BlackBerry Torch 9860 review: BlackBerry Torch 9860

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good

Average User Rating

3 stars 9 user reviews
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good 3.7-inch touchscreen; 1.2GHz processor; 720p video recording.

The Bad BlackBerry 7 OS could struggle to compete with Android and iOS.

The Bottom Line With a large, responsive touchscreen and a powerful processor, the BlackBerry Torch 9860 looks like a great bit of hardware. We do have reservations about the software, though.

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The BlackBerry Torch 9860 is a touchscreen-only handset, from a manufacturer famous for making smart phones with Qwerty keyboards. Can it possibly be any cop?

The 9860 is available for free on a £31-per-month contract. If you want to take the SIM-free route, expect to part with around £400.

Should I buy the BlackBerry Torch 9860?

When the touchscreen revolution began, somebody obviously neglected to tell BlackBerry manufacturer RIM. It's taken an inordinate amount of time for the Canadian company to cotton onto the fact that button-based interfaces are slowly losing their popularity.

If you're a BlackBerry fan who's enviously eyed the likes of the iPhone or HTC Desire S , you'll be ecstatic with this handset. It boasts all of the BlackBerry functions that you love, including the now-infamous BlackBerry Messenger , but comes with a responsive 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen and a fresh new operating system, in the form of BlackBerry OS 7.

Alas, therein also lies the Torch 9860's biggest failing. By removing all those lovely Qwerty keys, RIM is in very real danger of alienating its core fan base. Some would argue that the only reason that BlackBerry phones remain relevant is thanks to their finger-friendly keyboards -- and with that vital differentiator out of the picture, the Torch 9860 is arguably outclassed by similarly priced rivals.

Interface

After what seems like an age, RIM has made a concerted effort to bring its BlackBerry OS kicking and screaming into the modern world of touchscreen navigation. BlackBerry OS 6 laid the foundations, but OS 7 is the culmination of that work.

BlackBerry Torch 9860 OS 7
BlackBerry OS 7 is RIM's most touch-friendly interface yet, but it still has some issues.

When you first turn on the phone, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were looking at Apple's iOS menu system. The grid of colourful icons practically screams iOS, and the way in which you can swipe between various icon categories feels intuitive. It's also pleasing to note that you can customise each category to suit your own personal taste.

BlackBerry Torch 9860 settings and messages tabs
The settings and messages tabs at the top of the screen offer quick and easy access to important functions.

The interface is divided into three main sections. At the top of the screen you'll see the time, date, battery level, signal type and signal strength. Tapping this area opens up a sub-menu in which you can manage your wireless connections, toggle options and set your alarm.

Below this area is a thin strip that serves as your notifications panel. Here, you'll find all of your texts, emails, Twitter updates and Facebook messages. Touching the panel opens up a menu via which you can respond to emails, view missed calls and even edit calendar entries. To the left of this panel, you'll find a shortcut to change your phone's current profile, and, on the right, a quick-search icon.

BlackBerry Torch 9860 screen sharpness
With a resolution of 480x800 pixels, the Torch 9860's screen is pretty sharp.

The lower and final section of the interface, your app drawer, is the biggest. This is divided into categories such as favourites, downloaded items and frequently used apps. In its default 'docked' state, only about three quarters of the app drawer is visible. Swiping upwards reveals the entire drawer, and you can scroll up and down to see icons that are off screen.

Should you want to get a good view of your home-screen wallpaper, you can dock the app drawer at the bottom of the screen, or only have one row visible for a minimalist look.

BlackBerry Torch 9860 app drawer
You can slide down the app drawer to fully expose your home screen wallpaper.

It's great that RIM has embraced such a tactile interface. Navigating around using nothing but your digit does feel genuinely pleasurable. But you'll still need to tap that BlackBerry button to pull up app-specific options, and the diminutive nature of the menus means you'll often fall back on the phone's trusty optical trackpad.

Touchscreen

Those bemoaning the removal of all those lovely physical buttons may be placated slightly by the fact that the Torch 9860's 3.7-inch capacitive touchscreen is a real beauty. It uses TFT technology, rather than the all-singing, all-dancing Super AMOLED Plus tech seen on the Samsung Galaxy S2 , but the image is bright and the colours bold.

BlackBerry Torch 9860 compared to Xperia Play and iPhone 4
Placed alongside the Xperia Play (left) and iPhone 4 (right), the Torch 9860's screen more than holds its own.

The resolution of 480x800 pixels may seem low when compared to the iPhone 4 's eye-popping 640x960-pixel 'retina display', but it matters little. Images appear crisp and well-defined, offering a thoroughly pleasing visual experience.

BlackBerry Torch 9860 screen
Movies and videos look surprisingly good on the Torch 9860's screen.

Design

The removal of the traditional keyboard has resulted in a phone that looks about as far removed from the BlackBerry template as you can get. At 12mm thick, the Torch 9860 may not be as slim as the Galaxy S2, but it still feels slender when held in the hand.

BlackBerry Torch 9860 rear
The Torch 9860 has a inward-curving back panel that feels odd at first.

The dip in the back of the phone takes some getting used to. At the top and bottom ends, there are slight bulges, so the back of the Torch 9860 isn't flat, but concave. It's not unpleasant, but it does feel odd initially.

In contrast to the sleek, straight lines of the iPhone 4, the Torch 9860 offers an abundance of curves and rounded edges. There's a chrome strip that runs around the back of the phone, lending it a welcome touch of class. The battery cover is fashioned from metal, which also results in a premium feel.

BlackBerry Torch 9860 lock button
The Torch 9860 sure is curvy.

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Where to Buy

BlackBerry Torch 9860

Part Number: CNETBlackBerry Torch 9860

Typical Price: £400.00

See manufacturer website for availability.

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