The RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 is a quad-band world phone featuring 3G and HSPA+ technology, which AT&T defines as "4G." It also supports Bluetooth 2.2, Wi-Fi, and GPS. You'll also get the usual speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, visual voice mail, and text and multimedia messaging. The latter is combined into a unified inbox with other messaging systems and supports threaded conversations and group chat. As we hinted at above, you also get support for any instant messaging client as long as you have the app for it.
BlackBerry's strength has always been its strong e-mail integration and it's no different with the Torch 9810. It's able to sync with BlackBerry Enterprise Server as well as Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, and Novell GroupWise for all your corporate e-mail needs. You can also use a free but limited version of BES that lets you sync your Exchange calendar, contacts, and tasks. If you want to check your personal e-mail, the Torch 9810 lets you access up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts in either separate or combined in-boxes via BlackBerry Internet Service. There's a handy setup wizard that walks you through the process of setting up your BlackBerry ID and connecting that to your e-mail address. If you use a web mail service like GMail, Yahoo, AOL, or Windows Live, it's as easy as entering in your login information--you can also set up your own POP3 and IMAP4 account if you wish. We were able to get our Gmail account added in just a few steps, but it did take almost 20 minutes for the phone to sync up our inbox.
RIM is keen on social network integration with its new BlackBerry handsets, so it's no surprise that the Torch 9810 comes bundled with the latest BlackBerry editions of the Facebook and Twitter apps. You also get Social Feeds 2.0, an app that houses a variety of RSS feeds, podcast subscriptions, BBM, Facebook, Twitter, Google Talk, and more into a single hub. BBM has also been updated to BBM 6, which features tighter integration with apps like Foursquare or games so you can let your BBM contacts know of your check-ins and high scores. You can also start a BBM chat within any of those apps.
Other preinstalled apps include a memo pad, a calculator, a calendar, a tasks list, a premium version of Docs to Go, BlackBerry Balance, BlackBerry Protect, YPMobile, The Weather Channel, Fandango, Bloomberg Mobile, and Password Keeper. Instant messaging fans will also appreciate that Windows Live Messenger, Yahoo Messenger, and Google Talk are included as well. Six AT&T apps are also preloaded on the Torch 9810, and they are AT&T FamilyMap, myAT&T, AT&T Maps, AT&T Music, AT&T Live TV, and AT&T Code Scanner. You can purchase and download more apps from the BlackBerry App World store.
Web browsing and multimedia
Another browser improvement is support for HTML 5 video. We tried out a few demo videos on html5video.org, and the Torch 9810 played them just fine. Those looking for Flash support will be disappointed, however. There's no word from RIM if Flash support is in the future for OS 7. The rest of the OS 7 browser is the same as with OS 6, with features like tabbed browsing, enhanced URL sharing, pinch-to-zoom, text reflow, and more.
The Torch 9810 has pretty decent multimedia offerings for what is still a corporate-friendly handset. You get a dedicated YouTube app, Slacker Radio, and a new dedicated podcast app. The built-in music player also has a decent interface, with a Cover Flow-like presentation of albums and tracks. It supports MP3, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, WMA, FLAC, and OGG audio formats, and the video player supports MPEG4, H.263, H.264, and WMV video codecs. To get media files on the phone, you can either load up a content-filled microSD card or drag and drop them to a connected BlackBerry like it's a mass storage device. You can also use the BlackBerry Desktop Software to sync your media libraries. The Torch 9810 has 8GB onboard memory, but the microSD card slot can take up to 32GB cards.
We're mostly pleased with the 5-megapixel camera on the Torch 9810. It has a slew of settings like image stabilization, up to three resolutions, autofocus, geotagging, flash, and lots of scene modes that include face detection, night mode, and one just for capturing text. The result is pretty good photo quality for the most part. Images looked sharp and colors were accurate, especially in bright sunlight. Low light shots suffered a little bit, and looked softer than usual.
A big upgrade from the first Torch 9800 is that the Torch 9810 now supports 720p HD video. We took a few short video clips and were impressed with what we saw. Video was crisp and colorful, though we did encounter some graininess with indoor shots. We would recommend you disable auto focus, as the video camera kept trying to refocus the shot every time we moved the phone.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was quite impressive on the whole. We experienced good signal strength and heard our callers clearly. They sounded quite loud as well, with voices that sounded nice and natural. There was a tiny bit of distortion at times, but it wasn't a deal breaker.
Callers reported great results as well. They did say our voice sometimes leaned a little robotic, but it was quite natural sounding most of the time. Speakerphone results were decent as well.
RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 call quality sample
Instead of just regular 3G, the Torch 9810 now has HSPA+, which boasts improved data speeds with a theoretical maximum of 14.4 Mbps download speed. While we hesitate to call this technology "4G," we did notice it was quite fast. We loaded the mobile CNET page in just 6 seconds, while the full CNET site loaded in around 14 seconds. We downloaded and installed a 1.3MB app in just 43 seconds. We experienced very little buffering when watching YouTube videos as well.
The BlackBerry Torch 9810 has a rated talk time of 6.5 hours (2G)/5.9 hours (3G) and up to 12.8 days (2G)/12.3 days (3G) of standby time. According to FCC radiation tests, the Torch 9810 has a digital SAR of 1.44 watts per kilogram.
The RIM BlackBerry Torch 9810 offers several improvements over its predecessor, like a 1.2GHz processor, 720p HD video recording, HSPA+ speeds, a sharper display, and of course BlackBerry OS 7. The latter provides a new Liquid Graphics technology that makes the touch screen that much snappier, voice-activated universal search, improved applications, as well as support for new technologies like augmented reality applications. On the whole, however, it's a rather incremental upgrade. The design is the same as before, with not a lot of changes to the portrait sliding keyboard, and OS 7 itself is not too different from OS 6 in terms of the user interface. Yet, at $49.95, it's an absolute bargain for BlackBerry fans.