BlackBerry continues the introduction of its BlackBerry 10 platform with the Q10, a device that will look familiar to lovers of the Canadian firm’s older devices. In contrast to the full touchscreen Z10, the Q10 features a small display and physical QWERTY keypad – the kind of form factor that made BlackBerry famous all those years ago. Could the re-introduction of physical keys be a bold move on the part of the ailing company?
- Dual-core, 1.5GHz processor
- 3.1-inch Super AMOLED display
- 16GB internal storage
- 8 megapixel camera
- 1080p video recording
- 10.4mm thick
- 139g weight
- 2100mAh battery
- BlackBerry 10 OS
Design and Build
The Q10 isn’t a large handset by any means but neither is it particularly small. The physical keypad takes up a lot of space on the device and the overall size is considerably bigger than the 3.1-inch display measurement may have you thinking. BlackBerry has also paid little heed to those who claim that super-slim handsets are what consumers want; at 10.4mm thick the Q10 feels quite bulky, although its chunky shape and rounded edges mean that it sits very well in the hand.
That keypad consists of rounded keys that are easy to press accurately and, as physical keypads go, it’s one of the best we’ve used. However, we can’t help but feel that this is a step back in time; after all, when not being used for entering text, the keypad serves no other purpose. An onscreen equivalent would be able to slide away and leave more room for other things to be displayed in its place.
Designing a Q10 around the BlackBerry form factor employed in years gone by leaves the Q10 with a display which is far smaller than most recent smartphones. The 3.1-inch super AMOLED screen is not only small but has a strange, almost square aspect ratio that looks very different to the longer displays often seen on full touchscreen devices.
Websites in particular look squashed on the screen with text being all but impossible to read without zooming in. Other aspects of the handset’s UI fare better and messages are clear enough to read but the screen size leaves a claustrophobic feeling when using the Q10 that pervades pretty much all of its features and functions.
However, the screen is bright and has a ppi of 328 that ensures clarity. It’s not well suited to viewing photos or films but doesn’t place any restrictions on messaging and sending emails, functions on which BlackBerry made its name.
Under the Hood
Inside is a dual-core, 1.5GHz processor of the same speed as that seen in the recent BlackBerry Z10. The chip is more than capable of running the handset’s functions without any lag and the whole experience is smooth and fluid.
Internal memory stands at 16GB with a microSD card slot that supports up to 64GB, giving the Q10 an impressive amount of storage capacity. Also, the way in which BlackBerry 10 integrates cloud-storage services Box and Dropbox further increases the space that the device provides, allowing files stored online to be read, shared and transferred to the handset with incredible ease.
Small screens such as that seen on the Q10 are a bonus when it comes to battery life as they put far less of a strain on the handset’s power source. The display also discourages power-hungry functions such as streaming movies or playing games because its lack of size means it isn’t well suited to such tasks.
The pay-off of this is that the BlackBerry’s 2100mAh battery does a particularly good job of keeping the handset running, lasting more than a day of moderate use including messaging, browsing online and playing music.
Operating System and User Interface
The BlackBerry Q10 is the second handset to make use of the BlackBerry 10 platform following on from the launch of the full touchscreen Z10. The new OS employs an innovative interface based on swiping gestures and sees menus sliding out from the edges of the screen to lie over each other, creating a real feeling of multitasking.
There are some brilliant features included such as BlackBerry Hub, which acts as a home for all your communications, be they via email, text or social networks. Different sources can easily be switched between, with lists of messages sliding out across the display as they are selected.
One of the best developments BlackBerry has made with its new OS is the way in which predictive text works. On the Q10, suggested words appear at the bottom of the display as you type, with a tap on each being all that’s needed to enter them into the text input field. However, the Z10 saw words appearing across the onscreen keypad itself and while it’s absolutely understandable that this could not be done on a physical keypad, it does feel like the Q10 misses out on one of its platform’s best features.
BlackBerry has also now begun to roll out a software update, BlackBerry 10.1, which makes several additions to the user interface. Through BlackBerry Hub, users now have the option to send messages that require a PIN in order to be opened by the person who receives them, adding an extra level of security. There is also a small improvement to the text correction function which sees a magnifying glass-like icon appearing to help you to move the cursor around a message.
As mentioned earlier, the way in which BlackBerry 10 integrates with cloud-storage services is second to none and counts as one of the strongest features of the platform, vastly increasing the storage capabilities of the Q10.
Beyond this, the OS has its Remember app which works either as a standalone note-taking platform or as a client for Evernote, performing better than many of that service’s dedicated apps on other platforms. When combined, these two make the Q10 a great tool for business users, exactly the kind of people who may long have been fans of the older BlackBerry form factor exhibited by the Q10.
Camera and Video
The Q10’s 8 megapixel camera may not have quite the same high-spec as the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Sony’s Xperia Z with their 13 megapixel sensors but it is more than capable of producing impressive results. Images captured with the Blackberry have strong colour definition and, while maybe a little high in contrast, are certainly of a decent standard. Camera functions have also been expanded with the BlackBerry 10.1 update, adding an HDR feature that will improve performance in low light conditions.
However, the Q10’s small display causes real problems when taking photos, namely that you can barely see what you’re doing. When capturing in the default 1:1 aspect ratio the whole screen is used but still the image appears small and condensed, something which is exacerbated should you switch to a different setting. Selecting either 4:3 or 16:9 leaves you with an absolutely tiny amount of screen space to work with as the image is shown in a letterbox across the middle of the display that you almost have to squint to see.
Video suffers from the same problems and while the footage (captured in 1080p at 30fps) is smooth and clear, it is very difficult to get a real impression of what it is you are capturing. Ultimately, photos and videos taken with the Q10 are best moved off the device for viewing and fortunately the cloud storage integration that BlackBerry 10 can boast makes this easy to do.
The much-vaunted Time Shift camera feature also makes a reappearance. Say you’re photographing a group of people and one of them blinks at the moment the shutter closes; Time Shift allows you to scroll through the frames of the clip and find one where they had their eyes open. You can do this with a whole frame or use facial recognition to highlight just one person and adjust that part of the image on its own.
Performance and Verdict
There is little doubt that the Q10 is BlackBerry’s nod to its historic user base, having moved away from the firm’s almost trademark form factor with the full touchscreen Z10. This is who the handset might appeal to, those who have loved BlackBerry devices for a long time and want to stick with the small screens and physical keypads so often seen on the firm’s earlier handsets.
The Q10 brings new software to an established design, although this isn’t without its problems. We found the Q10’s small display disappointing when compared to the near 5-inch screens that are now commonplace in the high-end smartphone world, although the trade-off in terms of battery life could be very appealing to many.
Anyone looking for a high-spec, modern smartphone will likely not be tempted by the Q10 but existing BlackBerry users could well be drawn to this device, one that may very well suit their needs. In that respect this could be wise move from BlackBerry, offering something which is very much suited to the manner in which millions of the firm’s customers have used their handsets in the past.