The Torch is RIM's first touch-screen/slide-out keypad device, and is a marked improvement on its previous touch-screen efforts. Many BlackBerry fans will love the Torch for its mobile browsing and social networking improvements, but it is unlikely to convert fans of touch-screen pioneers like Apple and Android.
Touch screen plus keypad combination; integrated social and messaging feeds; swipe functionality; enhanced security for business users
Bit weighty and bulky compared to similar devices; low resolution screen; inferior apps store
From £35 per month on a 24-month contract
624MHz Marvell processor, 512MB RAM, BlackBerry 6 OS, support for up to 32GB Micro SD card, 5-megapixel camera, 480 x 360 3.2in touch-screen, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, 111 x 62 x 14.6mm, 161.1g
The BlackBerry Torch, the latest addition to Research In Motion's smartphone family, has just gone on sale in the UK, and we've had one in the V3.co.uk office for the past few days to test.
The Torch is RIM's first touch-screen/slide-out keypad device, and aims to offer the best of all worlds for smartphone users. BlackBerry fans get a fancy touch screen to try and outdo their iPhone- and Android-owning colleagues, while touch-screen fans get the addition of a physical keypad for heavy duty typing tasks at little extra weight or bulk.
The 480 x 360 3.2in touch screen is a vast improvement on RIM's previous effort with the Storm. The Torch retains the capacitive touch screen, but has lost the SurePress technology, which made a click sound for every press on the screen.
We found the touch screen on the Storm models to be difficult to use, needing to press down quite hard on the screen or press twice to type or access applications, and then often accidentally opening the wrong application or typing the wrong character through hitting the incorrect key.
The Torch's screen is much more comparable to leaders in the market for a touch-screen experience, such as Apple and HTC. It was a smooth experience scrolling up and down and side to side while browsing web pages, while the pinch to zoom worked well. It also requires a lighter touch than on the Storm.
You can also use the sideways swipe action in applications, such as messages, which lets you slide between emails, phone calls and instant messaging conversations - we enabled Google Chat on our test handset - and to scroll through your home screens.
RIM has included various home screen options: All, which features the standard apps such as email, SMS and social feeds, along with any downloaded apps; Favourites, where users can create and store icons for the web pages that they visit most or their most used contacts; Media, housing videos, pictures and music; Downloads, for all your App World apps; and Frequent, grouping together the 12 most-used functions.
There are a range of text input options for the touch screen: Qwerty in landscape mode, and Qwerty, SureType and multi-tap in portrait mode. It's easy to switch between these: simply press the BlackBerry key while composing a message and you'll be offered the option to enable full or reduced keyboard, or SureType.
Typing on the Torch's virtual keyboard was a bit fiddly as the keys are narrower than on other touch-screen devices. We found the best typing mode to be landscape Qwerty, but it's useful to have the multi-tap and SureType options; these might require more key presses, but you could experience fewer mistakes.
The physical keypad is slightly against the grain of other slider phones. We immediately held the device in landscape mode to slide the touch screen up widthways, as did a few colleagues who tried out the Torch.
Sliding the touch screen up in portrait mode to reveal the keypad is not the most natural of movements, although it has enabled RIM to engineer the Torch based on the Bold unit, the best BlackBerry handset in our opinion.
Fitting a Bold-style keypad into the Torch has meant the keypad is slightly narrower than on the most recent Bold model, at 54mm compared to 56mm. Even though it's a mere 2mm difference, we did notice it being that bit more awkward to type than on the regular Bold 9700 model. Those with chunky fingers might have problems with pressing incorrect keys but, then again, you can always revert to the touch screen.