RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 Review

Interface:

Remember the feeling you got when you played with a BlackBerry Bold 9000 for the very first time? We surely remember, as it completely showcased a revamped platform that exuded a modern look to it – while retaining all the best elements that people love about BlackBerry. However, BlackBerry OS 6 is not a monumental step over the previous iteration, but rather, it executes that gradual step that bridges the gap between business professionals and the regular user. Visually, OS 6 doesn't substantially change its presentation and appearance since a majority of icons have been retained with the layout of the main menu also intact. Compared to the latest version of Android, BlackBerry OS 6 looks extremely static, but you'll find the same level of personalization carried over from the previous build. Since the Torch 9800 employs a touchscreen, navigating couldn't be any easier with a simple touch of a finger, but you can actually still rely on the trackpad to accomplish the same tasks. Overall, the platform responds fairly well to your touch and doesn't take long to launch applications – that's despite packing a somewhat underpowered 624MHz processor. Still, it doesn't feel up to the level of snappiness found in something like iOS 4 on the iPhone 4 or Android 2.1 on the Samsung Galaxy S.

When you get right into it, you'll first find yourself on a barren homescreen, with your wallpaper of course, but pulling the small arrow towards the bottom will reveal the listing of apps. You can manually display a row of icons by adjusting the tray to specific levels – so you can rearrange icons to quickly launch them without revealing the full main menu. Once you get there, it's broken down to 5 folders, which can be accessed by using left or right swipe gestures – Favorites, Media, Downloads, Frequent, and All. The latter will provide you access to all the apps found on the handset. Not only is it easier to organize your apps, but it will eliminate the hassle of finding specific ones in the event you accidentally place them into a folder and forget their placement.

Directly below the clock in the homescreen, you'll find the notification bar that will display pretty much anything to get your attention – from messages to emails and Facebook posts to new Tweets, you can press it to view them all. Specific icons will be displayed that will better allow you to differentiate them – so you'll know if it's something important or not. To the left of the notification bar is the Profile selection that will allow you to change the sounds and alerts on the device. Finally, clicking the magnifier icon to the right of the notification bar will bring up universal search – the name pretty sums it up. Basically you start typing and it'll begin to populate relevant material such as contacts, apps, Facebook accounts, and the ability to go search for it on Google. Additionally, you can launch universal search by typing something on the QWERTY while on the homescreen. Even though it's not something new, it's definitely nice to see its appearance on the platform. Finally, pressing in the top most portion of the homescreen, where the clock can be found, will present you some of the common services and connections for the handset – such as turning on/off Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and the ability to set an alarm.



Phonebook:


If there's one thing that will surprise usual BlackBerry users, it has to be the integration of social networking accounts with your phonebook. There's nothing new with how your contacts are displayed in your address book or creating a new contact since it's basically straightforward like previous devices. However, the platform does a good job of managing your social networking accounts and will automatically figure out which contact to combine them with – so you'll see their Facebook photo and info show up when you click a specific person. In addition, the contacts app is integrated with the various dedicated social networking apps so you can accomplish certain things like sending a Facebook message to someone or writing something on their wall. It's definitely a long time coming, but luckily the feature is finally here.



Organizer:

The RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 with OS 6 has that wealth of depth in organizer functions that is typical to any other BlackBerry, which makes everything robust and complete. When using the latest version of BlackBerry Desktop Manager, version 6.0, you'll be able to synchronize your information between your computer – plus you'll even have something like Wi-Fi music sync at your disposal. Other PIM functions remain intact with the Torch 9800 and appointments can even be synced with something like your Gmail Calendar on top of things BlackBerry Enterprise Server or Exchange Server.



Messaging:

Sure you can always resort to using the physical keyboard for all your messaging needs, but you'll also be presented with a mix of on-screen options – these include a full QWERTY keyboard, SureType, and alphabetical numpad. Depending on your taste, any of them might suit your needs since we found the experience to be much better than what we experienced on the Storm2. When using either the portrait or landscape style full keyboard, we found it to be responsive to the touch and casually typed with few mistakes. Although, it's worth noting that it can be cramped for people with larger sized fingers –  especially with the portrait one. Regardless, we didn't experience any slowdown or lack of responsiveness when typing up a message – making the experience pretty satisfactory.


Setting up email could not be anymore simple than doing it on a BlackBerry – and the Torch 9800 doesn't disappoint with its simple setup process. Popular clients only required a simple email address and password to correctly set up, but custom ones like our own PhoneArena account are set up in the same fashion. Icons for each specific email account will be displayed in the main menu, but similar to other handsets, there is a Messages icon that combines everything.

In addition to email, you can also access any of the instant messaging clients available on the Torch to instantly get in touch with a specific person. Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, AOL Instant Messenger and BlackBerry Messenger are all there at your disposal, but we like the fact that the “social feeds” app will combine your social networking accounts in addition to all of the IM clients minus BBM – so you'll have a centralized hub to see everything at once.



Connectivity & Data:

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 won't disappoint world travelers since it's a quad-band GSM (850/900/1800/1900MHz) and UMTS (850/900/1900/2100MHz) device – meaning it'll work in plenty of locations, but unfortunately there's no CDMA love. If you happen to find yourself in a sticky predicament where you're at a loss with connectivity, the Torch also features Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1, and aGPS... if that would help.

Finally, we weren't rushing ourselves to hopefully find a version of either Opera Mini or the Bolt browser to install on the Torch since it now sports a usable WebKit based browser. Pages loaded in a reasonable amount of time and presented us initially with a zoomed out view. Double tapping a specific area will automatically re-size the text to fit the length of the display, however, we did notice some anomalies in certain pages – such as a single line would only consist of a few words; making it look inconsistent throughout a passage. Multi-touch gestures are also enabled to allow you to specify the zoom level, but unfortunately text won't automatically adjust. Scrolling is decent once a page is fully loaded, but we did experience instances when images and text required a period of time to render. Overall, the web browsing experience has improved over the previous incarnation and the Torch is needless to say the best RIM device for that. Conversely, it only manages to skim the tip of the water in this category when you compare it to something like the Motorola DROID X or Apple iPhone 4.



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