It's expensive and could be faster, but the Priv is a return to form for BlackBerry that elegantly combines a keyboard with a modern phone
Processor: Hexa-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, Screen Size: 5.4in, Screen resolution: 2,560×1,440, Rear camera: 18 megapixels, Storage: 32GB (24GB), Wireless data: 3G, 4G, Size: 147x77x9.4mm, Weight: 192g, Operating system: Android 5.1.1
BlackBerry has chosen an 18-megapixel sensor for the Priv’s rear camera, which comes with a Schneider Kreuznach lens, optical image stabilisation and phase-detect auto-focus. It protrudes out of the back of the phone, no doubt because there’s less space due to the sliding screen, but it does mean the phone won’t sit completely flush if you lie it down on a table. However, BlackBerry assured me that its machined stainless steel ring is more than up to the task of protecting the lens, so hopefully it won’t get too scratched further down the line.
It would be a shame if it did, as the quality of the Priv’s photos was excellent. Outdoors, there was lots of contrast on show without making the picture look overly dark, and colours were bright and natural. I could see some very small signs of slightly excessive image processing, but on the whole, images looked pleasingly neutral, and enabling HDR mode only improved things further. When I compared the Priv’s shots with those I took on the S6 Edge at the same time, for instance, the Priv captured a lot more overcast cloud detail and images were generally brighter and less dingy.
^ The sky was a little overexposed here, but the Priv still captured lots of detail, contrast and bright, accurate colours despite the overcast weather
^ Enabling HDR fixed this almost immediately, capturing plenty of cloud detail without making the rest of the image appear too unnatural
The S6 Edge performed better indoors, though, as the Priv’s low light photos were noticeably grainier and less vivid, even when our external lamp was turned on. The Priv’s indoor photos also didn’t have quite as much contrast, so darker areas lost a lot of detail. Its dual LED flash also struggled to reconcile the leaves and stems on our flowers, making them look almost blurred against the white background.
^ Indoors, there was a lack of contrast and lot more noise and grain, but it’s still a pretty decent image for indoor shooting
The only real problem with the Priv is its extortionate price. At £560 SIM free or £49-per-month on contract, the Priv is one of the most expensive phones currently available, topping both the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge and iPhone 6S. That’s a lot to pay when it isn’t quite the complete package you’d expect from a top-end smartphone, but that’s not to say the Priv doesn’t earn its stripes in other areas.
Its display is excellent, it has a great camera, and its decision to add Android on top of a physical keyboard will no doubt be a huge draw for former BlackBerry users who have been side-lined by a lack of decent apps. I’d expect faster performance at this price, as well as maybe a fingerprint sensor for added convenience, but the Priv is still a pretty decent smartphone regardless. However, if you’re not fussed about the keyboard, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is a much better buy.
|Hexa-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
|Memory card slot (supplied)
|One year RTB
|Price SIM-free (inc VAT)
|Price on contract (inc VAT)
|Free on £49-per-month contract
|Prepay price (inc VAT)