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BlackBerry Torch first impressions

CNET gets a hands-on look at the new RIM BlackBerry Torch for AT&T and finds a lot to like about it, but also some things of concern. Read our first impressions here.

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As expected, RIM and AT&T introduced the RIM BlackBerry Torch 9800 on Tuesday morning, the first device to run BlackBerry OS 6 and also RIM's first slider phone.

Even before the great unveiling, some were already calling the Torch RIM's "iPhone killer" and though we'd rather never hear that term again, we were certainly interested in seeing what RIM had to offer. After all, the BlackBerry OS 6 preview videos were intriguing enough.

Well, we got a chance to spend some time with the Torch after the press conference, and found some things that we really liked and other aspects that left us a bit cold. We go into more detail in our hands-on photo gallery below.

Generally speaking, we liked the phone's design. The handset itself is solid and is still compact enough to comfortably sit in a pants pocket. The combination of the touch screen and physical QWERTY keyboard gives you the best of both worlds, but we were really disappointed that it had a lower-resolution screen. The display is clear enough that you can read text and view media with no problem, but after using the high-res displays on smartphones like the Samsung Vibrant and Motorola Droid X, the Torch's screen looks pretty archaic.

In terms of software, BlackBerry OS 6 brings some much-needed improvements to the business-minded smartphone, and does a good job of presenting a more user-friendly interface and quicker access to relevant tools. We especially like the new navigation bar at the bottom of the home screen, as it neatly groups apps by category and personal preference. Universal search is another feature that really stood out, since RIM makes good on the word "universal" and searches the contents of your phone, as well as the Web, YouTube, and third-party apps.

Of course, we also welcome the new media player interface, but more than anything, we're happy to see the new WebKit browser. Even in our brief time with it, we could already tell it was better. The tabbed-browsing feature was nicely integrated, and the browser felt faster, though still slow compared with some of the latest Android devices and the iPhone. In fact, sluggishness is a big concern with the device in general.

With a 624MHz processor, the smartphone felt a little underpowered and just didn't feel as snappy as some of the latest phones on the market. Though RIM made some great enhancements to the platform, it would have been nice if it had also improved the hardware.

All that said, we'll reserve final judgment for when we get a device in for review. In the meantime, we'd love to hear your thoughts on the Torch. Is this a smartphone you'd consider getting? How do you think BlackBerry OS 6 compares with the competition? Let us know!

BlackBerry Torch 9800