Display Quality

So, SurePress is finally gone; it turns out you don’t need a reassuring click to successfully interact with a touchscreen. In its place is a capacitive multitouch display that’s mostly old hat for Android (post 2.1) and iDevice users alike. It’s nice to see that RIM was able to finally admit it was wrong about SurePress, even if there was never an outright admission. The Torch is admission of guilt enough, I suppose.  

The touchscreen interaction on the Torch is actually top notch and responsive. I’ll get into browsing in a bit, but I found that multitouch gestures like pinch to zoom and flicking work and are recognized just like they should be. Part of making touch work is keeping the UI speedy and completely responsive, so that gestures and interaction take place fast enough to be believable. Luckily the Torch touchscreen always tracks properly and feels responsive. 

Left: iPhone 4, Right: BlackBerry Torch (same size crops)
iPhone 4
BlackBerry Torch 9800

Of course, the downside to the Torch’s screen is relatively low dot pitch, at 188 ppi. Bear in mind, however, that until the iPhone 4 swung around with its 330 ppi screen, the 3GS’ 165 ppi screen was generally considered good enough by many.

I made the move from a 285 ppi Touch Pro to the iPhone 3GS, and it took weeks to get over how downgraded that screen felt. Similarly, the larger 4” devices are creeping close to looking grainy as well, with the EVO 4G and Droid X sporting 217 and 228 ppi screens, respectively. There’s a fair amount of personal taste involved for whether physical size or dot pitch is most important.

Higher dot pitch screens undeniably look more attractive in person, and admittedly the Torch is behind the curve in this regard, but the fidelity of the display is by no means disappointing enough that it should dissuade potential customers that are already BlackBerry owners. It's disappointing for sure that the Torch doesn't have something Retina Display level resolution sure, but it isn't a showstopper. That said, if you already do have a higher dot pitch screen, you’ll feel the same amount of distaste I did switching from a VGA Touch Pro to a QVGA iPhone 3GS over a year ago.

Left to right: Torch, iPhone 4, HTC EVO (click for full resolution)

You can really see the difference when comparing small text on webpages, and it’s especially dramatic when compared to the iPhone 4. 

The Torch’s screen is one of the most readable outside that I’ve encountered in a while, with text and webpages being easy to make out even in intense daylight. Alongside the iPhone 4, the difference is pretty immediate, especially in how good white appears on the Torch compared to the iPhone 4. 

The BlackBerry Torch 9800 is one of the most readable phones outside as I noted, and the reason is no doubt partially due to the exceptionally bright display - it's like a torch. Ha, ha, erm... Seriously it's the brightest I've measured: 

Contrast is quite good on the Torch but can't quite best the first Motorola Droid's IPS display, unsurprisingly. Of course, the HTC Incredible and Nexus One AMOLED displays lead here technically since their black brightness levels are literally 0 nits. 

Viewing angles are good but not perfect on the Torch, especially compared side by side with the iPhone 4, though I never was wanting for better viewing angles during regular use. Full comparison gallery is below in full resolution. 

Meet the BlackBerry Torch - Part 2 Keyboard: Virtual or Physical?


View All Comments

  • lewchenko74 - Thursday, September 02, 2010 - link

    Great Review. The best of the Torch reviews so far. I really wanted to love this phone, but I don't. It concerns me greatly that the tech under the hood seems to be a generation behind, even if the software experience is generally OK.

    To put it into perspective, it would be like buying a Palm Pre today - with a decent WebOS but ageing computing power so to speak. You just wouldnt do it.

    Im a current HTC Hero owner and cant wait to get rid of it. I was hoping the Torch may be enough, but its not.

    Im glad you informed us about BIS as well. I didnt realise it contributed so much to the performance degradation of surfing the web. There really ought to be an option to browse with BIS disabled. For me, that is one of the phone's biggest flaws. Plus in the UK you normally pay about £5 more to have Internet and BBM enabled on blackberries per month too.. paying more for less it would seem, especially as most contracts these days are unlimited texts, thus rendering BBM almost useless.
  • Zensen - Saturday, September 04, 2010 - link

    I dont think you'll read this again but doesn't your plans in the UK also include extra data?

    Without BIS, you dont get the secure emails, the 'unlimited' internet and BBM. I dont ever notice the slowness when it comes to emails and BBM but i can understand the 'slower' response due to the encrypting and compressing of the data through RIM servers.

    Having said that, blackberry plans here also come with extra data that doesn't use the RIM servers and as such runs quite well using an alternative browser such as opera mini. I'm not sure if BIS can be turned off within the blackberry browser itself but I always assume when i change browsers im using my data plan and not BIS.
  • bwj - Friday, September 03, 2010 - link

    It doesn't seem right to me that you test all phones with 50% brightness setting, while acknowledging that some phones are much brighter than others. Wouldn't it make more sense to set every phone to the same absolute level of brightness? 200 nits would be convenient. Reply
  • dusteater - Friday, September 03, 2010 - link

    Well, I dumped RIM for one reason. The BB Tour. I have been using BB's for 6+ years and always loved them. Then came the Tour, which obviously had no quality control during manufacturing. The phone is so poor, I am on number 5. It has killed any confidence I had in RIM as a company able to produce a working phone. So, I will not buy the 9650 Bold like they want me to. I shouldn't have to buy the "fixed" version one year later.

    Off to WP7 for me.
  • spunlex - Friday, September 03, 2010 - link

    Just wondering if you will be adding a shoot of the light box using your D80 any time soon. Reply
  • djc208 - Friday, September 03, 2010 - link

    BB is the only company that was making non-camera smart phones. But even most of their newer devices, this one included don't seem to have non-camera versions.

    I've been seriously considering a smart phone but for the same price point I'd much rather have an Android device. But then I'd have to remove/destroy at least one camera (in many cases two) and void any warranties. This would have been a decent option if it was available as a non-camera version.
  • Zensen - Saturday, September 04, 2010 - link

    What’s tricky here is that pressing the hangup button is often my way of getting out of applications and back to the launcher. In a call, when I wanted to look something up, I hit this and was disconnected - like what is supposed to happen.

    Is this a good or a bad point? it starts off like its about to be a negative then you finish it off by saying this is whats suppose to happen... ERR DUH!? lol

    I also use the disconnect button to get out of applications ASAP but i mean the point of the hang up button is to... you know... hang up calls lol. so I'm not sure why you stating this at all. it's pretty damn obvious

    Also i'm not quite sure if the speakerphone test is really as accurate as you try to make it but it is an interesting test nonetheless. It's nice to know the screen isn't as bad as people are making it out to be and as for the text messaging. im pretty sure threaded smses and the distinction of sms and mms has been around a lot longer than iphone and android. You make it sound like iphone and android created this approach.

    Good to see this blackberry excels as a phone with signal attenuation. Even as 'spartan' as the keyboard is to you, unless you trying to say its simple because thats what it is, nothing flash nor does it seem to come across as harsh and rough around the edges.

    I wonder if the clarity of the phone calls, volume etc have anything to do with how long you can speak on the phone otherwise its definitely not as long as the 9700 but again the battery is a lot smaller than the storm too which is surprising.

    You're right about the camera, without even using it i could see how having touch for autofocus would have been great here. the hd video doesn't worry me too much but RIM took forever to put a camera on their phones to begin with so to have LED flash and a higher megapixel camera with movie is pretty good :P Still the lack of it in these times is sorely missed.

    The pictures actually look quite decent on the torch, not heavily vivid as the iphone 4 looks nor as red as the nexus 1 or desaturated as the palm pre. The palm pre looks the worse when it comes to detail.
    I like the HTC evo as most i think it looks more natural though leans towards the warms.
    The droid 2 looks decent when it comes to blacks but its exposure is stronger and lacks a colour cast of sorts

    I wonder how accurate to the still life it really is when taken by these smartphone. is the yellows more greenish as the torch and the droid seem to lean towards (but then you see the dark warm yellow of the book below which seems normal) or is it a far warmer studio shot that the rest seem to lean towards?

    the strong vivid (saturated) shots of the iphone 4 will appeal to those who want it to be as eye popping as possible but its hardly realistic. the HTC evo 4, droid 2 and the torch probably rank as the ones i enjoy the most with the droid 2 and torch looking decidedly more sharper than the evo 4 which seems to have had some noise reduction applied to it.
    I think the torch photos were dragged down quite a bit by this review as i think its one of the better cameras of the ones reviewed here.

    great review though!
  • Disorganise - Saturday, September 04, 2010 - link

    If only there could be an android version... I use blackberry for work and they're great at what they do - be even better if the corporate policy hadn't turned off the memory card so now you can't listen to mp3s :(

    I've been wanting a combo touch screen/physical keyboard phone for ages and want it to be android based. The droid 2 looks good but I'm not sure about having to flick the phone to landscape to use the keyboard - ditto the galaxy s pro; plus I live in Australia so it'll be 3 or 4 years before they hit our shores - if ever.

    I like this torch -it seems to have everything except the OS. Theoretically the OS shouldn't matter (it should be transparent) but reality is that it *has* to be more restrictive with the customisations you can make and the apps you can install, simply to keep it's high security perception.

    I agree with one of the previous posters - RIM could consider two distinct lines; the business phone that connects to BES etc, and a consumer phone that does not. The consumer phone could be android base and run on the same hardware - eg you have torch 9800 and torch android. this only works if RIM want to sell devices of course
  • Zensen - Saturday, September 04, 2010 - link

    sure if they want to make more sales, slap on a android os but again that is fragmenting their business and pulling unnecessary resources away from their primary business and OS. Also the QNX OS that they have acquired.

    other manufacturers do this for sure but look at the fragmentation that is happening with Android - that surely isn't a good sign.

    But yes, they would certainly sell more phones to consumers if they marketed it as a multimedia device and something not sorely for business users. But to take away BES makes it just another me-too android phone and how is that differentiating between their other phones. Will these android include BIS and thus BBM and push email?

    I can't see how they can't just make a multimedia device and a business device in one?

    Unless there's a need for a no frills business phone then yeah a higher priced multimedia device running OS 6 would be great. this was soo close, yet so far from competing in that realm. Sony tried valiantly to produce a walkman phone and a camera phone. nowadays they are just combined.

    One things for sure, they will open themselves up a lot more if they joined the android party. What's stopping them from taking advantage of the windows phone 7 operating system as well...
  • vision33r - Sunday, September 05, 2010 - link

    Android sucks for enterprise and iPhone also too. Nobody makes a better enterprise phone than Blackberry. Even Microsoft's own Windows Mobile isn't good enough as enterprise managed devices. Reply

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