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BlackBerry Classic Review: In Depth

One for the purists

The Good

  • Attractive display
  • Solid hardware keyboard
  • Competent camera experience

The Bad

  • Average battery life
  • Bulky, heavy
  • Compatibility issues

If the Passport was designed to entice newcomers to the world of BlackBerry with its supercharged spec sheet, the more conservative Classic is for those who already know what to expect from a true BlackBerry.

Design: A familiar face

It’s getting tricky to tell at a glance which ‘Berry is which nowadays. From the front the Classic closely resembles a taller Bold 9900 (indeed BlackBerry compares the Classic to the 9900 on its own site). One design aspect BlackBerry has reinstated with its latest devices is the row of hardware keys that live directly below the screen. Alongside call and end call buttons, you have hard keys for pulling up the menu, a back button and the characteristic optical trackpad.

Classic - front Classic - back

The hallmark sculpted keyboard is present too, which is as comfortable to type on as ever, if you’re into that sort of thing. A metal band surrounding the edge ensures that the Classic feels solid and sturdy in the hand, although that also is apparent by the phone’s notable thickness and weight (10.2mm and 178g respectively).

The textured plastic back provides plenty of grip but doesn’t offer the nicest feel in the hand and being non-removable also means you can’t get at the phone’s battery and instead have to load nanoSIM and microSD card through two doors on the left side. At its base the metal frame also houses two grilles, although much to our disappointment, only the right one actually contains a speaker (and a fairly tinny one at that).

Screen: Sizeable square

Much like the BlackBerry Q10 from a year and a half ago, the Classic packs a touchscreen with a 1:1 aspect ratio and a 720x720 resolution. Its larger 3.5-inch size will be appreciated for media purposes, although technically this also means it sports a lower pixel density (294ppi) than its predecessor.

Classic - screen

Despite this, in practice BlackBerry has bestowed a competent display to the Classic. Brightness is strong and suffers little distortion even at extreme angles; colour distortion is even less of an issue and the UI looks crisp and clear.

OS: Tweaks and quirks

BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 gives some notable improvements over older builds of BB10. The iconography is flatter and the whole phone boasts a clean aesthetic, from the app designs to the UI animations.

The interface relies heavily on swiping from the sides of the display, although the addition of the optical trackpad and other hard keys gives you more flexibility for being able to interact with the Classic without obscuring the screen. If you’re not happy with the accuracy of tapping on-screen with your finger, swiping over the optical trackpad produces a mouse cursor for real precision too.

Amazon’s App Store also comes pre-installed on the Classic greatly enhancing the choice of applications at your disposal, although the 1:1 aspect ratio can cause issue with certain poorly optimised applications, with on-screen elements appearing distorted or poorly calibrated when it comes to tapping (we encountered such troubles whilst playing Thor: The Dark World).

The ‘.1’ at the end of the OS version number also includes a few additional tweaks like notification light colour customisation, quick charge mode via USB; which disables any data from being exchanged should you plug the Classic into a PC and also the return of keyboard shortcuts.

Performance: History repeating itself

Off the bat, general operation doesn’t feel hindered by the internal hardware the Classic comes packing. For the things BlackBerrys have been designed to do; checking emails, running presentations etc. the Classic is perfectly equipped. That said, when you consider the price tag, the spec sheet is disappointing to say the least.

The brains of the operation is a 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus dual-core chip, silicon which first arrived back in 2013. There’s also 2GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage and room for an additional 128GB of space via microSD, which is nice, but pretty much par for the course when you pair the Classic up against similarly priced smartphones.

Classic - performance

One of the big advantages of a smaller display twinned with a large battery is notable battery life, however despite the Classic’s heft, the 2515mAh cell will see you through a day and a half at best, which isn’t terrible by any means, but we were expecting at least two days, judging by the device’s dimensions and weight.

The battery saver mode will help push things further if you don’t mind being a little less connected to real-time events too.

Camera: A nice surprise

BlackBerry hasn’t brought anything distinctly new to the camera experience that the Classic boasts, but it’s actually a competent all-rounder.

When snapping stills it can detect high contrast environments and recommend switching to HDR shooting (or back in less dynamic lighting conditions) and macro shooting provides very pleasing results. There’s digital image stabilisation, which works as advertised and the entertaining Time Shift mode, giving you fine-grain control when trying to capture the perfect selfie.

The phone’s 1:1 aspect ratio means the camera’s output will follow suit by default, so don’t forget to check the settings and swap to 4:3 or 16:9 before you start firing out photos and videos. Speaking of video the Classic is set to 720p HD by default, and can film in this resolution at 60fps too, but should you wish, Full HD recording is also on offer.

Verdict: Old habits die hard

As its name suggests, the BlackBerry Classic is the latest incarnation of all that BlackBerry is known for: good business chops, security, a solidly built device and a sterling hardware keyboard. However, the optical trackpad and the additional buttons are the only real standout additions over the likes of the Q10 from 18 months prior and for most, that isn’t going to be enough 'new', especially when the Classic clocks in at £329.99 SIM free, around £120 more than the Q10 can now be had for.

Classic - verdict

If you’re looking for a new ‘Berry then the Classic will fit the bill perfectly, but if you want a new device that can take on the rest of the current smartphone market, we’d suggest you look elsewhere.

Key Specs

  • 3.5-inches (square)
  • 720x720
  • 178 grams
  • BlackBerry OS 10.3
  • 8-megapixel w/ single LED flash and DIS
  • 2-megapixel
  • 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB. Expandable via microSD up to 128GB
  • Yes
  • BlackBerry Blend, Amazon App Store, Time Shift camera mode, NFC

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