BlackBerry Torch 9860 review: Keyless, not clueless
The Torch 9860 comes with a standard set of accessories. It doesn't get a leather carrying case like the Bold Touch 9900. A USB cable, a charger head and a set of headphones are provided. You get a complimentary 4GB MicroSD card too.
BlackBerry Torch 9860 360-degree spin
The BlackBerry Torch 9860 looks bigger than most of its 3.7" competitors. Extra space below the screen was needed to accommodate the standard set of physical buttons, all five of them. At 120 x 62 x 11.5 mm it isn't the most compact smartphone and has respectable heft. Tipping the scales at 135 g, it has every bit of BlackBerry solidity that users feel they're entitled to.
Design and construction
The phone is still quite comfortable to handle and operate. Everything is quite thumbable on the reasonably big touchscreen but the menu key is still essential to the navigation. Some of the options are deep in the system menus, only accessible via the menu key. The call buttons are welcome and the trackpad comes in handy where extra precision is needed.
The Torch 9860 is less imposing than its touchscreen siblings, the two Storms. It feels almost ordinary, with a dash of cheap. There you go, we never thought we can say that about a BlackBerry. We guess most of it goes down to the glossy black bezel up front. Around back, things are looking better. The battery cover is made of metal but with soft, grip-enhancing rubbery finish. We liked the slanting top and bottom chrome colored edges too.
It's an unusual combination of premium-looking rear and plain plastic front. Maybe RIM wanted to set the phone apart, seeking to avoid high-end connotations. A strict business look was not on the agenda either. The audience of the Torch 9860 will perhaps be younger than average.
Let's let the phone do the talking though. The 3.7" WVGA capacitive touchscreen is quite inviting with a pixel density of around 252 ppi.
|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 9860||0.29||426||1456||0.47||665||1413|
It has very good brightness and sunlight legibility won't be a problem. It's a pleasingly crisp display with excellent contrast and vibrant colors. The touch response is great but there's no haptic feedback.
We particularly missed that in the keyboard. By the way, the virtual QWERTY is quite uncomfortable to use in portrait. Flip to landscape and things get better. How much better though will be ultimately up to Blackberry users coming from a physical keyboard to decide. Another thing to note, the auto-rotation has a notable lag. We hope this is a unit-specific issue.
Under the display, is the typical BlackBerry navigation combo of Call keys, Menu and Back buttons. They're all big enough for comfortable use, slightly raised and solid to press. Placed in the middle is the trackpad, which will get its share of use, especially in the system menus that aren't all that touch friendly.
The earpiece and status LED are the things to note above the display, where the BlackBerry logo takes a prominent spot.
On the left side of the Torch 9860 there's only a MicroUSB port used for charging and file transfers. Its central position is not the most comfortable. A plugged cable will get in the way if you need to use the phone while charging. On the other hand, it favors landscape use.
The 3.5mm audio jack is on the right side. Below it you have volume keys, with a very subtle mute button in between. It doubles as play/pause button in the music player. The convenience key near the bottom is set by default to serve the camera and this time it makes sense. The button is tiny but very tactile and has distinct half press for locking focus.
The lock button is placed at the top of the BlackBerry Torch 9860, a return of the invisible keys from the previous generation of BlackBerries.
The bottom of the phone has the same glossy plastic finish as the top and only features the microphone pinhole.
At the back, the 5MP camera lens comes with a LED flash. A thin slit just above them marks the loudspeaker. The metal battery cover has rubbery finish, which feels nice to touch. A chrome frame runs around the back, with the top and bottom portions slightly raised to give the device a subtle inward curve. If you rest the phone on a flat surface the back panel won't get scratched or the loudspeaker muffled.
The battery cover pops up as you push a tiny latch at the bottom. Underneath you'll see the 1230 mAh Li-Ion battery and the hot-swappable MicroSD card slot. The SIM compartment is under the battery, a tiny yellow handle helps eject the SIM card.
BlackBerry claim 330h/320h of stand-by (in 2G and 3G, respectively) and 4:40/6:50 hours of talk time. Music playback should be around 44h. In real life our unit went through a day of intensive usage (web browsing over Wi-Fi, music playback, the usual imaging test, etc.). That's basically what you should expect of the Torch 9860 if you don't give your smartphone much rest. If used sparingly, the Torch 9860 will probably give you two days at most on a single charge.
We don't have doubts about the build of the BlackBerry Torch 9860. We're not as impressed as usual with the design, although it has some of the typical BlackBerry touches. The phone feels solid, but not in the usual impressive and elaborate way. We think that's on purpose though - they didn't want the Torch 9860 too sophisticated or too masculine. The phone handles nicely. The fingerprint-prone front and the audio jack placed on the side are some minor niggles.