Hands-on: Blackberry Torch 9800

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Hands-on: Blackberry Torch 9800

A shining beacon or Flash in the pan? We take a closer look.

The line between a personal phone and a business phone is blurring quicker than a chalk drawing in the rain and its apparent that Blackberry-maker RIM is paying attention.

Whereas older BlackBerry models have traditionally screamed “professional” louder than a pinstripe suit, the newly launched Torch 9800 has a slightly different aesthetic. 

In fact, the new handset has almost a “reverse mullet” feel – the party is at the front and the business is at the back. Or at least there’s a full QWERTY keyboard waiting to slide down from behind the screen, with a very satisfying clunk.

Speaking of the screen, despite the 480x360 res on the 3.2in HVGA display, it actually feel quite bright and crisp when used. The touch is pleasantly responsive and one actually wonders why RIM included the traditional BlackBerry track pad at all – it’s certainly not been used much in this office. 

Despite the hidden keyboard, the Torch doesn’t feel overly thick or heavy, although it certainly doesn’t sport the svelte lines of certain other phones. 

The Torch is not as svelte as the HTC Legend, but Blackberry OS 6 is a strong drawcard.

Starting up from a fresh install of the battery takes a bit over two minutes, but the Torch has cunningly disguised its hibernation mode as “powered down” so in normal use, the total time elapsed between hitting the power button and ready to rock and roll is actually 3.4 seconds. 

Weirdly, the home screen doesn’t scroll side to side, but the application pages do. This means you’re not getting the nice widget-style home screen functionality of an Android or Windows Phone 7. The 624MHz processor may not sound like much, but it works perfectly, with applications opening quickly and everything feeling remarkably smooth. 

The new OS 6 is also quite enjoyable, although hardly a quantum leap from the old one in terms of look and feel. What changes there are however, are welcome with universal search across all messages, contacts, apps etc being a great addition for users. 

In all, our first few hours with the Torch were pleasant, although hardly a life-changing revelation that would make us consign all other phones to the dustbin of history. But dedicated CrackBerry addicts will find a lot to like here. 

The Torch is available exclusive on Optus for the immediate future, available for $0 on the $79-per-month plan. RIM has stated that the unit will also be available from Tesltra and VHA when the Optus exclusivity period ends. 

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