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Blackberry Priv keyboard review: physical vs virtual

After two months of using the Blackberry Priv, we review the physical and on-screen keyboards and decide which is best for everyday use.

Blackberry’s excellent Priv – the Canadian mobile company’s very first Android phone, which won a glowing five-star review here on Recombu – boasts a full QWERTY keyboard, hidden away beneath the screen. As you’d expect from Blackberry, it’s a perfectly solid keyboard. But I never actually bother to use it, and here’s why.

Q to the W to the ERTY

The Priv’s physical keyboard is well laid out and features textured, ‘bumpy’ keys to make it as easy as possible to type on, despite its slightly cramped size. It also lights up in the dark, so you won’t need to squint when you’re typing in the back of a cab at two in the morning.

You can of course type numbers and enter popular symbols using the ‘alt’ key and you can even revert to voice entry using the mic key, if your thumbs start to seize up. Cleverly, the keyboard also doubles as a touchpad, so you can swipe a finger over the surface to skip through websites and documents and even your desktops.

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Fastest finger

However, what the physical keyboard lacks is the Priv’s excellent word completion feature, found on the virtual on-screen keyboard.

Sure, there is a basic word completion feature that complements the physical board, whereby suggested words appear on the display just above the keyboard. However, if you’re using the virtual board, you actually have suggested words appearing on the keyboard itself, above the keys.

So for instance, type ‘hel’ and you’ll see a number of suggestions pop up. ‘Hello’ appears above the L key (as that’s the next key you would press), while ‘held’ appears above the D key and so on. All you need to do to select one of these suggested words is flick upwards with a finger when you tap the key. It’s quick and simple and only occasionally fails to register.

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Combined with Blackberry’s excellent auto-correct feature, this suggested word tool makes the Priv’s virtual keyboard one of the best around for efficient typing. And it’s this reason that keeps our Priv’s physical keyboard permanently hidden beneath the screen.

Do you own the Blackberry Priv? What do you think of the physical and virtual keyboards? Let us know in the comments below.

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