Blackberry Q10 review
BlackBerry 10 OS, 3.1in 720x720 display
If losing the keyboard on the BlackBerry Z10 was a step too far for most BlackBerry users, the keyboard-equipped Blackberry Q10 is here to put them at ease. It’s the second phone in BlackBerry’s 2013 arsenal to run the new BlackBerry 10 OS, and our initial impressions were promising.
BUILD AND DESIGN
Thanks to its slim 10mm waistline, its stocky exterior feels modern and professional. The textured pattern on its non-slip rubber back gives it a little more personality as well, and its smooth, curved frame made it very comfortable to hold and use.
We quite look the look and feel of this phone, even though the Q10 is a rather traditional looking smartphone. One area where the Q10 has really changed compared to previous BlackBerry models with a keyboard is with the larger screen. A 3.1in Super AMOLED display occupies a much larger space on the phone and it looks fantastic. It has a 720x720 resolution, giving it a high pixel density of 331ppi. We found colours were bright and vivid with very deep blacks. Whites had a slightly yellowish tone, but the screen's contrast levels were good, even on half brightness settings.
Of course, part of reason why the screen looks and feels so large is due to the removal of the sensor button. This might seem unthinkable on a BlackBerry keyboard handset, but the Q10’s new touch-orientated BlackBerry 10 OS makes it more or less redundant. All of your apps are arranged on four main screens, and you swipe left and right to access them. It feels just as slick as Android, but the ‘Home’ gesture (swiping up from the bottom of the screen) adds an extra degree of flexibility. This takes you to a separate app tray that lets you dive between different apps you currently have running as well as return to the main app screens. We particularly liked how the internet browser also adopts a thumbnail approach with your most visited web pages, making it that much easier to surf through your favourite sites without having to type in the addresses every time.
Messaging takes place in the BlackBerry Hub, which is just a left swipe away from the main home screen. Here you can access your text messages, email accounts and voicemail from a list on the side of the screen. There's also an integrated inbox, so you can see all of your messages in one place. It’s far more sophisticated than anything else we’ve seen so far on Android and iOS and its clear and simple layout makes it even more accessible to first time users.
Tying it all together is the Q10’s QWERTY keyboard. It takes up less space than on previous BlackBerry handsets, but we found it very easy to type on. Each key has a curved ridge down the side to help give your thumbs a bit of extra grip and to stop you from mashing multiple keys at the same time, and we were able to type quickly and accurately after a few minutes.
Unfortunately, when we did make mistakes, we found they were very fiddly to correct if they were in the middle of a sentence. With no sensor button or arrow keys built into the keyboard, we had to rely on the touchscreen to jump to different parts of our message. It was generally very responsive for flicking through web pages and swiping round its operating system, but it was far less sensitive when it came to tapping precise points on the screen. On several occasions, it either failed to register our touch completely or activated something else nearby, such as the onscreen attachment button. The auto-correct feature goes some way to help keep this problem to a minimum, but it’s not perfect.
We weren’t able to run our normal 3D Mark benchmarks as they’re incompatible with BlackBerry 10 OS, but there’s still a decent range of games available through the BlackBerry World app. This is BlackBerry’s version of the Google Play Store, but as we discovered with the Z10, its current range of apps still has a long way to go before it’s anywhere near as extensive as its Android and iOS rivals.
Instead, its main strength lies in its pre-installed productivity apps, such as Docs To Go and Print to Go. The former lets you create and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents as well as view PowerPoint presentations, while Print To Go lets you send files and printouts wirelessly from your computer to your phone as a PDF file. Print To Go was a little fiddly to set up, but after we installed the software on our PC and paired it with our phone, it worked perfectly.
We found the Q10's 8-megapixel camera disappointing. We were pleased we could alter the aspect ratio from its box-like 1:1 to either 4:3 or 16:9 in its menu settings, but while our outdoor shots were very sharp and clear, colours were generally quite inaccurate. It lost a lot of the finer detail in each shot as well due to colours appearing quite dark and muddy even in bright sunshine. Our indoor shots fared better, but it didn’t cope well in lower lighting conditions. Objects appeared very blurry and there was a considerable increase in the amount of noise.
Capturing video was also quite poor. In our still life test it rendered the fur of our toy monkey very well, but colours were too warm and the lens had to refocus every couple of seconds. It also seemed to reflect the light of our LED fan back onto the lens, producing a distracting ghosting effect on the other side of the screen. Noise was another issue as the whole image began to shimmer when we turned the lights off.
Thankfully, the Q10 redeemed itself somewhat with its superb battery life as its 2,100mAH battery lasted a massive 13 hours and 45 minutes in our video playback tests with the screen set to half brightness. Its everyday battery life was also impressive. We set it up to sync with three email accounts with the Wi-Fi left on and we managed a full working day with time to spare, so it shouldn’t need as much charging if you need it to need it to last into the evening.
The BlackBerry Q10 is certainly a worthy alternative to the Z10 if a keyboard is one of your top priorities, but it comes with a hefty premium. At £36-per-month on a 24-month contract, the Q10 is one of the most expensive smartphones currently available, and at this price we expect perfection. We love the new BlackBerry 10 operating system and its messaging hub, but its fickle touchscreen just isn’t good enough, especially compared to the Ultimate award-winning Samsung Galaxy S4. Still, if you’re set on having a physical keyboard and don’t mind putting up with its flaws, then the Q10 is a good choice.