BlackBerry Torch review: Hands-on first impressions

RIM's 9800 slider gets the T3 hands-on treatment

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Hands-on first impressions of the upcoming BlackBerry Torch 9800

UPDATE: BlackBerry Torch review | BlackBerry Torch review: Video

The long awaited arrival of the BlackBerry 6 operating system is finally over as RIM yesterday launched the first handset to run the new OS, the much rumoured BlackBerry Torch 9800, a touchscreen touting, full QWERTY slider device.

Check the BlackBerry Torch 9800 pictures here

On first impressions the Torch handset is a strong and meaningful step forward from RIM but one that lacks that killer edge to take it to the top of the crowded smartphone market. Aesthetically there is a tinge of a large Palm Pre about the Torch but with the classic BlackBerry styling and curves. As always, typing on the BlackBerry’s 35 key full QWERTY keyboard is a joy as is the optional on screen keyboard that can be used as a full QWERTY offering when holding the device sideways.

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In terms of screens, RIM has ditched its clicky touchscreen technology for the Torch instead opting for a more standard 3.2-inch 360x480 capacitive touchscreen. Despite this the 9800’s display is decidedly BlackBerry esq, squared off and functional without the wow factor, dazzling colour contrasts and sharpness seen on some Retina display and Super AMOLED bragging handsets. It does however bring new gesture control to the RIM handset such as pinch to zoom that work smoothly and without complaint.

The Torch’s in-built camera is no slouch despite not packing the 720p HD video capabilities now associated with the cream of the smartphone crop. The 5-megapixel snapper is accompanied, as you might expect on a device called the Torch, by an LED flash as well as continuous auto focus and image stabilization.

Giving the Torch’s camera its edge over previous BlackBerry models, however, is its extensive optional scene modes that allow for optimised shooting in a variety of different light levels and visibility situations, much like those found on most compact cameras. A clear influence of RIM’s Canadian roots on these scene modes is the Snow option tailored for areas of increased glare and reflected light that actually gave good results from the brightly lit, bare bulbs at the launch venue.

Playing host to the new BlackBerry 6 operating system, the Torch offers a pleasant user experience with increased functionality across multimedia and social platforms. All social networking updates can now be viewed in one, simple and convenient feed as can all RSS feeds followed. Whilst our hands-on didn’t give us time to test the new operating system’s browser and web capabilities, the universal search tool proved useful for quick trawling across all areas of the handset.

Although no official launch date or pricing has been offered for the BlackBerry Torch in the UK, Vodafone has already confirmed it will be stocking the device when it arrives with other networks expected to follow suit in the coming weeks.

Check back with T3 for a full review of the latest BlackBerry offering ahead of its UK launch. Alternatively, follow T3 on Twitter and Facebook for all the latest gadget news, reviews, features and more.