We've been lucky enough to go hands-on with the BlackBerry Torch 9810, a mobile that boasts a slide-out Qwerty keyboard, a 1.2GHz processor and comes with BlackBerry 7, the shiny new operating system from manufacturer RIM. It's due to go on sale before the end of August, so read on for our first impressions.
So you like physical Qwerty keyboards on your mobile, eh? We don't blame you -- if watching our younger siblings hammering away at their phones is anything to go by, physical keyboards let you type faster and more accurately than their touchscreen counterparts.
But what if you also fancy some touchscreen fun? Perhaps what you need is one that does both. The BlackBerry Torch 9810 looks like a normal, roughly pebble-shaped mobile, but a deft flick of the wrist reveals a sliding Qwerty keyboard.
We only had time for a quick dabble with that physical keyboard -- our impression was that the keys felt noticably smaller than those of the BlackBerry Bold 9900, another upcoming BlackBerry that keeps the old 'candybar' shape, and boasts a more expansive keypad.
We imagine with practice you could train your finger muscles to type at a suitably ferocious pace, but those small keys could prove an unwelcome compromise.
The touchscreen, meanwhile, is 3.2 inches on the diagonal. It looked like a decent display to us, though we'll be looking at how colourful it is, and how well it renders our movies and photos when it comes to the full review.
The problem with having a sliding Qwerty keyboard is that, while ostensibly you enjoy both a touchscreen and physical keyboard, the phone itself is quite bulky because the sliding mechanism takes up so much space, something we saw with the HTC Desire Z, for example.
The Torch 9810 measures 14.6mm deep, which isn't very slim at all. It didn't feel too heavy, but nevertheless if you like phones that are light as a feather, this probably isn't the mobile for you.
As if all that input wasn't enough, you can also navigate the Torch 9810 using an optical trackpad, set just below the touchscreen. We suspect you might have to watch out for enthusiastic upwards thumb-scrolling actions accidentally brushing the touchscreen.
Around the back of the 9810 there's a 5-megapixel camera with a flash. That's not a particularly high megapixel count compared to phones such as the Nokia N8, but we won't complain if the BlackBerry can pump out half-decent images.
The 9810 is running BlackBerry 7 OS, the latest BlackBerry operating system. It's too early to say whether it can be successful, but our impressions were that it felt slick, with fast, fluid Web browsing (no Flash support, mind), but that it faces an uphill struggle in terms of apps.
Platforms such as Google's Android and Apple's iOS are positively teeming with games, tools and other downloadable goodies, so we'll be watching to see if BlackBerry 7 can spur developers to start making more apps for BlackBerry users. We're big fans of BlackBerry Messenger, the service that lets you message other BlackBerry users for free, and the latest version, BBM6, works inside apps, so we're excited to see what can be done with that.
The Torch 9810 looks like a capable bit of kit, though we have to admit it hasn't exactly set our hearts on fire. We'd advise anyone who's curious to also read our hands-on with the BlackBerry Bold 9900, as it's slimmer, with a bigger Qwerty keyboard and a touchscreen too. If you're hooked on BlackBerry and think you can do without the physical keys, the upcoming Torch 9860 could also be of interest.
Edited by Nick Hide