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printed July 28, 2014
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Review: BlackBerry 9800 Torch

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Screen

The Torch's screen measures 3.2 inches and offers a measly 360 x 480 pixels. It's certainly not a bad display, but after using high-resolution displays from RIM's competitors, it is hard to be excited about 360 x 480. Most icons, menus, and images look decent. Some rough pixel edges are visible here and there, but they are by no means horrible to behold. Even small text is easy enough to read. As far as brightness goes, the display is easy to read indoors and outdoor visibility was surprisingly good. Reading emails, browsing the web, using the camera, sorting through menus was no problem at all under a bright, summer sun.

Signal

The Torch performed well in signal tests. It consistently held onto one or two more bars than other AT&T handsets tested in the same spot. It survived a trip to my basement with no problems, as well as a trip into NYC and other areas around northern New Jersey. The Torch rarely dropped below three bars in the signal indicator, with it most often showing four or five. How does that translate to real-world performance? Favorably. I experienced no dropped calls, no missed calls, and data sessions were consistent. BlackBerry devices generally do well with signal performance and the Torch is no different.

Sound

Sound was disappointingly inconsistent on the Torch. Call quality ranged all over, from bad to good. Some calls were crystal clear, others were horribly noisy and cut in and out. Earpiece volume was sufficient for most normal environments. I was easily able to hear a caller while sitting near a loud air conditioner, and while sitting in a busy coffee shop. Car noise shouldn't be cause for concern. The speakerphone was just shy of loud enough. Even with the volume set all the way up, it was a bit quieter than I wanted it to be. The sound quality issues mixed with the almost-there volume force me to suggest you seek alternatives for the speakerphone if you have them available.

Battery

RIM's co-CEO Mike Lazaridis is obsessed with battery life. That's one reason why BlackBerries traditionally perform well when it comes to holding onto a charge. In my tests, the Torch proves once again how Lazardis' devotion to power management pays off. The Torch easily lasted though an entire day with email, Twitter, and Facebook pinging it every few seconds. Phone calls didn't seem to dent battery life too much, nor did browsing the web. I was able to kill off a full charge in just over 31 hours. That was with heavy use. Those who use the Torch more sparingly -- and leave out the social networking -- might see two full business days of use.

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