BlackBerry Torch 9860 review: Keyless, not clueless

GSMArena team, 29 September 2011.
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No Flash for the web browser

The web browser on the BlackBerry Torch 9860 is a nice improvement for the BB platform. It is comparably fast and responsive, it supports multi-touch zooming, text selection, text reflow, mouse cursor, etc. The only thing missing is Flash support really.

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The Torch 9860 web browser is great

Now it does have its woes, we’ll give it that. Based on the Apple’s WebKit engine and using a similar caching system as the iPhone, the new BB browser reacts surprisingly like the one on the iPhone 4. Unfortunately, its performance is not the same.

You see, both browsers use what is known as a backing store to cache the already rendered page thus they show showing users a texture, rather than a real page. This way you always get a great performance while panning or interacting with the page.

When you zoom in, the browser is not ready with the new texture, so it simply zooms in the already rendered one, effectively upsizing it, which makes both the text and images look blurry.

Now here’s where the difference in the performance of the iPhone 4 and the BlackBerry Torch 9860 shows up. When you zoom in on a portion of the text, on the BlackBerry it does take a second or two to clear up the hazy cached image of the text, while on the iPhone 4 that’s an instantaneous action.

So, you got speed in panning and scrolling, even in zooming because the texture is quick to refresh rather than to zoom on a heavy page, but you get a little annoying refresh moments on zooming.

Now that's something you won't see on a stock Android browser because the fonts there are rendered in real time. But the heavier the page is on Android, the longer the refresh time.

Unfortunately, again unlike the stock Android browser, the text reflow works only once - when the text is out-zoomed and you double tap on it. The text reflow stops working when you zoom in even more or turn the phone in landscape mode. The iPhone 4 web browser works the same way however.

But we won’t bore you to death with these little nitpickings. The BlackBerry Torch 9860 web browser is a fast and modern piece of software, it renders pages nicely almost like a desktop browser and it will always get the job done unless you’re reaching for some Flash content.

It’s interesting that if you decide to use the trackpad for navigation instead of the touchscreen, you'll get a virtual mouse cursor and automatic panning and scrolling when you reach the end of the screen.

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Managing bookmarks, tabs and some of the available options

Except for the missing Flash support, the handset provides a solid browsing experience.

Organizer

True to its business objectives, the Torch 9860 has a solid set of organizer tools. Although the interface is not preoccupied with looks, the usability cannot be called into question.

The calendar has monthly, weekly and daily view modes and allows easily customized events to be set up. We have to admit that some event presets would have been useful but the device fails to provide them.

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The BlackBerry Torch 9860 organizer centerpiece – the calendar

The phone comes with the full version of Quick Office pre-installed allowing it to view all kind of documents (incl. PDF) and edit Word, Excel or Power Point files.

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Both document viewing and editing is supported out of the box

The organizer package also includes a calculator with a built-in unit-converter, as well as a voice recorder and a Notes application. A handy To-do manager allows you to set-up and organize your upcoming tasks.

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The calculator comes with a built-in unit converter

The alarm application has only one alarm slot and fails to impress. It's quick to turn on but most of its settings can only be accessed via the menu and trackpad. You can set the tone, snooze time and the volume as well as the vibration intensity. Given the single slot limitation though, getting an alternative alarm clock app from the BlackBerry App World seems like the right thing to do.

There is another way to get more alarms though. You can go the the Calendar app and choose to add a new alarm from the menu. It allows you to put subject and recurrence too and works just like the alarm in the Clock app.

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The BlackBerry OS 7 still offers just one alarm slot

The BlackBerry Torch 9860 comes with a stopwatch and a timer. Both are accessed from the clock application and have the usual functionality.

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There’s a stopwatch and a timer

The clock comes on screen any time the phone is being charged and also offers a bedside mode.

There are also a Password Keeper app, Voice Recorder, Memos and Tasks app to store your passwords, voice memos, text memos and tasks. There is a digital compass too.

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Voice Recorder • Memos • Tasks • Compass

BlackBerry Protect is onboard. It can locate and remotely lock/wipe your lost or stolen device. It also syncs your data and can easy transfer everything to a new BlackBerry device.

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BlackBerry Protect

Finally, the BlackBerry Torch 9860 comes with Facebook and Twitter applications. You also get the native Social Feeds app that gathers all of your Facebook and Twitter updates in one place.

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Facebook app • Twitter app • Social Feeds native app

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