I recently spent some time with two of Research in Motion’s newest models, the BlackBerry Bold 9930 and the Torch 9850. They are among a handful of recently rolled out devices that sport RIM’s latest OS, BlackBerry OS 7, and now that I’ve reviewed both of them, it’s time for a head-to-head comparison.? They may run the same operating system, but given users’ different needs, one may be a better fit for you than the other. Let’s see how they stack up.
Controls and User Interface
A big part of this comparison is how the two BlackBerrys’ respective set-ups mesh with the touch controls of the new operating system, BlackBerry OS 7. Both the Bold and the Torch have touchscreens, and on the whole the operating system integrates touch controls very well. What gives the Torch the edge, however, is that with a 3.7 inch touchscreen, it has plenty more real estate to work with. While this may seem like an obvious statement, keep in mind that despite its almost entirely touch-based control scheme, the Torch also still manages to sport the excellent trackpad that’s found on most BlackBerrys.
As I mentioned in both my reviews, the use of the trackpad in tandem with the Touchscreen controls makes for a near-perfect control scheme. Use the trackpad to pull up a cursor for more precise selections, like small links or buttons on a webpage, while using the touchscreen controls for broader commands like scrolling, zooming, or selecting large items. The two also work well together to navigate the UI of BlackBerry OS 7, which has an emphasis on touch controls in addition to lots of different pull-down menus and buttons on the homescreen, including the notifications tab and the apps tabs (which can be scrolled through horizontally for various organizational options like favorite, recent, all, etc.).
So while the Torch 9850 and the Bold 9930 both enjoy the benefits of a touchscreen and a trackpad, it’s the Torch that gives you 3.7 inches to work with, as opposed to the Bold’s 2.8 inches; I find it especially difficult to use the touch controls on the Bold considering my thumb usually takes up the better part of the screen.
But What About the Keyboard?
The Bold 9930 may give up some touchscreen space, but the sacrifice isn’t for naught; it’s to make room for an excellent physical QWERTY keyboard. RIM is known for making some of the best physical keyboards in the industry and this is easily one of my favorite parts of the 9930.
As it is, the fact that the 9930 had a keyboard at all gave it a leg up because I despise virtual keyboards, but its construction and design — including sloped edges and perfectly-sized keys — put it among some of the best I have ever used. I may have a natural bias given my aversion to virtual keyboards, but it’s difficult to deny that typing is far easier and more enjoyable than on the Torch 9850.
Under the Hood
Given that both models are running BlackBerry OS 7, sport identical processors (Qualcomm 8655 clocking in at 1.2 GHz), and have 768 MB of RAM, their performance — which is more or less solid — is basically the same.
That being said, neither BlackBerry performs flawlessly, with lag and slowdown occasionally plaguing operations, particularly when multitasking is at play. And forget about maps and browsing; they may be improved experiences over those had with previous iterations of the BlackBerry OS, but that’s like saying eating a McDonald’s hamburger is better than eating dog food. Just because it’s an improvement doesn’t mean it’s any good in the grand scheme of things. But when it comes to any performance shortcomings, where one fails, they both fail.
Building a Better BlackBerry
Hands down, the Bold 9930 has a far more comfortable and appealing build than the ungainly Torch 9850. The 9930 is the thinnest BlackBerry yet, and it’s sleek and lightweight with an elegant chrome trim that contrasts nicely with the rest of the frame’s black paintjob. It looks stylish, it’s comfortable to hold and to use, it fits easily in my pocket, and it just has an overall intelligent design.
The Torch 9850, on the other hand, is an eyesore. Instead of going with the usual BlackBerry design where the top slopes back and the bottom slopes up (giving it a parallelogram shape when viewed from the side), both the top and the bottom slope back in the same direction, giving it instead?a weird trapezoidal-like shape. The chrome trim runs in thick bands on the top and bottom of the backside, while thick borders run on the sides of the display.? It’s not all that thin, and the volume rocker is oddly placed in the middle of the right side of the phone, instead of near the top for some reason. Top that off with rounded edges (all of them) that make the device almost cylindrical in a way and you’ve got a phone that isn’t just as ugly as sin, it’s uncomfortable to hold.? Some readers have made it clear that they don’t think that the physical appearance and design of a phone is important, but to us reviewers it is. And when it comes to the build, the Bold wins with virtually no competition from the Torch.
So at the end of the day, the clear favorite between the BlackBerry Bold 9930 and the Torch 9850 is the Bold. It has a sleek and attractive design, and its physical keyboard is nothing short of outstanding. Performance is a basically a wash since the two models sport virtually identical hardware under the hood, and they both have the benefit of sporting a Touchscreen in addition to a trackpad to create an ideal control scheme.
In other words, while the Bold and the Torch have many similarities, including their hardware and running BlackBerry OS 7, I give the Bold the edge because of its build and keyboard. If you don’t care about having a physical keyboard (or actually have an aversion to it and would rather just have the extra screen space) and you don’t share my opinion about the shape and design of the Torch, then perhaps it’s for you. Otherwise, my time with both models has convinced me to put my money on the Bold 9930 as the better BlackBerry OS 7 device of choice.