Phone sequels have a habit of improving upon their predecessors in several ways -- after all, that is
the point of coming out with a new model, right? The whole idea of blessing the world with a follow-up is to make it sleeker, faster and more feature-rich. Research in Motion nailed almost all of those points in the Torch 9810, with the exception of one crucial element -- the phone's size. In fact, the 9810 has identical
dimensions to its predecessor: 111 x 62 x 14.6mm (4.37 x 2.44 x 0.57 inches). The lack of variance in its overall mass is somewhat disappointing, given that we're now seeing QWERTY sliders on the market as thin as 13mm.
That's not to say the new Torch is entirely
the same. Even though the design, buttons, ports and everything in between are identical, it's at least available in different colors to help you spot one on the street. Our unit had a gunmetal grey finish with a checkerboard pattern on the back cover that does a good job of masking fingerprints. As an additional flourish, it's also topped off with a nominal black trim that stretches around front bezel, onto the camera and around the upper back side. Just below the extra-hardened glass display on the front lie the navigation keys: phone, menu, trackpad, back and home / power. These buttons (aside from the trackpad, of course) are as much a staple of the BlackBerry lineup as BrickBreaker
is. On the left side resides a lone micro-USB port, while the right side houses the volume rocker and Convenience Key, a shortcut button that's also no stranger to RIM. The top, meanwhile, is home to the mute and lock buttons.
The slider mechanism runs on an invisible metal track and doesn't feel loose at all; on the contrary, with the difficulty we had pushing up the phone to expose the keyboard, it felt a little too firm. All told, it feels like it's a solid enough phone, but it's not actually made of solid parts, so we'd be afraid of dropping it too
The Torch series thus far has done an appropriate job of endowing its phones with the "BlackBerry look" while still attempting to go modern. Unfortunately, the company's idea of modern is -- shall we say -- different
. Even last year, we were saddened by the 9800's plain, outdated digs. It was sturdy and solid, yes, but it just doesn't have the same gusto when held up next to other touchscreen phones.
Much to our dismay, the Torch hasn't changed a bit. Why is this? BlackBerry devices are generally well-crafted and the result of a lot of TLC, so perhaps RIM felt it too risky to experiment with "fresh" designs at this stage in the game. That, or the company considered the original Torch a raging success and decided not to change what it thought was golden. It was more worthwhile to dwell on the thing that earned its phones the most complaints: those pesky internals. And that's exactly where the new Torch sequel shines.
A major feature present in every device running BlackBerry 7
is an accelerated graphics UI called "Liquid Graphics." Essentially, it allows for the best touch sensitivity that we've experienced on any BlackBerry to date. We weren't too crazy about the original Torch's touchscreen, and gone are the days of the SurePress debacle on the Storms. RIM has finally figured out how to make its phones as responsive as the likes of Android, iOS and WP7, and we found our experience with the 9810 to be up to par with other flagship handsets.
Though the 9810's display is the same size at 3.2 inches, it glows at a 640 x 480 resolution, up from 480 x 360. That's still not quite HD resolution, sadly, but it's significantly more up-to-date than the 9800 and is much more satisfying to view. It's also larger than the Bold Touch 99xx by a considerable .4-inch margin. What's more, the bigger screen offers a better media playback experience and makes it easier to take full advantage of the phone's new touch-optimized OS.
One of our major beefs with the original Torch was its lack of oomph
. While the OS was a significant improvement, its paltry 624MHz CPU and 512MB of RAM were subpar compared with the specs belonging to other flagship devices on the market at the time. To boot, we were further disappointed by the lackluster circa-2008 display and the 5 megapixel shooter with no HD video recording capabilities. Even more unfortunate, these ho-hum specs still represented a decisive boost over the previous generation of BlackBerrys.
With the 9810, however, it's a whole different ballgame. RIM kicked up the phone's engines respectably, throwing in a 1.2GHz single-core CPU accompanied by a dedicated Adreno 205 GPU -- the same one, interestingly enough, found in the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play. RIM also increased the RAM to 768 MB -- a decent jump from 512MB. That's right, Waterloo is brandishing some big guns and the Torch is finally starting to look like the kind of BlackBerry we've been awaiting for years.
And there are other welcome refinements under the hood as well. Internet connectivity has been remarkably improved over last year's model, pushing forward with an HSPA+ radio capable of achieving speeds of 14.4Mbps down and 2Mbps up; this slots the phone in the middle of the proverbial pack, though the latest flagship devices are typically able to hit much higher 4G speeds.
The 9810 also packs more internal storage, offering 8GB of space compared to the OG's 4GB capacity. Like the last-gen iteration, this one has a microSD slot, with support for cards as large as 32GB. But be forewarned: there's a ceiling on application storage on the device, held at 189MB. Bigger apps are required to stay under 7MB when initially downloaded, but the remainder of each program or game can be downloaded via WiFi once you've launched them for the first time. The aforementioned microSD storage can assuage some of these concerns, but the catch is that each app has to be explicitly written to allow this opportunity -- and even then, the app's core executable storage still needs to reside within the device itself. Why there's a limit at all when the phone has plenty
of room for apps is beyond us, but it doesn't give developers any more incentive to publish anything for the BlackBerry platform.
Curiously, one component in particular was actually downgraded
, and it's the most surprising of them all for RIM -- its battery. While the Torch 2 was the victim of a downgrade in battery capacity from 1,300mAh to 1,270, it actually has better longevity. The change here is likely due to a more efficient OS and its next-gen CPU. We'll dive into more detail on the battery later, but here's a spoiler: it's a BlackBerry, and it's the company's biggest strength for a reason.