BlackBerry Torch 9800 Mobile Phone review

By on November 7, 2010
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BlackBerry makes a comeback with the Torch 9800.

Editor's Score

The Verdict:
With a touch screen, a full keyboard and a refreshed OS, the Torch 9800 is an excellent comeback device for BlackBerry

I used to be a long-term BlackBerry user before switching over to the iPhone and Android based devices a couple of years back. The convenience and intuitiveness of a full touch based device made the lack of a hard keyboard bearable. And over time, I learnt to type almost as fast on a soft keyboard as I would on my BlackBerry. With the Torch 9800, BlackBerry is providing me an option to use the best of both worlds- a touch screen based device that can slide to reveal a full keyboard. However, with the debacle that Storm was, I approached the Torch with caution.

Packaged in an iPhone type of small box, the BlackBerry Torch 9800 comes bundled with a charger, a headset and a mini CD with Desktop Manager installable on it. Instead of the smaller sized CD that I hope nobody will try to slide in their slot-in optical drive, I think a 1GB USB stick might have been a better idea. Or like, the Nokia N8, just have the installer on the MicroSD card or the Phone’s internal storage.

The BlackBerry Torch is still using the same old 600MHz CPU found in the older Bold 9700 model, however, BlackBerry has doubled the RAM to 512MB mainly to accommodate the new OS which takes about 200MB. It has a built-in 4GB storage capacity along with a MicroSD slot that can accommodate unto 32GB card. RIM bundles a 4GB MicroSD card with the Torch 9800 giving you a total of 8GB to start with.

The Torch 9800 measures 4.4″ x 2.4″ x 0.57″ (when closed) and weighs 161.59g which feels a bit heavy in your hand but at the same time, gives off a good impression of the build quality. I really like the finish of the device- it very much resembles the BlackBerry Bold 9700, however, the rubbery back cover doesn’t feel at nice. Maybe something more metallic like the one from Storm 2 might give a better feel. I’m sure we’ll see a few after-market products. Underneath the cover sits the FS-1 battery rated at 1270mAh, 4.7Wh. While you dont need to remove the battery to access the MicroSD card, you do need to remove the back cover.

The top of the Torch 9800 has the lock button on the left and the mute button on the right. The lock button gets pressed very easily and I found myself unlocking the device unintentionally too often while slipping it in my front pocket. The left side has lost a convenience key and the only thing present on this side is the USB connector that is used to charge the device or connect it to the computer. The positioning of the USB connector can become a bit annoying if you’re trying to talk or use the device while its connected to the charger of the PC. Finally, the right side has a 3.5mm audio jack, volume buttons and a two-step camera button.

On the front you have a 3.5″ multi-touch capacitive screen with a resolution of 320×480 pixels- again a spec borrowed from the aging Bold 9700. Below the screen you have the optical pad along with two buttons on either side- a very standard BlackBerry configuration. The screen slides up revealing a full keyboard that is somewhat similar to the one found on the BlackBerry Bold except the keys feel a bit flatter which is a problem most sliding keyboard devices face. The sliding mechanism itself is an impressive fit with no rattling or shaking parts.

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Abbas Jaffar Ali is the founder of and a blogger, geek and self-declared tech pundit who can't stop talking about technology. Find him on twitter as @ajaffarali

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  • mantower

    I am now considering buying a new phone, my Storm is slowly starting to test my patience a bit too much. I am not interested in joining the rank of i-sheep around the world, and I am sort of looking at a choice between the Xperia X-10 and the Torch. Which is the better option, especially considering the Xperia should soon have the new OS on it in the near future?

    • Abbas Jaffar Ali

      Android is a great OS but I don’t think Xperia is the best way to experience it. I would much rather buy an HTC or the Samsung Galaxy Tab if I want to go down that route. I’ve switched between the BlackBerry, iPhone and Android in the last year and all three have their advantages and disadvantages. Android is great if you like the Gmail/GTalk eco system, BlackBerry is the best at push email and BBM while nothing beats the iPhone when it comes to Apps and the butter smooth experience. Decide what is more important to you and base your decision on that.

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  • Jamal

    Nice review. You gave me more reason to consider buying it. But it’s a bit expensive.

    • Abbas Jaffar Ali

      If you are in the UAE, you could sign a 12 month contract with Etisalat and get the device at half the price. Or buy it with du and get six months of unlimited local service free (or international at half price)

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  • Arclite

    Thanks for this. Great review, both the vid and the written review. My company only allows me to have BB devices, so I have been holding off replacing my Curve 8830 until RIM quality and specs improve. It sounds like they have.

    The main thing that is a bit of a concern is the screen size and quality. Resolution seems a bit smallish at 320×480. That’s half to a third what HTC, Samsung, and Apple offer. When will RIM get with the program? Also, how does the screen look: sharpness, color, refresh, etc.?

    Also, were you able to play any games? How was responsiveness/playability? On the one hand 600MHz will save you battery life, but on the other it means games and other high end apps will be slow.

    And finally, were you able to shoot any video?


    • Abbas Jaffar Ali

      If you are into games then I would say the BB platform is not for you. In my opinion, the iPhone is best in that area. Android is kinda ok too. Where BlackBerry shines is connectivity- your email, your social, your IMs- I dont think any other device does a better job with connectivity and yet offers the battery life. I thought the screen res would be an issue but it wasn’t. While not as crisp as the iPhone, it does the job well enough to not really make you envious.

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