BlackBerry Torch 9810 £460

9th Sep 2011 | 15:16

BlackBerry Torch 9810

Touchscreen, keyboard, 5MP snaps and a new OS - sound familiar?

TechRadar rating:

3.5 stars

Like:

Admirable battery life; Great screen; Improved onscreen keyboard; Unrivalled contacts management; Great still camera with effective image stabilisation;

Dislike:

No Flash internet; Video is fiddly to turn the light on; Poor music loudspeaker compared to Bold 9900; Not much difference to Torch 9800; No NFC and only 5MP camera mean it's not massively future-proof;

Overview, design and feel

This time last year, BlackBerry fans were salivating at the imminent release of the Torch 9800.

For the first time, those who'd been demanding a touchscreen smartphone from RIM (without SurePress, which we'll just gloss over) were getting their way with the safety net of a keyboard below that slid out. On top of that was 3G, a 5MP camera and the brand spanking new OS. What wasn't to love?

If you're stuck deciding between this and the two other recently released BlackBerry phones, never fear - we've got an enlightening group test to pit the Torch 9860, Torch 9810 and Bold 9900 against each other to see which takes your fancy:

And 12 months on we feel like we're experiencing a bit of deja-vu, because the Torch 9810 is now hitting shelves. And to look at it, not much has changed.

BlackBerry torch 9810

The only thing that you'll notice as being really different on the exterior is the material it's made from. The BlackBerry Torch 9810 has been given less a makeover and more a new jacket.

Gone is the black and dark chrome fascia, which looked serious but a little plain, and in its place is a brushed metal and black effect that looks slightly more demure.

The rear is no longer a stripy patterned affair, but is made up of a silver pseudo-mesh. It's just a pattern, but it catches the light well and makes the handset look a lot shinier than it was before.

BlackBerry torch 9810

The weight hasn't changed in the slightest – it's still 161g and feels like a bit of a beast in the hand. That's not necessarily a bad thing – the kind of person who'll buy this probably wants to look like they mean business anyway.

But as we said about the original Torch 9800, drop this on the floor and you'll know about it. As well as a few scuffs, we get the impression you could end up with your phone in pieces (two to be precise).

The size is exactly the same too, and the screen is still 3.2 inches. But when you turn it on, you'll notice the Torch 9810's resolution has been upped from HVGA 480 x 360 to VGA 640 x 480, giving us a crisper experience.

It feels closer to things you'll find with the 'retina' branding (probably because it's smaller than the iPhone 4), and as we mentioned in our recent Bold 9900 review of the new OS 7, black text on white now looks much sharper. Icons of the new operating system seem to almost float on the screen.

It's one of those things we can't get across via JPEGs, but you'll know exactly what we mean when you see it in person.

BlackBerry torch 9810

The buttons on the side are the same as before – a rubberised volume rocker is on the right, along with a convenience key further down and the Micro USB charging port on the left (but no left convenience key like we used to get from RIM).

Up top are both the mute and lock buttons and a rather impressive and dynamic speaker.

Again, as before, the buttons on the front are standard BlackBerry fare (no surprise there), and sliding the top up reveals the keyboard. This perhaps provides a safety net for those who want a touchscreen phone but are still just a little too nervous to go all out and get a touchscreen-only handset.

BlackBerry torch 9810

Inside, you'll find 8GB of internal storage (doubled from 4GB originally) and room for a MicroSD memory card. It's hot-swappable (yay!), but if you're planning on shoving a 32GB card in, you may not need to swap it too often, since you'll have 40GB on your person. Still, it's nice to have the option, and it's something we've hated not having in the past.

The BlackBerry Torch 9810's processor has also been given a turbo charge and now clocks in at 1.2GHz, which is double that of the previous model. And it really shows with a much zippier performance.

OK, so it's not dual core, which some people may feel a little short-changed by. Having said that, the tasks you'll be putting this handset through don't require a dual-core handset, and you won't miss that technology anywhere here.

BlackBerry torch 9810

RIM describes this as perfect for those "who require both form and function."

That's PR-speak for "those who want it to do the job but with a smile on its face." And that's something the BlackBerry Torch 9810 does offer, because the large screen lends itself well to consuming media as well as bashing out messages.

But the real competition for the Torch 9810 comes from within its own ranks. It'll probably be snapped up by those who think they're a little too grown up for the BlackBerry Curve 9360 but don't necessarily want to pay Bold 9900 prices.

Or by those upgrading from the original Torch, but – considering the 9800 only came out a year ago – most of those consumers will still be locked into lengthy contracts.

BlackBerry torch 9810

The Torch 9810 is still to be released and, as such, is only listed as 'Coming Soon' on SIM-free sites, with a late September estimated shipping date.

Offline, you'll be expected to pay around about £475, which puts it below the new flagship phone, the Bold 9900. But only just.

This is a top-end handset that falls between the statesman-like Bold and the salesman-like Curve ranges.

And as such, you'll be expected to pay a premium by the networks. In fact, we can't see you getting this for free on a contract below £35 a month – and probably on a 24 month deal too.

Interface

When the original BlackBerry Torch 9800 went on sale, it had the accolade of being the only handset running the new BlackBerry OS.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Unfortunately, it's lost that mantle this time, because the Bold 9900 was the launch device for BB's OS 7. But the BlackBerry Torch 9810 is one of the first to run OS 7, along with the Torch 9860.

Not that it needs to worry too much about being usurped. As we mentioned in our recent Bold 9900 review, it's such a poor excuse for a new operating system anyway (we think the term 'minor upgrade' is more appropriate), that it makes little difference.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

OS 7 is very much similar to the look of the BlackBerry PlayBook, with a mishmash of icons devoid of uniformity and a rather busy look. But they're certainly clear. As we stated in the last section, you won't believe how much these icons feel like they jump off the screen at you.

Since the Torch 9810 has a portrait form over landscape, by default, you get your icons in rows of four.

Curiously though, when you turn the phone to landscape mode, rather than fitting more icons onto a line, it still just gives you rows of four but more space in between the icons to even them out.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

It would have been nicer to make the rows fit more icons on when you turned the 9810 sideways, to take advantage of that real estate, but we assume there is method in RIM's madness somewhere.

Thankfully, you can also disable your various app drawers. Unveiled in OS 6, multiple app drawers probably seemed like a good idea at the time (enabling you to have areas labelled 'Frequent', 'Downloads', 'All', etc) but they became a pain for many users because you'd often overshoot when in one drawer and end up in another.

Forums were filled with people complaining about this, so it's nice to see that RIM has evidently listened to those who purchase its BlackBerry handsets.

Universal search is also on board – an inheritance from OS 6, which we think works exceptionally well on the BlackBerry range.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

OS 7 was promised as a faster operating system than OS 6, and we agree that it is. Maybe it's the beefed up processor, or maybe it's the way it's coded that means this machine doesn't lag or treat us to the awful spinning wheel of death that we used to be all too familiar with.

That's not to say that the Torch 9810 is fast at everything, though. It still suffers from one of BlackBerry's worst Achilles' heels – the fact that it takes forever to start up.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

From a cold boot (ie taking the battery out and putting it back in), the BlackBerry Torch 9810 took a few seconds shy of two minutes before we were able to use it. We can understand old BlackBerries having this issue, but this is really pathetic on a 2011 model.

To put it into context, our MacBook Pro started up in a fraction of that time. Yes, we know it obviously has a bigger processor because it's a computer, but it also has hundreds of gigabytes of storage and dozens of start-up programmes to wade through.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Luckily, once you're in, the BlackBerry Torch 9810's operating system is fairly intuitive. And, for those coming from previous BlackBerry handsets, OS 7 is still near enough to the old operating system for you to get to grips with fairly simply.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Contacts and calling

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

They say that the measure of a good servant is never noticing that he or she is there.

And that's how we feel about the contacts implementation on the BlackBerry Torch 9810.

You barely even notice it's there, and just use it on autopilot. It's exactly the same as the Torch 9800, which runs OS 6. And that's probably as good an endorsement the handset (and OS 7) could get, because we'd be the first to come out all guns blazing if it was bad.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

We're not complaining though, or accusing RIM of laziness. Quite frankly, BlackBerry mobile phones have long had a decent contacts systems, and we're glad that they've left us with one that looks great and works well rather than changing it for the sake of it.

Firstly, getting contacts onto the phone is a piece of cake. Load them via the Windows or Mac sync software or use BIS (unless you have a BES handset provided by your employer.)

You can dial contacts direct from the home screen using the on-screen dialler, from the keyboard using smart dialling or from the voice recognition software just by speaking. And it all works.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Friends are listed with rounded square thumbnails that look pretty (or disorganised if you only have contact photos for some people) and you can put everything from phone numbers to trouser size to favourite colour in the contact fields.

As expected, call quality was typical BlackBerry fare – top notch. It was clear, succinct and a pleasure to use.

The Torch 9810 kept hold of signal for dear life, even where other handsets such as our iPhone 4 have previously failed, which was commendable.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

In fact, the signal seemed to be permanently displaying full bars, even in areas where reception is normally a little flaky. This made us feel sceptical, but calls did connect when we put the Torch 9810 to the test here.

The onboard speaker, fresh from delivering beautifully clear and bass-filled ringtones, turned its hand easily to providing a good speakerphone experience.

Yet, you'll only be making phone calls on this device, because that thing that looks suspiciously like a video camera on the front is actually just an LED for notifications. Bah.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

And there's one thing we still miss – although this is a fault more of the operating system than the actual Torch 9810 itself – we still don't have full-screen caller photo ID.

The Torch 9810 has that amazing screen, and it's criminal that BlackBerry hasn't built this in STILL (we bemoaned it in our review of the original Torch 9800) yet other manufacturers do it with ease – even on budget models.

Messaging

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

This section of the review could really write itself. It's a no-brainer. Is the BlackBerry Torch 9810 a good messaging device? Is the Pope Catholic? Is Justin Bieber annoying? You know the answer.

The BlackBerry Torch 9810 is a truly fantastic communications device. It is, ultimately, what these phones are known for.

Multiple email accounts? Tick.

BIS and BES? Tick.

Easy to set up. Tick tick tick.

This is more down to the operating system than the handset so, as a result, you're getting standard BlackBerry fare here. It's the best messaging on a handset, bar none.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Your inbox very much is in your control. You can have everything fall into one box – not just email, but also SMS, MMS, BBM plus social feeds.

Or you can keep everything separate and, in theory, have six separate email boxes should you wish. It's all incredibly intuitive and you can tell RIM has been in this game a long time.

BlackBerry Messenger – one of RIM's big selling points – is present and accounted for and trundles along nicely. It's useful for everyone, but is targeted more at younger users who'll use it as a free alternative to texting.

These younger people aren't so much the target market for this handset, but if you know anyone with a BB and you're in regular contact with them, chances are that you'll be giving BBM a try.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

If you use your BlackBerry for social networking, you'll be pleased to see there's a new Facebook client (well, new to OS 7 anyway).

The old client was starting to look tired, and this one gives us some new welcome additions, including Facebook Chat and Places. It also uses the grid formation that iPhone/Android users will be familiar with and that Facebook is pushing with its new Java app too.

A word of warning though – you do have to download the app, because the one pre-installed on our BlackBerry Torch 9810 handset was the old version. It's available for free in BlackBerry AppWorld.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

The Twitter app has been given a lick of paint too. And it looks great on that screen because, set to small text with that large screen, you can fit loads of feeds onto it. Add in third-party apps such as WhatsApp, Google Talk, Windows Live and Foursquare and you have, in your mitts, a communications powerhouse!

Of course, you need to type for these communication methods to be any good, and that's one area where we're slightly divided.

You see, on the Torch 9800, we couldn't help feeling that the handset tried to do it all but failed a bit. The on-screen keyboard was fiddly and the hard keyboard wasn't 100% there. It's still tricky on the Torch 9810, but at least it's a bit better.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

That's because the on-screen keyboard has been drastically improved. It still looks the same, but we found it a much easier to type on than the Torch 9810.

The keys are still tiny and you constantly miss what you're aiming for in portrait mode, but the operating system seems to expect this and corrects it. We made far fewer mistakes than we had in the past on our first go. Within days, we were bashing away like JK Rowling on her ninth espresso.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

As for the physical keyboard, we're still not convinced.

It just isn't good enough. We know it's a personal thing and some will be fine with it, but the problem for us is that although it looks like the Bold 9700 /9780 keyboard, it is actually a little smaller and tricky for many digits to hit buttons comfortably.

Also, because the keys sit on a secondary slide-out plate, there's no real depth so the keys don't feel like they go too far in like they do on those older handsets.

It all feels a bit flimsy. Some people will get on with it with no problems. But we'd urge you to tap out a good few sentences on a display model first before you purchase a Torch 9810, to see if it works (tip: use a real handset, not a dummy, because they often feel different when it comes to the typing experience and if you've signed away two years of your life on a contract that you can't then cancel, that could be a big mistake.)

Internet

So, OS 7 has a much-improved web browser that's brought to the BlackBerry Torch 9810.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

And here's the strange thing: Both the Bold 9900 and the Torch 9810 have a 1.2GHz processor. They both have a touchscreen. And they both have the same OS 7 browser.

Yet, despite our less-than-overjoyed response to the Bold 9900 browsing experience, we have to say that it was much better on the Torch 9810. Heaven knows why.

Pages loaded fast over Wi-Fi and 3G and, while you can't have true tabbed browsing, the multiple windows system works well enough.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

It's definitely been worth the wait. BlackBerries have always suffered with poor browsers, and despite words such as 'WebKit' being banded about to whet our appetites, they still didn't get that much better on OS 6.

We felt that the Torch 9800 gave us the best browsing experience on a BlackBerry yet (mainly because of that portrait screen) but this is where the Torch 9810 takes over that mantle with grace.

Here, we have a browser that you can comfortably use without wanting to throw your BlackBerry under the nearest train.

OK, so it's no laptop replacement, but for light browsing the BlackBerry Torch 9810 hits the spot nicely. Pages look crisp thanks to that screen, tap to zoom works mostly as it should (although you may experience a slight delay when pages are loading and some text will be cropped at the sides) and, compared to the nightmare the Bold 9900 gave us, this felt like a breath of fresh air.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

It was brilliant. In fact, the only criticism we had is that sometimes, when we zoomed in on text, it looked slightly blurry, as though the processor was still catching up. We waited for it to clarify itself, but it didn't.

Bookmarks are a cinch to use, and you configure your choice of search engine. On the whole it's all fine, and lessons have clearly been learned here.

Or at least some have.

Here we go again. We sound like a broken record, but WHERE ON EARTH IS FLASH SUPPORT?!!

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Don't give us the baloney about it being too buggy, RIM, because HTC and Samsung have managed it easily for a while.

So what if HTML5 is being regarded as the way forward following the decree of Sir Steve of Jobs? We want it here.

It's not just an annoyance, but a crying shame really, because this is where RIM could have snuck Flash in and then touted it as something the iPhone doesn't have - which it does with the PlayBook vs the iPad.

A lost opportunity. In fact, a wasted opportunity.Poor show, RIM.

Camera

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

The BlackBerry Torch 9810 comes with a 5MP snapper on board.

We could have copied and pasted that line from the Torch 9800 review (we didn't though) because nothing has changed here in relation to resolutions.

It seems a bit of a poor show really, because you can't help feeling RIM isn't embracing the whole experience.

Yes, we know it's about quality not quantity, and processors and software etc are just as important as pixel counts, but it would be nice for it to have come with at least something that showed RIM was trying to be a little bit future-proof.

Anyway, we do the best with what we're dealt and, luckily, it's not too shabby an affair.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

On launch, you'll see it's the same interface we had in the Torch 9800. It's straightforward and it does the job.

RIM gives you the luxury of several scene modes to pick from, and you can toggle geotagging on and off from the main camera screen.

Face detection is a nice addition, and we found it works OK, but the majority of people will leave it on Auto because in quick point-and-shoot instances, you don't have time to faff about with settings. Still, good on RIM for giving us some options.

And it is a responsive camera. As before, it starts up almost instantly on pressing the button, and that's a major plus because other phones can take much longer.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Plus, echoing the Torch 9800, there's a marked difference between what you see through the viewfinder and the photos you take on the BlackBerry Torch 9810. It's a good difference, though, because photos look so much richer and more vivid when viewed back than they appear during the actual act of photographing.

Autofocus on the Torch 9810 is a reasonable effort (we compare this to the Bold 9900, which was left wanting in our tests), although there's still no tap-to-focus, which is a shame.

Would it have hurt RIM too much to give us a little bit of leeway and decide where WE want the shot to be focused? With that big screen acting as a viewfinder, it's a feature you can't help but notice by its absence.

Image stabilisation is one of the selling points of the BlackBerry Torch 9810, and is even touched on by RIM in the literature it sends to reviewers.

At first we thought it was rubbish, until we realised that we hadn't enabled it in the options (but then again, will many others know that it needs to be flicked on to improve performance?).

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

And then, once we had enabled it, we had a great laugh testing it out.

We did our best drunk old man impressions and shook the phone as constantly as we could while we took photos of various inanimate objects.

And true to its word, the image stabilisation did kick in most of the time.

There is a trade off though, and that is that for stabilising the image, you end up with noise on the resulting pictures. It's not disgraceful, but it's noticeable, and looks a little bit like when you take a photograph in low light at night (even though our images were taken in full bright daylight).

The LED flash does a sterling job, and we can't complain about it at all.

It picks points out as directed in even the bleakest of conditions, and really puts its all into bathing your shots with white (not yellow, phew) light.

It's a really decent flash for a mobile phone – managing to illuminate a pitch dark room to take the required shot.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

FLASH: Taken in pitch black, the light both illuminates and aids autofocus

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BlackBerry torch 9810

FAR-REACHING:The light illuminates a pitch black room enough for a decent snap

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BlackBerry torch 9810

NOISY:With image stabilisation enabled, you can't help but notice the extra noise

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BlackBerry torch 9810

SCREEN STRIPES:Image stabilisation mode enabled

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BlackBerry torch 9810

CLEARER:The same image with image stabilisation mode disabled

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BlackBerry torch 9810

COLOURFUL:In full daylight, the 5MP camera reproduces colours richly

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BlackBerry torch 9810

CLOSE-UP:Close up subjects are subject to slight blurring if they move

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Video

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Fancy indulging in a little home movie making? (Not that kind!) Then you're in luck. The BlackBerry Torch 9810 comes with HD video recording on board (1280 x 720).

It's a nice addition, and makes us shudder when we think about how we used to get by with blocky old VGA on the previous model.

And it makes us feel ever so slightly smug when you read what we said about this in the original Torch 9800 review:

"With blocky pictures and tinny audio, it once again makes you feel in some ways that [RIM] hasn't thought this through. It's not awful, it's just not mind-blowing.The Torch could be very well capable of HD video recording, but this has been left out because of the smaller processor. We'll see what happens when the Torch 2 is released."

Well, it is here and it is much better. Fluid and crisp, we were really impressed. Of course, we are talking in a BlackBerry context, since it's no match for the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S2 and its HD video recording. But it's not a bad effort at all.

When you first fire up the Torch 9810's video camera app, you'll notice it quickly focuses. This is because it has a built in autofocus for the video recorder too (something we don't always see). And it continues to refocus as you move about, provided lighting conditions are good.

BlackBerry torch 9810

Not only that, but the image stabilisation is here too, along with more scene modes to pick from. It isn't as effective here, for the simple reason that it's not easy to keep an image stable when you're constantly on the move. We found it to be ineffective and couldn't work out why it's here, if truth be told.

The light, as with the stills camera app, is incredibly bright – less a Torch, more a floodlight.

We're not exaggerating – you don't want to shine this in anybody's eyes. We honourably tested it out on ourselves so you wouldn't have to worry, and it almost blinded us.

But that is, of course, once you get the light to come on. RIM doesn't make this task easy.

If you're filming something in the dark and decide to flick the light on quickly to illuminate your video, you're in for a nasty surprise because, goodness only knows why, RIM has buried the option to turn the light on and off way down in the menus.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

By the time you've gone through them all and saved your choice, you'll have clicked six times. It's hardly an option that's easily at hand and we think RIM really has taken its eye off the ball here, which is a shame.

To add insult to injury, there's an icon there notifying you if the light is on or off, but you can't click it on the camera screen.

To transfer your videos, you can only really get them via Bluetooth, email or YouTube. HD videos are way too large for MMS, with a minute-long clip clocking in at 80MB.

Of course, you can set your BlackBerry Torch 9810's camera to VGA just in case, but you'll then have to go through all the menus to change it. Again, there are no on-screen toggles here to do that.

There is a rather useless one for changing the name of your video file though. We don't know who was responsible for these interface brainwaves, but RIM should probably hold back on their bonus this year.

Media

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

If ever a BlackBerry was made for consuming media, the BlackBerry Torch 9810 is it. It's no Samsung Galaxy S2 or Apple iPhone 4, but it's definitely a decent BlackBerry media experience.

You can sync with the official software and drag across iTunes playlists successfully using the cable, and it's fast enough, with full albums popping over in a few seconds.

Video can also be dragged across, although we found that using the drag and drop method was far quicker than the dedicated software, which took an age. And with 40GB potentially in your hand, this trumps even the top end handset from Cupertino for storage.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Music-wise, you're able to create playlists on the device without pain. But there is an issue with album art. For some reason, most of our albums came across with a Bonnie Tyler album cover on, despite us only actually owning one of her CDs (it was a present, OK?).

The same can't be said for the loudspeaker, though. Where it functions brilliantly for calls or ringtones, we found that when it came to playing music out loud, it wasn't ideal. In fact, it was rubbish.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

We're comparing this to our recent test of the Bold 9900. Here's what we had to say there:

"Now, we promise you we haven't had a drink. Nor have we taken a knock to the head. But when we listened to certain songs, we actually heard bits of them we'd never heard before. It may sound odd – but it's true. For example, Bright Lights Big City by Cee Lo Green begins with quite a large orchestral piece.

"We've played that song hundreds of times through an iPhone and a home stereo but only when listening to it on the BlackBerry Bold 9900 did we notice some of the strings and layers we'd never clocked before. Whether it's the way the music is processed or recorded or whether it's just down to the equaliser is anybody's guess but it sounded amazing and we were sold. We loved it!"

So, we eagerly loaded up the same song on the BlackBerry Torch 9810 and prepared ourselves for some musical magic. But it didn't come.

In the end, poor Cee Lo sounded like he was singing underwater. In fact, the volume seemed to go up and down so much that it sounded as if the BlackBerry Torch 9810 was having some kind of fit.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Not that this will be a deal breaker for you, unless you're a 16 year old planning on playing your music loud on the bus to annoy pensioners. But to us, it was definitely a disappointment. Through headphones, it all sounded so much better.

Watching video back was a pleasure. Colours are rendered properly and the phone lends itself to watching videos in landscape.

Unfortunately, there's just no way of propping it up on its own, so unless you plan on holding the Torch 9810 with your hands for the entire duration of a movie, you may end up limiting video watching to short clips.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Pictures can be synced with the desktop software, and individual albums also copied across. They appear as they should in the BlackBerry Torch 9810, with no stray photos, which isn't what we expected.

Speaking of video, the YouTube icon is there (although it's actually just a bookmark to the mobile site) but there's no FM radio. We're disappointed about that, but not surprised. RIM has never included an FM radio in any of its handsets, despite the fact people still listen to the radio.

Battery life and connectivity

We were blown away with the battery life of the original BlackBerry Torch 9800. For a 1300mAh battery, it definitely had a lot of punch.

And there's good and bad news with the BlackBerry Torch 9810.

The bad news is that for some unknown and vaguely ridiculous reason, RIM has equipped the Torch 9810 with the same battery as the older model. That's despite the fact that it has a much more vivid screen and double the processing power.

The good news is that, bizarrely, it doesn't make that much difference.

Yes, battery life isn't exceptional. Gone are the days when BlackBerry mobile phones could boast the most staying power. But, my, we've seen a lot worse.

We took it off charge at 6.30 on Monday morning. We played with it for about 45 minutes while we walked the dog (catching up on Twitter, a bit of browsing and filming a video). We made about 55 minutes worth of calls, sent and received a good 30 emails and 17 texts/Facebook messages, and by 6pm it was still saying it had 60% remaining.

So, we watched There's Something About Mary (well, we didn't actually watch the movie – we loaded it up, let it run and watched something else on a proper TV).

By the time the movie was about 1hr 30min in, the battery was down to 10%, and by just playing around we managed to get it to 5% by bedtime at 11pm. It was dead by morning when we rose.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

The moral of the story is don't use the Torch 9810 to watch movies unless you have a date with your charger. But if you're just going to use it for traditional BlackBerry bits and bobs, you'll more likely than not be fine.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Connectivity-wise, all the bits that you'd expect are there – 3G, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS.

The omission here is NFC. Not that we'll be crying into our cornflakes, since nobody uses it yet, but considering the Bold 9900 is touting it (plus the Curve 9360) as the future and comes with a big fat "I have NFC" smug face, we thought the Torch 9810 would follow suit. Evidently not.

Maps and apps

We've said this a million times but we'll say it again for the million and oneth time. Hopefully RIM is listening: WHY DO YOU STILL BOTHER WITH BLACKBERRY MAPS?

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

It's the most underwhelming piece of software ever.

We're not going to go into the reasons that we hate it, because we'll end up in rehab again. But if you want any useful mapping software that's not slow, buggy and dreadfully poor at scanning around once you've buy a BlackBerry Torch 9810, immediately delete BB Maps, Download Google Maps and move on.

Anyway, speaking of GPS, it's a good chip. It locked on in under 20 seconds for the first time, and every time after that it was fairly responsive. We had no complaints.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

App-wise, you're catered for quite well out of the box. Goodies include Documents To Go (We remember the day when all you got was a free trial!) and Compass (a new addition, but one we can't see many people using on a daily basis).

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

The usual suspects include MemoPad, Tasks, Password Keeper and BlackBerry's new BlackBerry Protect app, which brings the extreme corporate protection BES users benefit from to the many BIS users.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

The inbuilt organiser is also standard BlackBerry fare, and if you use it for BES or something like Google Calendar, you'll have no complaints. We found it synced perfectly and did the job well.

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

BlackBerry's new Universal Voice Search is on board, but we don't think it's anything to write home about. Words were often misunderstood and you still have to press buttons, unless we were doing it wrong. It makes the whole point of a hands-free system fall flat on its face.

There are only two games on board the BlackBerry Torch 9810 (BrickBreaker and Wordmole), which seems a bit stingy compared to what we used to get from BlackBerry. But that's not really something we can complain about too much, since the AppWorld has lots more.

But AppWorld's still not the best software store, if we're honest. Apple, Android and Microsoft all have offerings that are far more fluid and aesthetically pleasing, have more apps and, crucially, are cheaper.

But let's not forget you're not limited to the AppWorld channel – places including Handmark are still in operation, and it will always serve you well to shop around for apps.

Hands-on gallery

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

Verdict

BlackBerry torch 9810 review

It's hard to see who the BlackBerry Torch 9810 is going to appeal to.

Younger users are likelier to flock towards the colourful Curve handsets, and serious users to the Bold 9900.

The Torch 9810 feels a little stuck out on its own, and while RIM has made some concessions and upgrades, we can't help feeling it's too little, too late. This is really what the Torch 9800 should have been a year ago. And while RIM may have caught up, we can't really afford it points merely for keeping up with the Joneses.

We can't quite work out if it's a youth phone, a media phone, a business phone or all three. We suspect the latter, but again RIM appears to be trying to service too many demographics in one go.

Don't get us wrong, the Torch 9810 does certain jobs valiantly, but it just doesn't feel exciting.

If it felt like a safe pair of hands, that would be one thing. But with some fairly minor but annoying gripes, it just doesn't feel... anything.

We liked

The BlackBerry Torch 9810 is an easy to navigate smartphone with a fantastic screen, fast processor and equally impressive battery life.

And of course, BlackBerry it is the world leader in messaging. Contacts are top-notch, and if you fancy a touchscreen keyboard but are scared to take the plunge, this could be the handset to ease you in gently.

We disliked

The BlackBerry Torch 9810 feels only like a minor update, and what the Torch 9800 should have been. No amount of marketing spin can paint this as a new model, and it shows.

Sure, the handset has a great processor that irons out the lag many users saw in the Torch 9800, but that's not enough.

OS 7 may be new but it's not a radical departure, and we can't help feeling a little bit cheated by the whole experience.

And lest we forget, it's still overly chunky and not in the same design league as the likes of the iPhone or latter day Android phones. It's too fat and doesn't leap off the shelves at you, which a top end BlackBerry has to these days if it has any hope of survival.

Final verdict

Years ago, we'd have been thrilled by an upgrade, but now we don't want updates – now, consumers demand massive changes and this isn't a revolutionary product, merely an evolution ("evolution" being the word RIM uses itself on the marketing literature).

If you're obsessed with the BlackBerry Torch form factor, then we heartily recommend the BlackBerry Torch 9810 and wish you luck. But faced with the choice, we'd take the Bold 9900 anytime.

The only benefit we can see is that this now will make the original 9800 cheaper, so you could get that on a good deal, but the Torch 9810 is nothing more than an incremental update badged as a whole new phone.

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