When I reviewed the all-touch BlackBerry Curve 9380 (which I didn’t much like) I decided to take a stab at using its bigger brother the Torch 9860, a device released back in August. This much-maligned device didn’t receive nearly the same amount of press as the flagship Bold 9900, and was overshadowed by the familiar form factor of the Torch 9810.
But the Torch 9860 is a really nice device. I’ve been working feverishly over the past few days to get used to its software keyboard — a serious liability for a BlackBerry if I ever saw one — and through trials and tribulations it’s turning out pretty well.
Let’s just get something out of the way: this device will not be for everybody. It’s an easy device to dismiss, and easier to make fun of — “you mean it’s a high-end BlackBerry with no keyboard?!” — but RIM has done a very nice job with its design, and with BlackBerry 7’s fluid touch support, not having a physical keyboard rarely feels like a hindrance to productivity.
The big screen is sharp and vivid, and probably the phone’s biggest advantage. BlackBerry 7 made huge improvements in speed and quality to the browser, and the Torch 9860 reaps these rewards more than any other. Reading long emails is no longer an exercise in scrolling, and many of the other first-party apps such as Twitter and Facebook look and work great on the big screen.
Media also looks great on the 9860. Photos and videos can actually be viewed in landscape mode without squinting, and with the 1.2Ghz processor and 14.4Mbps baseband, it’s finally possible to use a BlackBerry to enjoy 720p HD content. The camera itself, a 5MP
EDoF autofocus sensor, isn’t up to par with many of its 8MP peers, but the BlackBerry 7 interface is intuitive and enjoyable to use. I did find that it produced shots that equaled or surpassed any other BlackBerry device.
Finally, the keyboard is really the only roadblock to choosing the Torch 9860 over another BlackBerry. The virtual keyboard takes a lot of practice before mastering, and even then it is liable to make more mistakes than you’d like. It would be one thing if the virtual keyboard was better than that of iOS or Android, but it’s not. Sure, it’s capable of predictive text and autocorrect, but that doesn’t mean it works all the time. With practice, and by adding dozens of words to the custom autocorrect dictionary, I was able to keep from correcting every word manually, but it took a while to get to that point.
I found that instead of trying to type as quickly as possible and trusting the autocorrect to fix the errors, it behooves one to type at a slow, steady pace. At first this may seem like a hindrance, but it ends up saving time and avoiding undue frustration. After using the keyboard for around twelve hours, I can reasonably say I no longer fear the Torch 9860.
For someone who wanted a BlackBerry experience again without sacrificing size and function, the Torch 9860 suits me well. I can’t type as quickly on it as on the Bold 9900, and I doubt I ever will. But I can scroll through web pages, flip through photos and watch YouTube videos without feeling like I’m missing out on the whole picture, and, coupled with the decent screen and awesome build quality, makes the Torch 9860 one of the underdogs.
Do you use a BlackBerry Torch 9860? Why did you buy it? Has it held up over the past few months? Let us know in the comments.