The BlackBerry Torch is has finally gone all touchscreen. It started out as an iconic qwerty slider phone and slowly evolved into a touchscreen smartphone. Check out our full review of the BlackBerry Torch 9860 after the jump.
There were actually two BB Torch handsets that were launched recently. The BB Torch 9810 still features a sliding qwerty keyboard and touch display while our review unit is the Torch 9860 that’s a full touchscreen handset.
This isn’t the first time BlackBerry had a full touchscreen phone in their line-up. I can still remember how they implemented it on the BlackBerry Storm around 3 years ago.
The display is just 3.7″ (diagonal) which is just enough and slightly larger than the one on the iPhone 4 and the Torch 9810. The screen resolution is 480×800 pixels giving it a density of 252ppi.
The display is bright and crisp with good contrast and color saturation. The capacitive screen is pretty responsive to the touch and gesture commands.
Despite its full touchscreen interface, the Torch 9860 still sports a number of physical buttons for navigation — actually, all the usual buttons are there in physical form, including the optical trackpad which has long replaced the optical trackball.
The microUSB port is on the left side while the volume controls are on the right, along with the dedicated camera shutter and the 3.5mm audio port. The lock button is also found on the top or forehead section of the device, same one on the Bold 9790 and the Curve 9360.
The back panel is made up of anodized aluminum with a laser-etched logo of BlackBerry. The 5MP autofocus camera is there along with the LED flash.
Speaking of the camera, shots are actually decent but the sensor isn’t that fast enough to be able to get really sharp photos so you oftentimes get blurry shots.
The 720p video recording looks good though. Not very sharp but good enough. You’ll notice some dropped frames in this sample below.
I guess the biggest deal here is the touchscreen or virtual keyboard. We’re already very familiar with how good the physical qwerty keypads of the BlackBerry line and having used and reviewed the latest iterations (Curve 9360, Bold 9790, Bold 9900), I’m already impressed with how soft, tactile and ergonomic those keyboards are.
The same cannot be said of the virtual keyboard of the Torch 9860. Although I already expected as much, I was still surprised at how they implemented it on the handset.
In portrait mode, the virtual keyboard is plain and simple yet feels a bit cramped. I guess they can’t do anything more with that narrow space.
It’s a little hard to type into the screen because the individual keys are so thin even if they spaced them apart, you’ll likely to miss a key or two. If you’re a seasoned touch-typist on a touchscreen phone, the one on the Torch 9860 still lacks some sort of visual or tactile feedback.
To remedy, BlackBerry offers additional keyboard layouts. The reduced keyboard provides for Sure-Type (bigger keys but with 2 letters per key) and Multi-Tap (which is similar to the standard alphanumeric layout).
In the landscape orientation, the typing experience becomes more comfortable and easier. You’ll end up using both hands to touch-type but the spacing is wider and the keys are fatter.
I guess this is the best way to type on the Torch 9860 especially if you’re an experienced BB user. I would have suggested they added an alphanumeric keyboard layout but that’s already a departure on the BB qwerty signature (unless of course you include the BlackBerry Pearl).
Where the Torch 9860 excels is the multimedia department. This is primarily because you get a much more usable screen real estate to play with. Unlike the flagship Bold 9900 or even the Torch 9810 with their 2+ inch screens (the Torch 9810 has a 3.2″ display), the BlackBerry Torch 9860 offers a relatively large 3.7″ display.
As such, playing games from the AppWorld is much more enjoyable, browsing the web with its built-in browser is more comfortable and running apps like FB, Twitter and Maps makes more sense because of the screen real estate.
The Torch 9860 performs really well, much like the Bold 9790 and the 9900. The specs will speak for itself and since it’s running on BlackBerry OS 7, you get a fluid and more optimized environment. That gives you a different perspective and experience of the OS and its UI design.
BlackBerry Torch 9860 specs:
1.2GHz Qualcomm 8655 processor
3.7″ TFT capacitive display @ 480×800 pixels
4GB internal storage, 768 MB RAM
HSDPA 14.4 Mbps, HSUPA 5.76 Mbps
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 w/ A2DP
GPS w/ aGPS support
5MP autofocus camera w/ LED flash
720p video recording
Li-Ion 1230 mAh battery
BlackBerry OS 7
Conspicuously absent is the NFC feature which is already available on the Bold 9900.
Battery life is tricky. It will last you the whole day but that really depends on how much you use the handset. For the most part, you will likely need to recharge by end of the day. BlackBerry handsets suffer from poor battery life because they are mostly connected to the net (specifically, for BBM to work).
The Torch 9860 is a hit or a miss — either you hate it because you’re so used to the physical keypad of the previous BB handsets or you’ll love because it offers the screen real estate no other BB handset has ever provided (giving you better appreciation of the apps, web browsing and games).
The BlackBerry Torch 9860 has a suggested retail price of Php24,690 and comes in two-year warranty.