Finally, a BlackBerry 10 device that looks like a BlackBerry!
It’s been a long time coming but the BlackBerry Q10 is finally here, physical QWERTY keyboard in tow, and boy does this phone have a lot to prove.
The BlackBerry Q10 needs to make a case for BlackBerry’s latest operating system. The Z10 is good, but hasn’t quite convinced us that BlackBerry has enough to differentiate in the touch-screen category.
The BlackBerry Q10 also fights for the QWERTY in general. It’s the only high-end device on the market with a physical keyboard. We’d go so far as to say, BlackBerry’s future success rests on maintaining and growing a QWERTY fan-base.
Couple that with the fact the phone costs over £570 offline, a lot more than the dual-core specs would suggest, and the BlackBerry Q10 has its work cut out for it in this review.
BlackBerry Q10 review: Design
The BlackBerry Bold 9900 was something of a QWERTY classic. The metal rim and refined styling came together beautifully, but the Q10 isn’t quite the icon we were hoping for.
It’s a well designed phone, but not quite a classic.
The Q10 sits well in the hand. Its glass weave finish feels sumptuous to the touch and it looks good to boot. There’s a hollowness to the removable back cover though and the plastic finish doesn’t reflect the asking price.
Underneath the back cover is the removable 2100mAh battery, microSD card slot and microSIM card slot. On the fascia is the 3.1-inch screen, front facing camera and four tiered QWERTY keyboard.
This keyboard is the BlackBerry Q10’s key selling point, so gets its own section a little later.
Ports include a microUSB port and a microHDMI port, all to the left side of the phone. At the top of the Q10 is a 3.5mm headphone jack along with the power button. On the right hand side is where you’ll find the volume buttons and the voice activation button, while at the base is the loud speaker.
It doesn’t look or feel like a £579 phone therefore. Still, it’s well put together and attractive, well connected and comfortable to hold – like we said earlier – good, but not great.
BlackBerry Q10 review: Screen
The BlackBerry Q10 uses Super AMOLED screen technology across its square, 3.1-inch 720 x 720 pixel display.
Being Super AMOLED, you can expect deep dark blacks and saturated colours that pop nicely when coupled with pictures and videos. Brightness is decent as is outdoor viewability, and colour accuracy is generally good, save for a slight blue tint to off-angle whites.
Thanks to pixel density of 328 pixels per inch, text and web pages look crisp and detail is strong. The display’s size therefore manages to ensure the Q10 remains portable, with the panel itself looking great in the process.
BlackBerry Q10 review: Keyboard
If you’ve had a BlackBerry before, it’s like riding a bike. As soon as you get your hands on the Q10, you’ll be touch typing before you know it and if you’re anything like us, enjoying the experience.
Each key is well spaced, has a pronounced inner corner and sports a grippy plastic finish. Throw in a reassuring click feedback and you have keyboard gold.
While we might not call it the very best BlackBerry keyboard we’ve ever used, it’s certainly up there, wiping the floor with what’s left of the QWERTY competition currently on offer.
BlackBerry Q10 review: Operating System
Everyone knows the touch based operating system, BlackBerry 10, works on the BlackBerry Z10, an all touch phone. How good is it when coupled with a QWERTY though?
We think it’s bloody marvellous.
The UI is gesture heavy and these gestures work well on the manageable 3.1-inches on offer. Thumb swiping left and right across takes you across your applications, multi-tasking screen and BlackBerry hub is a doddle.
Swiping from the bottom of the screen upwards sends apps to the multi-tasking window, and for contextual options, swipe down from the top of the screen.
Apps are organised either as standalone apps or folders. Drag your apps to rearrange them and drop them on top of one another to create a folder.
We don’t miss the BlackBerry Z10’s keyboard too much. Sure, it was smart with flicks and SwiftKey prediction, but it was also buggy in our experience.
You know what isn’t buggy? The BlackBerry Q10.
As for apps, the BB10 ecosystem is way behind Android and iOS, but there’s a lot of app support out of the box including Dropbox integration and a full office suite for viewing and editing documents.
Apps like Skype, Whatsapp and Google Talk are also in the BlackBerry App World, not to mention the native BBM being preloaded. Messaging fiends will therefore be well catered for.
For 3D gamers and fans of the latest social media trends like Vine and the next Instagram, chances are, these will land on BlackBerry 10 third or fourth, if at all, so you might want to look elsewhere.
All in all though, for business and most personal needs, we’re definitely impressed. Great UI, great QWERTY integration, plenty of apps out of the box, easy to get to grips with gestures, stable and fast – what more could you want?
BlackBerry Q10 review: Camera and multimedia
There are three shooting modes: photo, video and group shot. The first two are self-explanatory, the latter is virtually identical to Samsung’s Best Face. This gives you the option to pick the best face for each individual person in a group shot.
Unfortunately though, there are no advanced photo or video options such as exposure or saturation control. The 8-megapixel camera around the back of the BlackBerry Q10 is still a strong performer in good lighting. Detail is abundant, colours accurate and it’s quick to fire.
There are two main stills camera shortfalls. The first is low-light photography. While the flash is a solid performer, when off, it isn’t going to compete with other similarly priced phones such as the Lumia 920 and the HTC One.
Secondly, the Q10 doesn’t quite nail high contrast scenes and there’s no HDR mode on board, so expect blown out skies and black darks to be commonplace.
It will still trump any BlackBerry before it, not to mention most smartphones out there, just not most flagships.
Video records at Full HD or 720p, focus is impressive and the digital image stabilisation works very well. With strong detail, perhaps our only gripes are low-light video and our forefinger constantly getting in the way of the lens - as you'll make out from the sample below.
Watching video on the BlackBerry Q10 is in contrast pretty terrible. 16:9 aspect ratio video looks horrifically letterboxed, giving you an effective screen size of about 2.5-inches. The microHDMI port does make up for this to some degree, with pushing video content to a TV being easy and looking fantastic.
The loud speaker is extremely loud, which, being positioned at the base, uses your hands natural holding position as an amplifier. Thanks to the 3.5mm headphone jack and pocketability, the BlackBerry Q10 is also perfectly usable as an MP3 player.
BlackBerry Q10 review: Storage and connections
16GB of in-built storage and microSD expandability mean there will be plenty of space for all these MP3s, videos and photos.
There’s a microUSB port on board for data and charging as well as DLNA capability out of the box. HSPA and LTE mean browsing on the BlackBerry Q10 should be lightning fast, and Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and NFC all complete the connectivity portion of the spec-sheet.
You can also expect a smooth web browsing experience. Web pages fit well on-screen and load quickly. Zooming into text does present a millisecond delay while the crispy text renders, but this wait is reliably brief and isn’t an experience killer.
BlackBerry Q10 review: Performance and battery
The 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor is paired with 2GB RAM.
While this doesn’t sound like a flagship spec, thanks to the efficient BlackBerry 10 operating system, it’s ample on the Q10.
The BlackBerry Z10 threw glitches our way within hours, but the BlackBerry Q10 has, after nigh on a week of usage left us with nothing short of a glowing impression.
We multi-tasked to high heavens, edited word docs, took plenty of pictures and video and are well and truly impressed with how it performed. Using the phone as a phone also delivers great audio quality which only helps our overall impression.
Moving onto battery, and in its first few cycles, the 2100mAh cell died before the day was out. That shocked us. Its relatively small screen coupled with its dual-core processor should last at least a full day.
After a few battery cycles though, it got much better, occasionally with juice left in the tank by the time our head hit the pillow. Still falling short of what we might expect on a QWERTY phone like the Q10, it’s nevertheless respectable for a modern flagship.
BlackBerry Q10 review: Conclusion
The BlackBerry Q10 is the best QWERTY phone we’ve ever used and one of our favourite handsets out now.
Does it have the best design, screen, interface, camera, multimedia capabilities, connections or performance? No. So why do we like it so much? It differentiates.
While its sibling, the all-touch Z10 can’t stand out in a sea of touchscreens phones, the Q10 and its keyboard can, coupling good, across the board performance and an innovative UI with a familiar form-factor that works.
This means it high asking price, lack of app support and poor aspect ratio for video playback can be, to a degree, overlooked. After all, nothing else does what the BlackBerry Q10 does. In fact, nothing else comes close.
Finally, the phone BlackBerry users around the world over have been waiting for.
Thanks to Vodafone for providing us with the BlackBerry Q10 review device.
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