This time last year, BlackBerry fans were salivating at the imminent release of the Torch 9800.

For the first time, those who'd been demanding a touchscreen smartphone from RIM (without SurePress, which we'll just gloss over) were getting their way with the safety net of a keyboard below that slid out. On top of that was 3G, a 5MP camera and the brand spanking new OS. What wasn't to love?

If you're stuck deciding between this and the two other recently released BlackBerry phones, never fear - we've got an enlightening group test to pit the Torch 9860, Torch 9810 and Bold 9900 against each other to see which takes your fancy:

And 12 months on we feel like we're experiencing a bit of deja-vu, because the Torch 9810 is now hitting shelves. And to look at it, not much has changed.

BlackBerry torch 9810

The only thing that you'll notice as being really different on the exterior is the material it's made from. The BlackBerry Torch 9810 has been given less a makeover and more a new jacket.

Gone is the black and dark chrome fascia, which looked serious but a little plain, and in its place is a brushed metal and black effect that looks slightly more demure.

The rear is no longer a stripy patterned affair, but is made up of a silver pseudo-mesh. It's just a pattern, but it catches the light well and makes the handset look a lot shinier than it was before.

BlackBerry torch 9810

The weight hasn't changed in the slightest – it's still 161g and feels like a bit of a beast in the hand. That's not necessarily a bad thing – the kind of person who'll buy this probably wants to look like they mean business anyway.

But as we said about the original Torch 9800, drop this on the floor and you'll know about it. As well as a few scuffs, we get the impression you could end up with your phone in pieces (two to be precise).

The size is exactly the same too, and the screen is still 3.2 inches. But when you turn it on, you'll notice the Torch 9810's resolution has been upped from HVGA 480 x 360 to VGA 640 x 480, giving us a crisper experience.

It feels closer to things you'll find with the 'retina' branding (probably because it's smaller than the iPhone 4), and as we mentioned in our recent Bold 9900 review of the new OS 7, black text on white now looks much sharper. Icons of the new operating system seem to almost float on the screen.

It's one of those things we can't get across via JPEGs, but you'll know exactly what we mean when you see it in person.

BlackBerry torch 9810

The buttons on the side are the same as before – a rubberised volume rocker is on the right, along with a convenience key further down and the Micro USB charging port on the left (but no left convenience key like we used to get from RIM).

Up top are both the mute and lock buttons and a rather impressive and dynamic speaker.

Again, as before, the buttons on the front are standard BlackBerry fare (no surprise there), and sliding the top up reveals the keyboard. This perhaps provides a safety net for those who want a touchscreen phone but are still just a little too nervous to go all out and get a touchscreen-only handset.

BlackBerry torch 9810

Inside, you'll find 8GB of internal storage (doubled from 4GB originally) and room for a MicroSD memory card. It's hot-swappable (yay!), but if you're planning on shoving a 32GB card in, you may not need to swap it too often, since you'll have 40GB on your person. Still, it's nice to have the option, and it's something we've hated not having in the past.

The BlackBerry Torch 9810's processor has also been given a turbo charge and now clocks in at 1.2GHz, which is double that of the previous model. And it really shows with a much zippier performance.

OK, so it's not dual core, which some people may feel a little short-changed by. Having said that, the tasks you'll be putting this handset through don't require a dual-core handset, and you won't miss that technology anywhere here.

BlackBerry torch 9810

RIM describes this as perfect for those "who require both form and function."

That's PR-speak for "those who want it to do the job but with a smile on its face." And that's something the BlackBerry Torch 9810 does offer, because the large screen lends itself well to consuming media as well as bashing out messages.

But the real competition for the Torch 9810 comes from within its own ranks. It'll probably be snapped up by those who think they're a little too grown up for the BlackBerry Curve 9360 but don't necessarily want to pay Bold 9900 prices.

Or by those upgrading from the original Torch, but – considering the 9800 only came out a year ago – most of those consumers will still be locked into lengthy contracts.

BlackBerry torch 9810

The Torch 9810 is still to be released and, as such, is only listed as 'Coming Soon' on SIM-free sites, with a late September estimated shipping date.

Offline, you'll be expected to pay around about £475, which puts it below the new flagship phone, the Bold 9900. But only just.

This is a top-end handset that falls between the statesman-like Bold and the salesman-like Curve ranges.

And as such, you'll be expected to pay a premium by the networks. In fact, we can't see you getting this for free on a contract below £35 a month – and probably on a 24 month deal too.