After the exclusive press event in NYC, I finally got some hands on time with the BlackBerry Torch 9800. The main two things I needed to know, were 1) what’s the webkit browser like? and 2) how does the BlackBerry 6 experience compare to the current OS 5.0 offerings? Also, how does the new form factor feel, is it top heavy?

My current device is the Bold 9700, picking up the Torch 9800 it felt very natural in the hand, not top heavy at all as some suspected it may be. The display is very sharp and feels like a true capacitive touchscreen. Sliding the screen up reveals the familiar blackberry keyboard that we all love, typing was easy, no adjustment period needed. If I had a blindfold on I’d think I was using my own 9700. If you’ve ever used an iPhone or an iPod touch (who hasn’t) this device is the best of both worlds. You have your touch screen which is the wave as of now and you have your blackberry keyboard that can’t be beat. The overall form factor of the Torch 9800 feels very solid. The slider doesn’t feel like it can be easily broken and it clicks into place once pushed all of the way up. It is a tad heavy, but this adds to the sense that it has been well built.

Webkit Browser by Torch Mobile

The webkit browser is actually where RIM got the name from for this device, as it was Torch Mobile who RIM acquired and used to produce their latest web browser. The browser itself is actually very nice to use, and all of the controls are exactly where you would expect them to be. The browser also offers a tabbed browsing experience, with an icon in the top right of the screen showing how many tabs you have open. Selecting this icon gives you the ability to scroll through the open tabs, with thumbnail images for each tab helping you see what each page holds. The browser also features the now commonplace pinch to zoom, however there’s a very nice trick up its sleeve. When you zoom in the first time, instead of the text being really small as we are used to, it automatically sizes the text to the user set text size for the phone. This is a really nice touch, as with just one quick zoom its at the text size your used to using everyday on your BlackBerry.

BlackBerry 6 Home Screen

With the browsing experience fulfilled, my focus then turned to the new BlackBerry 6 operating system. The first thing that greets you is an elegantly laid out homepage, which while it doesn’t stray too far for the OS 5.0 layout, it does offer far greater options. From the connections, profiles and clock’s clickable banner showing all your information easily, to the universal search icon, it is clear that useability was one of their top priorities. The smartest part that I found was the selectable ‘Today’ section. This has been slowly making its way back into the current OS, and in BlackBerry 6 it really does shine. Not only can you have your usual messages, calendar and phone showing, but also a whole host of other things can be placed there too. From facebook notifications to BlackBerry Messenger alerts these can now all be placed in a today section for easy quick glance reading. The search function is also a welcome change from the norm, as now you can access any information at all by just starting to type it into the search field. Almost anything on your device can be found using the Universal Search. The web experience is also part of the search, with youtube being used for videos, and google being the default search engine.


Multi-media user interface

Another thing that caught my eye was the ability to add you own shortcuts for contacts or a web page to your home screen. Now rather than loading your browser and hunting through bookmarks, you can have them placed right where you need them. There are of course many more improvements, and we are only starting to scratch the surface in terms of features and usability. Make sure to check back for our full review on the Torch 9800.

Social feeds; apart of the Universal Search feature

Sound off in the comments with what you think the best features are, and what you think of this new device. Is the Torch 9800 lacking anything or is it truly going to be the “best BlackBerry ever”?