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Tech Tonic

Getting Torchy-feely with the new Berry

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Straight off the bat, using the BlackBerry Torch is akin to watching Sachin Tendulkar play tennis. Now don't get me wrong. I'm sure the little master could wield the racquet better than most;probably hit the ball harder;and even run around the court much longer, when compared to many of us. But I'd rather watch him play cricket...


And the Torch is like that. It's a 'business' phone that's trying to do 'non-business ' things. Of course, the RIM device retains the features that made it a hit with the 'suits' - push email, top-notch security and encryption, and of course, BB Messenger for that berry-to-berry instant messaging - and it still does all of that well.


But I can't shake the feeling that something is lacking. When the gadget pitches itself as a "convergence" thingamajig, it puts itself in direct competition with the likes of the Apple iPhone 4, Samsung Galaxy S, Nokia N8 and Motorola Milestone - and that is where its flaws are highlighted;much like the hard-to-ignore wart on a pretty girl's face. Sadly, the Torch is not even the prettiest out there...

DOES IT HAVE THE LOOKS?


Call me vain, but if I pay Rs 34, 000 for any gadget, I want the damn thing to hook eyeballs. The Torch does not. The slider phone, although well fabricated and robustly built, looks dated. I took the device out of my pocket during my commute by train;all the time hoping to draw the attention of fellow commuters. Nothing! Instead, the man beside me extricated an iPhone 4 from his bag and almost thrust it under my nose in a show of one-upmanship. How rude. Still, the new BB boasts of a nice rubberised back that makes it slip-resistant to the sweatiest of palms.


But if there's something really annoying about the device, it is the placement of its screen lock - a very 'soft touch' button that sits on the top of the phone. This means every time I reached into my pocket, I invariably ended up unlocking it. Add a touchscreen and it means that you've probably accessed an application on the phone without realising...

HOW WELL DOES IT DO WHAT IT DOES?


But a BlackBerry is a BlackBerry, and this one is no different. The Torch is easily one of the best push-email devices out there, and I have yet to see the likes of the BB Messenger on any contemporary gadget. The voice clarity during calls is good and leaves very little to be desired. Battery life is phenomenal and allows for nearly two days of moderate usage.


The device's Qwerty keypad is top-notch - only this time, the keys are a bit squeezed together to make room for the phone's slider mechanism. And while it makes for slightly tougher typing, it's not bad at all.


The Torch's browser is clean, fast, allows for pinch-zooming and holds its own against some of the best on cell phones. But then, there is its screen: The Torch is stuck with a measly 480x360 pixels squashed in 3. 2 inches. This, when the Milestone does 480x854 pixels in 3. 7 inches;the Galaxy S, 480x800 pixels in 4. 0 inches;and the iPhone 4, a staggering 640x960 pixels in 3. 5 inches. Understandably, fonts, graphics and videos don't render as beautifully as they do on these other devices.


The capacitive screen is responsive;letting you tap, slide, and access the application with impunity. The onscreen keyboard, however, is stubborn in vertical mode. Even colleagues with pretty, well-manicured fingers found it hard to coax it to do their bidding. In horizontal view, typing on the touchscreen is easier, but the task is still cumbersome. Best to use its keypad at all times. Moving to its innards, the Torch again lacks fire. It is powered by a modest 624MHz processor in a time where competition such as the iPhone 4, Milestone and Galaxy S have screaming 1GHz processors under their hoods. Besides, 512 MB of RAM and 4 GB of inbuilt storage (with a microSD slot for additional storage of up to 32 GB) complete the package. Still, the device handled multi-tasking rather decently: I messaged, sent email, accessed Facebook and Twitter, chatted on its messenger, listened to music and even watched videos;many times doing multiple things. But that's not to say there weren't any glitches: Click on an attachment in emails and the device sometimes took just that tad bit longer to react. At times, the Torch looked like it had frozen. Hah, a frozen Torch!

IS IT LOTS OF FUN?


The Torch boasts of a 5-megapixel camera along with an LED flash. It also offers a variety of preset modes - including face detection, portrait, sports, party, landscape and close-up - and all these are easily accessible when in photo mode. Now, while the image quality is decent, it lacks vibrancy, and the device will never be a replacement for basic point-andclick cameras. Also, it's a far cry from the 12-megapixel beast in the N8.


On the video front, the Torch is almost frugal, offering mere 640x480 resolution videos at 24 frames per second (FPS), when other smartphones in the range are doing 1280×720 high-definition video at 30FPS. And of course, its audio player does music passably, but please don't expect a sterling performance.

TO SUM IT UP...


The Torch is not a bad device, but it does not offer anything new to its old 'BlackBerry Boys'. All of what you can do on this one - access push email, use BB Messenger, rely on data security - you can do on an older RIM device that costs around Rs 20, 000 less. Simply put, the Torch is too expensive a proposition at its current price point. And in its new 'convergence' avatar - as a media device - it just does not meet the cut.

THE BLACKBERRY TORCH


PRICE:

Rs 33, 990

PROS


Push email, BB Messenger and data security Good web browser Great build quality

CONS


Too expensive Does not do anything new for business users Pales in comparison to other convergence/ multimedia devices

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