BlackBerry Torch 9850/9860 Review: The Full Touchscreen Torch

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After I first heard that RIM was making another attempt at a full touchscreen device I got excited but then remembered that Blackberry fans felt let down with the launch with the storm, then the storm 2. Those devices definitely left a sour taste in my mouth when it comes to RIM making a full touchscreen device. However, I believe the success of the Torch 9800 played a big part in the making of the Torch 9850/9860. RIM saw that there was a market for touch screen BlackBerrys and decided to go ahead with the full touchscreen Torch. I would say that the most impressive features of this device are Liquid Graphics and the powerful 1.2GHz processor. Read on to get the full scoop on RIM’s first successful full touch screen device.

blackberry torch 9850/9860

Size, Weight and Feel

The Blackberry Torch 9850/9860 has a really sleek design and a refined look. When you first pick it up it immediately feels great in your hands, especially being held horizontally as it has new curved ends for an all new feel for gaming and typing with the full screen keyboard. It’s a very respectable screen size at 3.7” and the solid design make the phone feel like it was well made and not with cheap plastics. The battery door is made of metal and gives it a nice solid feel however, it does add a little to the weight. Weighing in at 4.76oz it weighs 1oz or about 20% less than the Torch 9810.

I’ve put this device in the hands of several people (including my wife who has a Style 9670) and asked them what they thought of the size, weight and feel. I received very positive feedback from them and they all seemed to really like the weight. They commented on the fact that it felt like a really solid phone. Even my wife said that she doesn’t like touchscreen devices but she really enjoys the styling and the placement of the buttons; especially the full lock key on the top of the device.

Compass

It really makes me happy to see that RIM is finally putting useful technology into their phones and listening to what people want. The Torch 9850/9860 comes fully loaded with a digital compass that enables the use of applications like Wikitude’s augmented reality application.

As great as this feature is, I really don’t think that it’s been perfected yet as I found myself getting quite frustrated having to calibrate the compass several times when trying to use it. I found myself flipping and rotating the phone while walking down the street. I was getting very weird looks from people wondering what the heck I was doing to my phone.

blackberry torch 9850/9860

Hardware

RIM has finally upgraded the processor family in the new lineup of blackberrys. In the last generation of phones the fastest processor was 624Mhz and now the slowest processor is 800Mhz, while the higher end phones (Torch, Bold) run a beefed up 1.2Ghz chip. They’ve also added more memory to the new phones, actually the Bold 9900 and Torch 9810 come with 8GB of internal memory, however, the Torch 9850 only comes with 4GB of internal memory. I know it supports up to a 32GB card but come on. Why give one of the higher end BlackBerrys only 4GB of internal memory? Especially when recording HD video takes up so much space, this just doesn’t make any sense to me with memory being so cheap these days.

Screen

I’ll be the first to admit that touchscreen devices for RIM haven’t always been great. I’m very confident in saying that the Torch “Touch” 9850 is by far the best full touchscreen device that they’ve ever made. It finally all comes together, having the new 1.2Ghz processor with OS 7 and Liquid Graphics makes this phone a joy to use and the quality is finally up to much higher standards. It has a large, High-Res 3.7” 800×480 WVGA Transmissive TFT LCD display that produces an extremely crisp and clear picture that will make it hard to put this device down. Rocking out 252ppi (pixels per inch) adds a whole new dimension of clarity that really brings this phone up to standards with the current cell phone market. Sliding through menus and pinching & zooming is a very pleasant experience which I really enjoy showing off to my friends and family. Using the Torch 9800 for scrolling through pictures, menus or anything that would require fluidity is almost painful after using this phone. All in all a great screen that is a huge step up from any previous device.

blackberry torch 9850/9860

Input (Virtual Keyboard)

RIM said that they’ve improved the touch keyboard for a better experience and more accuracy. I haven’t really experienced this. The keyboard is still really great and I don’t really have a lot of bad things to say about it but I really don’t think it’s that much improved over previous ones. The Torch 9850 being a full screen device the on-screen keyboard is larger and does feel more accurate. Overall, it’s still missing that refined touch. I still find myself making spelling mistakes and auto-correct just isn’t good enough to know what I’m trying to say. Having a bigger on-screen keyboard and larger device that is conformed to your hands for quick to thumb typing is still a better experience than typing on my Torch 9800.

I did have one major issue with the keyboard that I really hope they fix. In the middle of a text message I would get an error that said “device input error, restarting device”. I thought that it was a one time thing however, it happened to me a few times and OS updates never fixed it. I hope in the next version of the OS RIM get this issue resolved.

Battery Door

Keeping with the theme of full touch screen devices having a metal battery door the Torch 9850 doesn’t change things up. The door is made of a strong, but thin metal that really gives the device a nice feel with a coating that almost feels like satin. The metal door is very easy to remove with the simple push of a button and just as easy to replace. Sporting a polished chrome BlackBerry logo on the back, this battery door really does give it a more refined feel and makes it feel more solid. I’m definitely a fan.

blackberry torch 9850/9860

Blackberry OS 7

When I first got my Torch 9800 with OS 6 I had really high expectations and was hoping for a really great device with a much needed update to outdated software that was falling behind the pack.

Unfortunately to say, I wasn’t super impressed with OS 6. The dpi on the screen was low, the motions were choppy and loading applications seems to take a lot longer than expected. I’m very happy to say that all of those issues are a thing of the past and OS 7 has really impressed me and given me some insight of great things to come from BlackBerry.

When I tested the new Torch 9860 at the BlackBerry OS 7 release event in downtown Toronto the representative told me that the web browsing experience was about 40% faster compared to OS 6. I disagree. I thought it was about 80-100% faster, depending on what I was loading. Finally a much improved and better experience browsing on a BlackBerry, as this one probably one of the biggest complaints for BB fans. Also, with HTML 5 support you really can’t go wrong.

The icons while similar to the previous ones have been refreshed with a new feel and new design. Full of detail and color they work hand in hand with the high res and high DPI screen to bring a more refined look.

The voice search is a great new feature in OS 7 giving a “hands free” option for fast searching on your device. Press the microphone icon in the search and you’ll be prompted to say a search word or phrase, Only about a second later your results will be on the screen. Testing this several times I must say that I’m actually really impressed. If there’s little to no background noise this feature was 100% accurate and about 90% with medium to high background noise. Very respectable. What’s needed is for RIM to make the voice a little more user friendly and connect actions. See more about this from this article on BlackBerryCool.

Internal Specifications

Screen/Sensors

TFT capacitive touchscreen with 16M colors
480 x 800 pixels, 3.7 inches (252 ppi)
Optical trackpad
Multi-touch input method
Proximity sensor for auto turn-off
Accelerometer sensor for auto-rotate
Magetometer (Digital Compass)

Communication

CDMA 800 / 1900 / CDMA2000 1xEV-DO
GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900 / HSDPA 2100 (EDGE ONLY in Canada)
v2.1 with A2DP + EDR
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (2.4GHz)
Full GPS + A-GPS

Media

5 MP, 2592?1944 pixels, autofocus
Geo-tagging, continuous auto-focus, image stabilization, face detection
720p HD Video recording

Battery

Li-Ion 1230 mAh
Talk Time – up to 6 h 50 min
Music playback – up to 50 hours

Memory

4GB of Storage (This should be 8GB like other OS7 Devices)
768MB of RAM
Up to 32GB with microSD card

Processor

1.2GHz processor, Qualcomm MSM8655 Snapdragon

blackberry torch 9850/9860

Media

This device is truly a media powerhouse with an upgraded 5mp camera with autofocus, HD 720p video recording and a refreshed music player. It has all of the bells and whistles to keep you entertained for hours. I’ll start with the camera. The Torch 9800 took good pictures however the 9850 takes better pictures. I find the lighting better and the pictures are just slightly better quality all together.

When I heard that the new OS7 devices were going to have 720p HD video I was very excited because the standard 640 x 480 video was sort of terrible. The video quality is finally clear and smooth along with decent sound getting slightly distorted when what you’re recording is very loud, like at at a concert. For an HD camera built into a cell phone you really can’t go wrong.

The built in music player has also been refreshed and has a much more fluid feel and is incredibly smooth when scrolling through music. Loading up the album covers still takes a second to load initially but once it’s up its good to go. One thing I really like is fact that when you are listening to a song you can scroll through the album covers while still listening to your first song. If you like what you see more than what’s playing just click on it then it begins to play. A new feature in the music player that I found is when your playing a song the artist name and album are now clickable buttons. When you click on artist it shows all songs by that artist, same with the album, it brings up all of the songs you have in that particular album. I find this makes searching for your favorite songs much easier.

blackberry torch 9850/9860

General use

Phone quality is very good. I think this is the first phone I’ve had that people don’t complain about not hearing me clearly or asking me to repeat myself several times (which I hate). The speakerphone is quite good as well. I’ve noticed that there is some type of sound amplification that kicks in after the first ring and I’ll have to turn the volume down or it gets distorted and sounds terrible.

SMS and MMS are still very easy to use, which I believe is why a lot of people use BlackBerry. Big buttons on the bottom of the texting screen allow you to add attachment easily, view contact info or even move on to the next unread item in your SMS inbox. BBM 6 is very cool with OS 7 and with Wikitude, you now you can see your BBM contacts that are in your vicinity.

BlackBerry is trying very hard to integrate BBM more into people’s lives, and with the recent release of apps like BBM Music, it’s proof that they are going in the right direction. One massive thing that was fixed with BBM 6 is scrolling in your contact list when it’s expanded used to be incredibly choppy and laggy. I’m happy to say that this has been 100% resolved with the new version of BBM, Liquid Graphics and the new hardware.

Conclusions

Pros:

New design, great feel
OS 7 + New hardware = All around better experience
HD Video recording
Auto focus camera
Digital compass

Cons:

Only 512MB Storage, other OS7 phones have 768MB
No NFC
Digital Compass need calibrating constantly
Battery life – Lower capacity battery than previous phones
Only runs EDGE on GSM Mode (9850 Only)
Tiny mute button

blackberry torch 9850/9860

Final thoughts

All in all this is a great addition to the OS 7 line up. Though there are a few things that could be improved upon before the BBX phones come out. I think they could have a better quality chrome bezel around the phone as mine started to peel up within a couple of weeks with regular use.

Launching applications on the Torch 9850 is much better than any previous BlackBerry. The lag between clicking the icon and the launch of the app is now a fraction of a second. RIM is still catching up with the Android / iPhone competition in this department. Until BBX comes out, we’re still stuck with J2ME-based phones that don’t handle the whole app experience very well.

RIM has been judged pretty harshly since the release of these phones and people claim to be let down by RIM. I disagree. I think this is a small leap forward into what we will see from RIM in the near future: a great device with a solid OS. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best full touchscreen device that RIM has released and I’m excited to see the next generation BlackBerrys.

Fine tuning with the new technology will be key if RIM ever wants people actually using these features. I eventually gave up on having to calibrate the compass and it was very frustrating. I still see the hour glass every now and again, and I still need to pull the battery about every 4-5 days. App World bogs down the device, and there is minor checkerboarding in the web browser. I’ve learned to accept these quirks as I really love the whole BlackBerry experience. These are all things that I hope RIM has solved in the new, highly anticipated BBX platform.

I would definitely recommend this device to anyone looking for a little more touchscreen experience from their current Torch 9800.

  • Afzalreefcf

    my comment is can possible blackberry 3G and front camera. 

  • Afzalreefcf

    my comment is can possible blackberry 3G and front camera. 

  • Lorenstephens

    I have had my 9850 for a couple of months now and I really like it. Finally getting the hang of the typing on the screen keyboard.

  • http://about.me/kylemcinnes Kyle McInnes

    I haven’t tried the Torch 9850 yet but I’m using the Curve 9380 and I can’t handle the virtual keyboard. The entire BlackBerry experience is held back by the lack of a decent keyboard input. Universal search, keyboard shortcuts, messaging etc. It’s all worse on RIM’s all-touch devices.

    What I do like the device for is consuming content. Mapping applications and reading news is great on a big screen. But for someone who does more input, it’s not a good choice.

  • Anonymous

    I agree the keyboard input could be better!

  • Anonymous

    I agree the keyboard input could be better!

  • Namename

    Your complaints about OS6 being choppy are due to slow hardware in the previous models. More than anything the better CPU with OS 7 devices is why it’s not choppy.

  • http://about.me/kylemcinnes Kyle McInnes

    Not sure that’s true. OS 7 uses OpenGL2 for the UI and it’s much more fluid.

  • http://top-sunglasses.org/ Oakleys

    JTWBNPCBTXLSZMXDN? I like it very much!

  • Adityan

    The 9850 is a CDMA version. CDMA technology does not provide 3G wireless networks but rather EVDO, so how would your 9850 show that. Secondly the 9860/50 both possess a 768MB on-board memory. Overall the phone i.e hardware and software are well engineered providing a fantastic user experience.

  • Gambler24

    i have this phone ive had it for two weeks and the first few days a bubble appeared on screen but dissapeared now my phone is over heating and its just a blank screen back to the shop it goes has anyone else had these problems? i do really love my blackberry and i cant wait until it gets fixed :)!!! best blackberry ive had bye far & i have had a few lol!

  • ere

    I have had my 9860 for about five months now. Haven’t had discouranging issues so far. I would prefer it with bigger screen like Samsung Galaxy NOTE. Do we expect such soon???

  • Raaghav76

    just bought torch 9860..excellent overall…cant get skype..downloaded

  • Eosittr

    does it have a front facing camera? it looks like one but the option to use it isnt there?

  • Harcourt

    You all have to be kidding! Sure this won’t get on the site. My touch is so hard to use I had to get a stylist to type on it. Could the keys get any smaller???? Really is a horrible tool. My company just allow employees to activate their Iphones. Due to our contract with RIMS we can deploy the RIMS product till the contract expires. 

    ADVISE- don’t buy any of their stock, they have had more than enough time to get a product to market that can compete. Too bad becasue it was the cutting edge when they launched it. I would rather have my first BB than this horrible tool

  • http://www.facebook.com/mayank.goyal.75470 Mayank Goyal

    Never ever buy this piece of Shit. I bought it and it hangs hangs like anything. Then restarts itself and keep restarting for forever. Given this to Support center they say hardware problem and I am without cell for 20 days..BULLSHIT.

  • unf0rg1v3n

    I love the Torch my me my wife and my son have had them for over a year now and today we received one for my daughter. Had to purchase it from ebay because Sprint dropped the 9850. The phone is rock solid and extremely durable. The calendars are great for coordinating a family on the move we always know what every1 is doing. I really hope blackberry manages to stay alive and brings a new touch screen to market. I just don;t know what I’ll do when it’s time for a new phone. No one offers what blackberry brings to the table and it’s such a shame they have fallen from grace. I manage our companies Sprint account with 235 lines and have used Iphones and just about every other phone know to man and the most reliable phones Smart phones are blackberries. The best basic handset were the Motorola Nextels and now we are stuck trying to find something that comes remotely close to their reliability and durability. I just hope we don;t find ourselves in the same situation with Blackberry. It seems that all the manufactures have followed Apple’s lead with the replace your phone every 6 months whether you need a new one or not and most phones are disposable and fragile.

  • hii13

    This phone is great and I love it but too bad that I only had it for 7 months and it broke, wont turn on at all. I went everywhere to fix it and no one can. Also, the fact that if you buy it not from AT&T, blackberry will NOT do anything is pissing me off. I really dont like how providers and cellphone company works in U.S.!!!