BlackBerry Torch 9810 review: Buttoned-up
The basic accessories
The BlackBerry Torch 9810 doesn’t get beyond the must-have items. No leather holster, not even a memory card in the package we had. A polishing cloth is the closest to a bonus there is. All the basics are covered though. You get a USB cable, a charger head and a set of 3.5mm earphones.
BlackBerry Torch 9810 360-degree spin
The Torch 9810 is by no means compact, even with the slider open it struggles to hide its bulk. It seems nothing can be done about the extra padding around the waistline. At 111 x 62 x 14.6 mm, the Torch 9810 is quite a handful but that’s fair for what you get – a 3.2” touchscreen and a full QWERTY keyboard.
161 g sound too much perhaps for an all-plastic handset but we do like the solid and reliable feel all that weight seems to give. At the same time, the phone is perfectly manageable and remains reasonably pocketable.
Design and construction
The portrait slider is a rare from factor and we think it’s an advantage for the BlackBerry Torch 9810. It sets it apart in a crowd of smart messenger side-sliders. The styling is very conservative, the right thing to do with a phone this big. The major difference to the original Torch 9800 is the rear. The battery cover has textured checkerboard finish instead of the ribbed rubber surface of the original.
The phone is entirely made of plastic but it doesn’t feel cheap. We had doubts about the Torch 9860, but nothing of the sort here. The finish is simple, maybe a little too ordinary for a BlackBerry, but the phone looks good. That’s somehow different from calling it good-looking. Solid and reliable, at the very least.
The five controls on the front panel are the typical BlackBerry set. You get two keys on each side of the optical trackpad (Call and Menu on the left, Back and End key on the right). Although most of the navigation will be on the touchscreen, the trackpad will be busy enough, providing the needed accuracy in the browser or when handling text. The buttons all have solid stroke and adequate feedback.
We feared the screen of the Torch 9810 would do worse than that of the Bold Touch 9900. It turned out though, the lower pixel density doesn’t make any visible difference after all. The 3.2" VGA screen of the Torch 9810 is pleasingly crisp, with rich colors and good contrast. It’s very responsive too. The only thing to note is the lack of haptic feedback.
|Display test||50% brightness||100% brightness|
|Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2||Black, cd/m2||White, cd/m2|
|LG Optimus Black P970||0.27||332||1228||0.65||749||1161|
|Apple iPhone 4||0.14||189||1341||0.39||483||1242|
|Samsung I9000 Galaxy S||0||263||∞||0||395||∞|
|Sony Ericsson XPERIA Arc||0.03||34||1078||0.33||394||1207|
|Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II||0||231||∞||0||362||∞|
|BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900||0.29||403||1376||0.47||618||1304|
|BlackBerry Torch 9810||0.3||322||1074||0.45||503||1112|
|BlackBerry Torch 9860||0.29||426||1456||0.47||665||1413|
The sunlight legibility is excellent, to solidify the good impression recent BlackBerry smartphones have made. Viewing angles are about average though - there's some loss of contrast and color when you look at it at an angle, but everything remains legible.
The slider run is smooth and solid, the phone opens and closes with ease and feels secure in the process. The four-row QWERTY keyboard is smaller than that of the Bold Touch 9900 and a little less comfortable to use. The keys are flat and tangibly stiffer.
It’s not a bad keyboard by any stretch though. Many of the keys (not just the numbers) can be assigned speed dial. There is a dedicated currency symbol key and the usual command shortcuts: * locks the keypad and screen, while # toggles Silent mode on/off. Numbers share keys with some of the letters and you need to press the alt key to use them at times. The good thing is that whenever the context allows it, the switch is automatic.
The slider form factor allows reasonably comfortable typing. The phone does feel a bit head heavy but the keyboard allows a pretty good grip – the chin helps here too.
Above the display we find the BlackBerry logo, the earpiece and the status LED on the right. The proximity sensor, which disables the screen during calls, is here too.
The MicroUSB port handles both data transfers and charging. It is located on the left side of the Torch 9810.
The right side of the Torch 9810 features three tiny rubbery knobs - the volume up and down keys and the convenience key. The latter is set by default to serve as a shutter key, which it does pretty well, with distinct half press for focusing. The keys are exactly the same layout and size as in the original Torch 9800.
At the top of the BlackBerry Torch 9810 you'll find the company’s trademark hidden keys. The Lock key is on charge of turning the screen on and off while the Mute key doubles as a Play/Pause button when playing music and videos. The thin slit of the loudspeaker is here too but you might even not notice it right away.
There’s nothing of note at the bottom of the Torch 9810. There’s plenty of space to accommodate carrier logos – as our AT&T-branded unit shows.
The back panel is made out of thin plastic that we suggest you be careful with. You’re supposed to slide it open and it takes quite a push to release. The textured surface looks nice and helps get a better grip. Rearside, the Torch has the 5 megapixel camera lens, along with a single LED flash.
The BlackBerry Torch has a 1270 mAh Li-Ion battery that doesn’t get in the way of the memory slot. The microSD card is hot-swappable.
RIM claim 308h/300h of stand-by (2G or 3G, respectively) and 6:30/5:50 hours of talk time. Music playback should be around 54h. We gave the Torch 9810 a pretty good squeeze, with all of our usual tests, plenty of browsing over Wi-Fi, audio quality and imaging checks. It usually made it through a day of heavy use. If used sparingly, the Torch 9810 will probably give you two or three days on a single charge.
The BlackBerry Torch 9810 is based on exactly the same chassis as the original 9800 Torch. There’re minor differences in the finish but nothing we would call an upgrade.
The build quality is excellent, never mind the all plastic construction. But again, that was the case with the original Torch 9800 too.
The actual upgrades are elsewhere – the screen is the only part that’s on the outside. From that point on though, the Torch 9810 promises a whole new experience. And it feels they didn’t want to distract users with fancy designs and ornaments. A big phone weighing 161 grams doesn’t need any of that anyway.
All the heft handles reasonably well, the handset may occasionally feel too tall and too heavy when typing long texts.