BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review Roundup

By  Jeff Goldman — August 13, 2010

The new BlackBerry Torch 9800 smartphone is now available on AT&T's network in the US, and the reviews are pouring in. Although some reviewers are disappointed by the processor speed and screen resolution, most love the new slider design, which combines a QWERTY keyboard, a touchscreen and a trackpad. The improved web browser also generally gets rave reviews, as do the device's call quality and battery life.
Design's Kevin Michaluk is extremely impressed with the new design. "Research In Motion may not have invented the slider, but by working hand in hand with AT&T on its development since the project took root in late 2008, they have come very close to perfecting it... The combination of touchscreen, optical trackpad and full QWERTY keyboard simply fit the BlackBerry experience more than I ever would have imagined," he writes.
"Though the Torch lacks the initial wow factor of an iPhone 4, closer inspection reveals an attractive, nicely sculpted device that exudes RIM's usual quality and attention to detail," writes Smarthouse's Andy Vandervell. "We particularly like the soft-touch, lightly ridged back, which feels extremely comfortable in the hand."

Engadget's Joshua Topolsky loves the device's keyboard. "The width of the keyboard is about the same as the Bold 9700, but slightly narrower, and the keys are more depressed than previous devices in RIM's arsenal," he writes. "Still, using the QWERTY was completely natural, and our confidence while typing was nearly as high as it is when using the 9700."

Boy Genius Report agrees. "RIM usually knocks these out of the park, and the Torch's keyboard is no exception, for the most part," the review states. "Keys are graciously sized, pretty contoured, infinitely and deliciously clickable."
Still, IntoMobile's Simon Sage isn't quite as thrilled. "The keyboard itself feels kind of cramped after moving from the Bold 9000, though anyone who feels the need to upgrade from the 9700 for some reason will probably feel right at home... I had to adjust my typing to be a little bit higher on the thumbs to avoid hitting the upper sliding mechanism," he writes.

The screen's 360 x 480 resolution is a common source of complaints, though Phone Scoop's Eric M. Zeman is perfectly happy with it. "It's certainly not a bad display, but after using high-resolution displays from RIM's competitors, it is hard to be excited about 360 x 480," he says. "Most icons, menus, and images look decent... Even small text is easy enough to read."
"Though the screen isn't particularly high-resolution by modern standards, it's plenty bright and colorful enough for viewing videos and photos," agrees Smarthouse's Andy Vandervell.

Gizmodo's Matt Buchanan is far more disappointed. "After nearly a year of staring at screens packed with pixel counts of at least 800 x 480, the Torch's low-res 480 x 360 diplay is a grisly sight," he writes. "It's like going back to standard definition after a year of HD, and then having a wet fabric softener sheet shoved in between my eyeballs and the screen."

"The screen is as responsive as any touchscreen you'll find out there," writes Joe at BB Geeks. "I had no problems performing any functions, and even found a reasonable degree of precision when scrolling... I absolutely love having the ability to browse with a finger swipe or the trackpad. I've actually found myself using the trackpad to navigate menus, rather than swiping."

Engadget's Joshua Topolsky isn't quite as enthusiastic. "Touch sensitivity wasn't outstanding on our review unit, making for a real lack of confidence when it came to finger tracking," he writes. "We feel like there's polishing to be done on the software side that would greatly improve the experience, particularly when attempting more precise pinch-to-zoom and swipe gestures."


"[The] new web browser with WebKit rendering finally makes browsing the web on a BlackBerry an enjoyable experience," writes's Kevin Michaluk. "Comparing the Torch 9800 to my Bold 9700, it's a night and day difference."
"If you're used to the experience of using a Pre, iPhone, or Android device, you'll feel right at home," writes Engadget's Joshua Topolsky. "Web pages display correctly and reasonably quickly, and all the standard accoutrements are here, including pinch-to-zoom, tabbed browsing, and text reflowing."

"[The] new browser is a significant step forward for RIM where web browsing is concerned," writes Smarthouse's Andy Vandervell. "It has all facets of a modern mobile browser, including pinch-to-zoom and text reflow, though HTML5 and Flash aren't supported just yet. Unfortunately, due to the processor, the rendering speed of the Torch is considerably less than competing devices."


"While the Torch generally is smooth and responsive, I found it slower overall than the iPhone 4," writes The Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg. "And in my tests, its browser -- though based on the same technology as the ones on Android and the iPhone -- proved consistently slower, though much faster and better than on earlier BlackBerrys."

"[The] Torch can feel worryingly laggy at times... Flicking between apps should be painless, but frankly, it's not," writes SlashGear's Vincent Nguyen. "When rivals are delivering 1 GHz chips in their smartphones and already looking to faster versions, RIM's decision to stick with the 624 MHz Marvell CPU smacks of either mindless frugality or a blinkered attitude toward the current mobile market."
Battery Life

"The Torch easily lasted through an entire day with email, Twitter and Facebook pinging it every few seconds," writes Phone Scoop's Eric M. Zeman. "Phone calls didn't seem to dent battery life too much, nor did browsing the web. I was able to kill off a full charge in just over 31 hours. That was with heavy use. Those who use the Torch more sparingly -- and leave out the social networking -- might see two full business days of use."
"BlackBerry devices have always been strong in the battery life department, so I'm pleased to say that the battery life on the Torch is still good... With a 1,300 mAh battery, the Torch 9800 lasted through most of the day with moderate use encompassing calling, text messaging, e-mail, downloading apps, checking Twitter, surfing the Internet, and playing Word Mole (yes, I'm addicted)," writes's Aaron Baker.

Call Quality

"I have been really pleased with the phone quality on the Torch 9800 so far," writes's Kevin Michaluk. "When I called my parents from the 9800, the first words out of mom's mouth were where are you? She said it sounded like I was the next room next to her, I sounded so clear, rather than 2,200 miles away. I've duplicated that experience many times now on the Torch."

"Guess what, I can make a call on it and it doesn't drop! I don't need bumpers, I don't need to hold it in a perpendicular fashion or even need to stand on my head to make a call without a call dropping," enthuses Chip Chick's Ali Heriyanto. "I didn't experience one dropped call while trudging through the busy streets of Manhattan, [and] I was heard loud and clear."
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