By Danee Torres
We’re back in the lab again with the latest BlackBerry device from Research In Motion (RIM)—the Torch 9800.
If you don’t know it yet, RIM has previously ventured into touchscreen territory with the BlackBerry Storm line where critics highlighted the difficulty in composing messages on a device which relies solely on touch input, bringing the otherwise impressive device down a notch.
This time, RIM has merged the best of both: a touchscreen display and a physical keyboard hidden underneath it, possibly in an effort to please BlackBerry loyalists. In the new model, RIM has also improved the aesthetics by equipping the back part that houses the battery and SIM card slot with a ribbed rubber cover. This improves grip while protecting the device from scratches. This rubber texture extends until the middle part of the device, where the shiny, chrome finish begins and outlines the touchscreen display and the physical keyboard.
On the right side are the camera and volume buttons and the headset jack while the chrome top is home to two keys: mute and lock—a treat for people who need quick access to security. Finally, on the lower left side is the mini-USB port, used for both syncing and charging.
There are four keys on the face of the phone; the Begin and End Call, and Back and Menu buttons plus a trackpad placed in the middle for people who prefer to navigate through the smartphone with more precision. Don’t get me wrong, the touchscreen is very responsive in itself but sometimes I found myself accidentally “liking” posts on Facebook because my fingers took up a bigger area than I would’ve wanted them to, and “un-liking” it seemed impolite, so when looking through pages that have small links such as “Like,” “Comment,” or “Share,” I just chose to use the trackpad.
The Torch 9800’s UI is easy to understand after you’ve familiarized yourself with the icons. Email setup is easy as selecting setup on the main menu, highlighting email accounts and waiting to connect to email settings. BlackBerry provides a step-by-step guide to pairing your email account with the Torch 9800 as well as other options for connectivity like instant messaging, social networking, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
The 5-megapixel camera sounds impressive than it actually is, as photos turned out more yellow than desired with the flash on, yet dark and grainy without it. It was a challenge taking photos with minimal movement to avoid blurry images. However, audio is impressive in video recordings although the images could use some cleaning up.
Customization is one of the first things I liked in the Torch 9800. I found that not only can you change the wallpaper or move the icons around, but it also has a variety of fonts to choose from that can be applied to everything (including Facebook and Twitter entries) apart from the home screen and icon names.
I have to commend BlackBerry and its customization options. Despite its limitations, it’s still better than none at all which is more than I can say for Apple’s latest release where you can’t even venture beyond presets until you jailbreak the device.
One of the things why BlackBerrys are so popular especially with the younger generation is the instant messaging feature, specifically the BlackBerry Messenger. An IM app for BlackBerry owners, it’s got a chat-style layout and unlimited characters. Just like regular chat, you can also send files such as photos, videos and documents to contacts. It’s a simple and fast way to communicate with other BlackBerry owners by adding their device PIN and sending an invitation.
Thank to Globe, surfing on the Torch 9800 was a breeze as the websites loaded fairly quick, having difficulty only in remote places where there was no reception. Calls that were made using the Torch 9800 were also clear, and no calls were dropped.
The Torch 9800 proved to be a big player in the smartphone arena even with a processor that doesn’t quite match up to the iOs4 or Android 2.3. It makes up for it with great functionality and customization.
Message Alert light indicator
Trackpad and touchscreen
The Torch 9800 is for someone who wants the ease of the touchscreen with the reliability of the physical keyboard and trackpad.
Buy Meter: 9.4
- Form factor: Slide candy bar
- Dimensions (HxWxD): 111 x 62 x 14.6 mm
- Weight: 161.1 g
- Memory: 512MB expandable to 32GB (microSD)
- Display: 3.2” HVGA+ 480×360 pixel color display
- Connectivity: 802.11 b/g/n
- Price: Php 29,800
[This review originally appeared in the Febraury 2011 issue of Gadgets Magazine]