mail delivery and high security levels.

However, the QWERTY keypad does take up a lot of real estate on the handset, which means that combination phones suffer with small displays – the HTC ChaCha for instance only has a 2.6in screen. And even the lovely BlackBerry Bold 9900’s 2.8in display can sometimes feel rather squashed.

So BlackBerry has tried a new approach with its Torch devices, by sliding the real QWERTY keyboard behind the display. The result is that it has a larger touchscreen, which means the device is more media-friendly and can be more easily used to view any images or video you have shot.

Screen star

That said, there are issues with combination devices. The Bold 9900, for instance, has a great touchscreen, but it is too small to really use properly. The Torch, on the other hand, has a decent sized screen, but it does mean that the device is actually rather large and weighty.

This is obviously always going to be an issue with devices that combine QWERTY keyboard and touchscreen – otherwise you have to either lose out on the touch display or the great typing experience.

And while the real-world keyboard is the winning feature of BlackBerry’s handsets, the best one we’ve seen is that on the Bold 9900. The 9810’s keyboard is a little narrower, but still offers a reasonable experience.

The screen measures 3.2inches and looks great, although its resolution doesn’t match up to that on the 9900, at 250 pixels per inch, compared with the 9900’s 286 ppi. And it’s not up there with the screens on the iPhone 4 and Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray, either. Still it still looks vibrant, with plenty of detail.

The screen is great for viewing video, and if you tap on video you’ll find yourself taken to the relevant apps in BlackBerry App World. It’s a nice touch, although if you’re used to Apple’s App Store or Android Market, you’ll be disappointed with the offering from BlackBerry. It’s a major issue with the BlackBerry devices – apps are limited and they can be expensive too. Of course when the company’s primary target audience was business users this wasn’t really a problem, but if BlackBerry wants to target the mainstream, it will have to work on this.

Best of both worlds

The Torch 9810 does offer twin advantages – if you’re planning to type a message and the keyboard is closed, a virtual one pops up on the display. It’s not as good as the physical one but does offer one advantage – it offers spelling suggestions, a facility not available when using the real keyboard. However, it’s a shame that when it inserts a suggested word for you, it fails to include a space after the word – very annoying. It would have been nice to see a virtual number key pad too, as it can be time-consuming to type in phone numbers using the QWERTY keyboard.

The Torch 9810 looks very like last year’s model, although it does also feature a nice-looking reverse side in silver with a square patterned relief. The frame around the display is black.

Operating system

Aside from the great keyboard, the 9810 also features the latest BlackBerry operating system – version 7 –which is not hugely different from BlackBerry 6. It means that anyone already familiar with BlackBerry’s OS won’t be struggling to use it, but it’s a shame it isn’t just a bit more user friendly. One of the key changes is the upgraded browser, which makes surfing the net a far speedier process than previously.


The Bold 9900 was an amazingly speedy device, and yet the 9810, which packs the same 1.2GHz processor under the hood, doesn’t feel as quick. It’s not sluggish by any means, but there are some issues with the speed of the accelerometer – something we saw in the earlier versions of the Storm, BlackBerry’s first touch screen device.

There is certainly plenty of power on offer – data speeds, for instance, rack up to an amazing 14.4Mpbs for downloading. As well as its ability to make the most of slow connections, BlackBerry is also well known for its decent battery life – and the Torch 9810 doesn’t disappoint. You’ll get a good day out of a full battery charge – although like most smartphones you’ll want to be charging each evening.

One thing the 9810 doesn’t feature, unlike the Curve 9360 and the Bold 9900, is the facility for making contactless payments via NFC.

Snap happy

There’s a decent snapper on board – it has a five-megapixel resolution and decent flash for taking snaps in low light. Autofocus is reasonably speedy and shutter lag is not a hindrance either. There is a dedicated camera button (hooray!), which is in just the right place when you hold the handset in landscape mode – autofocus by half-holding down the key, and then a full press will activate the shutter.

If you’re not happy with the shot, the good news is that an X pops up on screen once you’ve taken a picture, making it easy to quickly delete, although if you take too long deciding, it changes to a thumbnail of the image and the camera is ready to shoot again. Deleting an image after this is a rather long and involved process.

Our conclusion

If you’re after a big screen and decent keyboard, the Torch 9810 does offer it all, albeit in a rather large and heavy device. If you’d rather have a more compact handset, you’d be better off choosing the new Curve 9630 (although you won’t get a touch screen) or the Bold 9900, which proves more portable than this 9810.




Type of phone: Smartphone
Style: Slider
Size: 111x62x15mm
Weight: 161g
Display: 16 million colours
Resolution: N/A
Camera: Five megapixels
Special Camera features: auto focus, LED flash
Video recording: Yes
Video playback: Yes
Video calling: No
Video streaming: Yes
Music formats played: MP3, eAAC+, WMA
3.5mm jack port: Yes
Handsfree speakerphone: Yes
Voice Control: N/A
Voice Dialling: Yes
Call records: Practically unlimited
Phonebook: Practically unlimited
Ringtones customization: No
Display description: TFT capacitive touch-screen
Website: www.blackberry.com
Portfolio: Black
Standard color: black
Launch Status: Available
Ringtones: MP3
Radio: No
Operating system: N/A
Connectivity: MicroUSB, Bluetooth, A2DP, Wi-Fi
Announced date: August 2011
What's in the Box: N/A
RAM: 768MB
International launch date: September 2011
Battery life when playing multimedia: N/A
CPU: 1.2GHz
FM Radio Description: N/A
Internal memory: 8GB
Memory Card Slot: microSD
Messaging: IM, SMS, MMS, Email
Internet Browser: HTML
E-mail client: POP3, IMAP4, SMTP, Push email, Attachments
Java: Yes
Games: Yes
Data speed: HSDPA, 3G
Frequency: Quad-band
Talktime: 350 minutes
Standby: 300 hours
Display size: 3.2 inches
Keypad: N/A
Audio recording: Yes

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