Motorola DROID 2 vs RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800

10
Introduction and Design
Introduction:

Capping off to what's being regarded as one of the busiest summer seasons ever to be witnessed in the mobile industry, both the BlackBerry Torch 9800 and Motorola DROID 2 decided to have an old fashion showdown at the O.K. Corral. The date was August 12, 2010 and the timing couldn't have been any better since both handsets were sporting the latest version of their respective platforms – and thus bringing the long summer to a closing. Since both handsets were sharing an identical launch date, it was only natural to pit these two QWERTY packing smartphones against one another in a ceremonious gunfight battle where only one device can be claimed as the victor. In the end, which handset will be left standing once the gun smoke has cleared from the battlefield?

Design:

With their combined offerings of a touchscreen and physical keyboard, the Motorola DROID 2 and BlackBerry Torch 9800 will easily attract a wide array of customers due to the conveniences they boast over other handsets. However, the similarities pretty much end there as the DROID 2 opts to stick with its tried & true landscape sliding form factor while the Torch traverses the unique route with its portrait sliding one. It's blatant that neither provide an original design since the DROID 2 is slightly a refreshed look over its predecessor, while the Torch borrows some elements found on the Bold 9700. Material-wise though, we prefer the metal like exterior of the DROID 2 which simply overshadows the somewhat plastic nature of the Torch – even despite chrome plates adorning both handsets. Even though a quick inspection will make you believe that both handsets are equal in size, the DROID 2 is longer with the Torch being wider – but the DROID 2 tallies in at an impressive 0.54” thick versus the Torch's 0.57” figure. Regardless of those measurements, they're normal sized which won't be too much of a burden in the pockets – albeit, the DROID 2 is heavier (5.96 oz).

Still to this day, RIM's handsets don't necessarily blur the fine line when it comes down to larger sized display panels – which the Torch follows in similar fashion with its 3.2” HVGA+ (360 x 480) LCD touchscreen. Even though it proves to be sufficient for the handset, some would argue that the DROID 2's 3.7” TFT display (480 x 854) is more suitable for today's top tiered smartphones. Between the two, the display on the DROID 2 proved to be more appealing due to its better color representation, sharp looking text, and its sturdy glass-like feel. With the Torch, it almost seems as though its display is rather washed out looking versus the rich colors produced by the DROID 2 – however, its sheer luminance easily radiates much more strongly.


We've said it once, but we'll say it again – the touch sensitive buttons found on the DROID 2 are placed very close to the bottom of the touchscreen; so there is an occasional accidental press. Conversely, the look and layout of the Torch 9800's buttons may surprise you since they might look like touch sensitive ones – but they're in fact physical ones with solid feedback. As with other BlackBerry devices, the Torch relies on an optical track-pad which does well in navigating around the platform, but DROID 2 users will be also happy to find 4-way directional buttons on the keyboard. Nonetheless, the touchscreens on both handsets still provide for the best navigational experience.


The placement of buttons clinging to the sides of both handsets are almost identical seeing that the volume rocker and shutter key are found on the right edge – but we prefer the distinct and responsive buttons with the Torch 9800. Other identical amenities include a 3.5mm headset jack, microUSB port for charging/data connection to a computer,  and a 5-megapixel auto-focus camera – with the DROID 2 offering a dual-LED flash as opposed to the Torch's single one. There is a small cutout located on the top edge of the Torch which is for the speakerphone, while the DROID 2 has a grill on its rear that encompasses the width of the handset for its speakerphone. Removing the rear cover of both phones is a natural process that will present you access to the battery and microSD card slot, which we found to be more convenient with the Torch since you don't have to remove the battery to access it.




Now this is a tough call since the keyboards are presented in two different orientations, so it'll basically come down to personal preference. We like how the Torch's keyboard retains the same style and layout in use with the Bold 9700 which can be seen as cramped for those with larger fingers, but requires less travel for your thumbs. On the other hand, the spacious layout of the DROID 2 will easily accommodate fingers of any size – plus it's much more improved over its predecessor since buttons are larger and bubbled to provide some distinction. We found ourselves getting adjusted very easily between the two  because buttons offered a tactile response when pressed down.



Motorola DROID 2 360 Degrees View:



RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 360 Degrees View:





Interface and Functionality:

Despite packing a 624MHz processor, which might look on paper as quaint versus the 1GHz chip found inside of the DROID 2, the Torch actually does a good job in terms of performance. Actually, both handsets provide for a smooth and responsive platform experience that will suffice almost anyone out there – especially when there is barely any wait when launching apps. And it's obvious that they both showcase the latest version of their respective platforms; BlackBerry OS 6 and Android 2.2 Froyo. You can gauge that RIM is trying to attract an audience outside of its bread and butter category of business users with the platform's focus on being touch and social networking friendly. Still, Android 2.2 on the DROID 2 definitely has the advantage in terms of  personalization since you can utilize live wallpapers, add different widgets, and its tight integration of social networking. Although BlackBerry OS 6 is still in its infancy, there are still additional refinements needed for the platform to catapult it enough to attract new users.



Seeing that social networking plays an essential role with almost everyone, it's easy to see how the DROID 2 does a better job in keeping you in the loop with your friends. Not only will you have widgets that will display tweets and Facebook statuses in rotation, but the official applications for Facebook and Twitter are more refined than the ones seen on the Torch. However, you can tell that RIM has finally adopted the importance of this growing trend with their “social feeds” app which aggregates all of your accounts in one centralized hub. As for the official social networking apps for BlackBerry OS 6, they offer some of the essential basics, but sometimes require more trips to launching the web browser for other functions.



Setting up email is definitely a breeze with the Torch, as it should seeing it's a BlackBerry, since it automatically sets up all of our accounts with simply requiring only an email address and password. The DROID 2 also makes email setup a breeze with the usual process, but unlike the Torch, it requires additional pieces of information to fully set up a custom email account. However, there's no arguing that the Android powered DROID 2 presents the most satisfying Gmail experience as it's able to accomplish a host of functions you typically see on a desktop. But to tell you the truth, email handling on both handsets is more than satisfactory.

Thanks to the extra real estate that the DROID 2 exhibits, it makes for an easier typing experience when using the on-screen keyboards. We just find the multi-touch enabled keyboards on both to replicate that true keyboard feel, but the Swype keyboard option on the DROID 2 also works fantastically after some practice. It's not to say that the Torch's on-screen keyboard is bad, but you can easily gauge that it's a bit more cramped due to its smaller screen. However, they're both equally responsive when typing away very quickly – so you won't ever miss a beat.




One thing that may be holding back the Torch from attracting more users is the lack of BlackBerry OS 6 support for some applications that are otherwise found on the older build of the platform. However, we'll eventually start to see more and more apps hit the App World storefront which should hopefully get users back in tune with some of their favorite and most widely used apps. When it comes down to Android, there is no denying the rapid rise in app availability since its inception and continues to deliver some top notch offerings to its arsenal. The nice feature we find with the Android Market is that it'll allow you to reinstall previously purchased apps to a newer device. As it stands right now, there is an aggressive development of apps that can be seen with Android – which should continually rise with the latest build of the platform.

Internet and Connectivity:

RIM finally decided to take the plunge with a WebKit based browser for the Torch, but it still pales in comparison to the refined stock Android web browser on the DROID 2. Of course, you're treated to common features like multi-touch support, double tap to zoom in/out, the ability to open multiple windows, and of course some smooth scrolling rates. However, the DROID 2 does a lot better job in pretty much all categories as there is some spotty evidence with the Torch's rendering times – it just doesn't do it as instantaneously as the DROID 2. Although they're both still more than usable, the Motorola DROID 2 easily takes the cake in this category due to the fact that it has support for Flash 10.1 – giving it that true-to-life desktop feel. It's a nice first attempt for RIM on the Torch, but the innovation and depth of Android's web browser can clearly be felt on the DROID 2.



Since the BlackBerry Torch offers quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900 MHz) and UMTS (850/900/1900/2100 MHz) connectivity, it is easily the choice for global travelers. On the flip side, the DROID 2 packs a dual-band (800/1900 MHz) CDMA radio with 3G speeds courtesy of EV-DO revision  A, so you'll be limited to using it domestically. As for other wireless options, both feature Bluetooth 2.1 and Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, the latter of which can be seen as beneficial to the DROID 2 which would allow data connectivity abroad. Additionally, the DROID 2 has support for Mobile HotSpot which enables it to share its 3G connection with other connected devices via Wi-Fi.

The Motorola DROID 2 includes an 8GB microSD card with its packaging, while the BlackBerry Torch 9800 has a paltry 4GB of microSD card. Luckily, both can accepts cards up to 32GB in capacity to satisfy the needs of media heavy users.



Camera and Multimedia:

Interestingly enough, the 5-megapixel auto-focus cameras on both handsets performed similarly to one another in almost every condition we captured photos in. It is a bit difficult to deduce which handset has the clear advantage, although it is clear that those who prefer sharper photos with more details would gravitate towards the BlackBerry Torch with its crisp and clear images. In the same time though, photos with the Torch come out a bit darker than those made with the DROID 2. Indoor shots with the Torch on the other hand are somewhat out of focus, that is until you turn on the flash, which lets you produce some quality indoor images. The DROID 2 does well as far as such photos go, although we founds its pics taken with the help of its flash to be muddy-looking.







Shooting videos though go to the DROID 2 due to its higher 720 x 480 resolution and smoother capture rate of 29fps. When comparing it to the Torch, they looked extremely smooth with plenty of detail – that's because the Torch's videos are limited to VGA (640 x 480) resolution and 24fps capture rate. However, we do like how the Torch offers an anti-shake mode to minimize the sometimes jerky movements of our hands while recording. Nonetheless, video happy individuals will probably gravitate towards the DROID 2 solely for its better performance.

Motorola DROID 2 sample video at 720x480 pixels resolution.
RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 sample video at 640x480 pixels resolution.

With its blazing fast processor in tow, we're presented with a visually appealing gallery app on the DROID 2 which provides for some 3D like effects when viewing your media content. On the other hand, the Torch resorts to the usual looking grid-style layout for its media content, but fortunately functions perfectly in the end – so there's no clear advantage between the two. You'll be able to change the orientation of photos with both, but the DROID 2 packs an additional host of editing functions that blows away what the Torch has to offer – making it the favorite choice for those who prefer to edit their photos on the go.


Visually, there's nothing you wouldn't expect out of the music players found on the two smartphones, but surprisingly, the Torch garners some attention thanks to its coverflow-esque presentation. Naturally you'll be presented to common things like the album cover, on-screen controls, and pertinent information regarding the song in play. However, moving about songs on the Torch is much more in line with some of the polished looking music players found on other handsets; such as the iPhone 4 and Samsung Galaxy S. However, there is a visualization offered on the DROID 2 which will display some neat effects to the beat of songs. Both offer a variety of equalizer settings to appropriately cater to specific genres of music, but we find the DROID 2 to produce stronger and sharper tunes from its speaker. Regardless of that, the Torch's speaker is still able to emit decent tones that are more than audible for anyone to hear.



This is one area where the Motorola DROID 2 clearly showcases its supreme processing ability since it doesn't stutter one bit when playing videos. Of course both will handle videos in lower resolution with no problems, but the Torch is plagued with laggy performance issues when we tried playing a video encoded in MPEG-4 640 x 480 resolution – audio wasn't close to being in-sync with the video. Undoubtedly, the 1GHz processor on the DROID 2 easily played the same exact video, but in 1280 x 720 resolution, without any problems at all. Not only was it very smooth, but you can gather that it didn't pose any problem for the handset. And to add to its stature, its sharp looking and larger display made it more conducive to watching videos.





Performance:

Calling quality can go both ways since there is no evidence of any static noise using the Torch, while on the DROID 2, it can faintly be heard in the background – but doesn't pose too much of an annoyance. Callers said that our voice sounded crystal clear on their end when we used the Torch, but it sounded somewhat choppy with the DROID 2, however, its earpiece was noticeably much louder than what the Torch's earpiece emitted. Switching over to the speakerphone, it was also clear that the DROID 2 produces some audible and sharp tones, but the Torch had muffled sounding voices. Needless to say, both devices do a decent job with calling quality since we were still able to get through conversations without many problems or the need for repetitions.

Signal strength wasn't an issue for either smartphones seeing that we didn't experience any dropped calls or major fluctuations with bars during our test in the greater Philadelphia region.

You'll be happy to know that both handsets will provide for at least one solid day of normal usage before requiring a recharge, but from our experience, it looks like the Torch has a very small edge in this area. The Torch employs a 1300 mAh battery while the DROID 2 has a larger 1400 mAh one, but there isn't too  much of a variance in actual usage. However, we did see that the Torch had more juice going into the next day – but it still would prove to be beneficial to recharge it. Nevertheless, we'd recommend to have a charger on hand if you're a bit more heavy with your smartphone.

Conclusion:

From the looks of it, the Motorola DROID 2 is packing more heat in its gun barrel than the BlackBerry Torch 9800 – especially when it feels like the more compelling device between the two. Although the Torch brings forth a totally new form factor not seen out of RIM's camp before and a rebooted platform, it still doesn't offer the fine qualities found on the DROID 2. Not only does the DROID 2 have a solid construction that makes it feel well justified at the $199.99 on-contract price, it's actually Android that substantially widens the gap between the two handsets. Sure BlackBerry OS 6 is still in its early stages, but it doesn't completely shed the look and feel of its previous iteration to call it refreshing enough. Instead, OS 6 is only catching up to the level that Android saw itself when it first came rolling onto the scene – which is evident with their switch to finally employing a WebKit based browser. And when you see that the Torch is priced evenly with the DROID 2, it doesn't provide for a compelling argument to overlook the DROID 2 and side with the Torch. As the dust slowly settles, it's not only clear that the DROID 2 stands tall amidst the heap, but we find the Torch unable to repel the relentless force emitted by this latest-generation Android device.

Motorola DROID 2 vs RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800:




Recommended Stories

Loading Comments...
FCC OKs Cingular\'s purchase of AT&T Wireless