BlackBerry Q10 Review – The True BlackBerry 10 Smartphone
Traditional BlackBerry-esque form factor plus modern UI
The first BlackBerry 10 device to bring back the traditional QWERTY keyboard, the Q10, has been launched on the market about one year after the introduction of the new mobile platform.
Choosing a full-touch device over a full QWERTY keyboard solution did not seem to be a smart move from BlackBerry, as most of its fans decided to switch to other operating systems rather than wait for the Q10 and/or Q5 smartphones.
Some gave BlackBerry another chance and purchased the Q10 right away earlier this year, but most of the company’s faithful fans were lost to Android, Windows Phone or iOS.
Having tested all three BlackBerry 10 smartphones now available on the market, the Z10, Q5 and Q10, I can confirm the latter is the closest to the traditional BlackBerry spirit.
Although it comes with a rather weird 1:1 aspect ratio display, BlackBerry Q10 features one of the best physical QWERTY keyboards that I had the pleasure to use. Combined with the really stylish design, BlackBerry Q10 is the smartphone that fans of the Canadian company have been waiting for.
Even though the handset maker promised last year that it would launch a BlackBerry 10 device that would feature a QWERTY keyboard, the release of the Q10 smartphone came a bit later than expected.
Soon after the release of the Q10, which is a high-end device, BlackBerry announced the upcoming release of the Q5, another QWERTY-based smartphone meant to bring the BlackBerry 10 platform to lower price ranges.
BlackBerry Q10 was announced back in January and hit shelves a few months later, in April 2013. Currently, the smartphone is available in black and white colors for around €460 / $635 outright.
Given the fact that you don’t need a BlackBerry contract in order to grab the Q10, customers can opt for any contact options carriers have available that offer the smartphone at reduced prices.
BlackBerry Q10’s design is simply breathless. The white and black versions of the smartphone have different back covers, so it’s not just the color that sets these devices apart.
For example, the white model features a textured battery cover made from a special composite that feels like a rubberized plastic, while the black version has a matte, carbon fiber back cover, so before getting any of the two color options, you might want to keep this in mind.
The Q10 feels compact in hand and every detail seems well thought. Unlike the Q5, this one doesn’t creak when it’s tightly kept in hand. The same goes for the keyboard, which seems to be made of the highest-quality plastic.
The front side of the BlackBerry Q10 is split in two different parts: the 3.1-inch display and the QWERTY keyboard.
At first glance, BlackBerry Q5 and Q10 may look the same, but the bezel between the display and the keyboard is much smaller on the Q10. However, the bezel above the display is much larger on the Q10 in comparison with the Q5’s.
The secondary 2-megapixel front-facing camera has been placed right above the touchscreen, along with the notification LED, proximity sensor and earpiece. One of the two BlackBerry logos has been placed between the display and the earpiece, while the second is etched directly on the battery cover.
The right side of the phone features the Volume up and Volume down keys, along with the Voice control button in-between. The microUSB and microHDMI ports have been placed on the left side of BlackBerry Q10.
On top side of the phone, there’s the 3.5mm audio jack, as well as the power on/off button, which can also be used to lock/unlock the device.
The bottom side of the smartphone sports a very small mouthpiece and the loudspeaker grille. The latter has been strategically placed on the bottom side in order to avoid muffled sound when the phone rests on a table or other plane surface.
The backside features an 8-megapixel main camera and its corresponding LED flash. It is also important to mention BlackBerry Q10 comes with a removable battery, so users will be able to pull out the back cover. Sadly, BlackBerry Q5 does not offer the same feature, but the good news is the phone’s battery offers excellent autonomy.
Obviously, the main attraction of BlackBerry Q10 is the QWERTY keyboard, which features protruding buttons that makes it easier to text while on the move. Keys are easy to press and don’t make a sound when you’re texting, thus offering a much seamless experience in comparison with BlackBerry Q5’s keyboard.
Another positive thing about the keyboard is that you can use it for various actions like waking the screen from sleep or opening various applications installed on the smartphones. In case you decide to use these keyboard shortcuts, you won’t need to touch the display in order to do these actions anymore.
The price difference between BlackBerry Q10 and Q5 is shown in hardware configuration but mostly in build quality. The Q10 looks and feels like a classy BlackBerry smartphone, while the latter is rather a cheap version of the high-end handset.
Display and Camera
The Q10 is the first BlackBerry 10 smartphone to feature a 3.1-inch touchscreen that features a rather weird 1:1 ratio resolution. The Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen supports 16 million colors and 720 x 720 pixels resolution with 328 ppi pixel density.
Due to BlackBerry’s choice of display panel, watching videos on the Q10 is far from being entertaining, but aside from that I have nothing bad to say about the phone’s touchscreen. Its legibility in strong sunlight is very good, while contrast and brightness are no less than great.
Although it doesn’t feature Corning Gorilla Glass or scratch-resistant glass, the Q10’s display is less of a fingerprint magnet than the Q5’s IPS capacitive touchscreen.
The 8-megapixel main photo snapper on the back captures decent pictures, which is a major step forward in comparison with other high-end BlackBerry smartphones.
There aren’t too many additional options for the camera’s UI, but users can take advantage of three different shooting modes: Stills, Video and Time shift. The 8-megapixel camera can snap pictures of a maximum 3264 x 2448 pixels resolution.
The aspect ratio of the pictures can be picked between 1:1, 4:3 and 16:9, but you cannot set the resolution in either of these aspect ratio settings. However, you can make use of various Scene modes, such as Auto, Action, Whiteboard, Beach, Night and Snow.
Before capturing photos, make sure you choose the right Shooting mode: Normal, Stabilization, Burst and HDR. BlackBerry Q10 does not have a dedicated camera key, but you can touch anywhere on the display to capture a picture.
The same problem we encountered while testing BlackBerry Q5’s camera is affecting Q10’s photo snapper as well. The majority of the pictures taken with BlackBerry Q10 feature oversaturated colors, but other than that there aren’t too many downsides.
The level of detail is quite right and noise is pretty low in comparison with other BlackBerry phones. Obviously, we can’t put it against other high-end smartphones powered by different mobile platforms, but at least we can finally take decent pictures with a BlackBerry smartphone.
BlackBerry Q10 can also capture videos in either 720p or 1080p format. The same settings that you get for the camera are applied to the video UI as well.
Although the video samples that we shot at 1080p/30fps look above average when it comes to quality, I noticed the camera tends to lose focus if the phone is moved from one subject to another. Colors are oversaturated again, just like the picture samples that we have taken. We’re not sure if this is a software- or hardware-related issue.
The 8-megapixel camera packed onto the Q10 is definitely big improvement and those who consider this feature important for their BlackBerry devices won’t be disappointed. Check out the picture and video samples for a better overview of the Q10’s camera capabilities.
Menu and Software
Initially launched with BlackBerry 10 operating system out of the box, the Q10 can now be easily upgraded to version 10.1 of the platform and will soon receive 10.2 update.
We have already reviewed the Q5 model several days ago and BlackBerry 10 OS received quite a lot of attention. So if you want a more in-depth look on the platform, you can find more details reading the BlackBerry Q5 review.
However, for those who don’t have time or patience to read BlackBerry Q5’s review, I will highlight some of the most important traits of the new BlackBerry UI. First of all, the entire user interface has been overhauled to give the new operating system a fresh look.
Furthermore, the BlackBerry 10 UI has been especially designed to work with both touchscreen displays and QWERTY keyboards at the same time.
BlackBerry 10 OS draws heavy influence from other platforms such as MeeGo and Windows Phone, especially when it comes to gestures. The company’s engineers also took some inspiration from its main rivals Android and iOS.
However, there are some designs of the old UI that have been kept untouched, but you have to dig very deep in the phone’s menu in order to get to them.
Most of the BlackBerry 10 OS is heavily based on gestures. There’s no need to close an application that you don’t need anymore, you just have to swipe up from the bottom of the display and it will be sent to a special home screen where it enters into some sort of standby mode.
Some of the applications sent to this task manager screen have special features for this kind of standby, so you may continue to receive information even though you don’t actually use the app. Up to 8 applications can run in the background or be set to standby mode, after which they will close automatically.
BlackBerry 10 OS features a Notification bar that can be accessed by using the swipe down gesture from the top of the display. It contains several toggles and options that will allow users to enable some of the phone’s features without having to dig deep into the menu.
Keep in mind that the same swipe down gesture from the top of the touchscreen is also used to bring up a contextual menu for BlackBerry 10 applications. Not all apps have been especially developed for this feature, so you might end up bringing up the Notification bar instead of the Setting menu of that software.
The smartphone comes packed with several social networking apps and business tools, including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LindkedIn and DocsToGo (Word, Excel and PowerPoint). Adobe Reader is pre-installed on the Q10 as well, along with an intuitive File Manager and easy-to-use Calendar.
With DocsToGo users will be able to create and edit Word and Excel documents, but you will be unable to create any PowerPoint presentations.
AccuWeather is included as well, along with a very useful Compass application that allows users to find out where they are at any given moment. There are also two cloud storage services pre-installed on the BlackBerry Q10: Box and Dropbox.
The popular BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is also included among applications pre-loaded on the Q10, along with BlackBerry World, Remember (a note-taking app), Deezer (a music service), YouTube, Calculator, Print To Go and Smart Tags.
Last but not least, BlackBerry added a very useful Tutorials app on the Q10 and Q5 smartphones, which can help you learn how to use your device. Various gestures are explained and lots of tips and tricks are given via this application, so I suggest first-time BlackBerry 10 users to give it a try as soon as they purchase their phone.
BlackBerry Q10 is stuffed with everything and anything a consumer would need in the communication area. The Canadian company launched various Q10 models that bring LTE, HSPA+ and EV-DO Rev. A connectivity to users in different countries.
The smartphone also offers dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP support, as well as microUSB 2.0 and microHDMI.
But the main advantage of the BlackBerry Q10 over most high-end smartphones is The Hub. This is the place where users can access all their messages and conversations regardless of where they’re coming from.
More importantly, you can answer emails, messages or social networking mentions directly from The Hub, without having to open an additional application.
All messages from Twitter and Facebook accounts, SMS and BBM messages, or from any number of email accounts, are all gathered here and split into categories for easy browsing. You can even use Search within The Hub to find a specific message or contact, which makes it even more useful.
BlackBerry Q10 comes with a great WebKit-based browser that features Adobe Flash support. It packs a straightforward user interface and loads even the heaviest graphics websites in just a few seconds. Tabbed browsing is included as well, but it lacks text reflow.
The browser also comes integrated with a feature called Reader, which strips a webpage from any image or graphics in order to save mobile data.
Those who want to use the Q10 for navigation purposes, BlackBerry added its Maps application with services provided by TomTom. The UI is extremely simple with only a handful of options, but some of the maps are pretty accurate.
Even though it cannot be compared with Google Maps, it’s a good start for a company with little or no experience when it comes to localization and navigation services.
Last but not least, telephony is top not on the BlackBerry Q10. The smartphone offers HD Voice, so depending on the carrier you might experience excellent in-call sound during phone calls. GSM reception is very good as well.
Processor and Memory
As we mentioned earlier, BlackBerry launched several Q10 models with different hardware configuration. The non-LTE version of BlackBerry Q10 is powered by a TI OMAP 4470 dual-core processor clocked at 1.5 GHz, which is complemented by a PowerVR SGX544 graphics processing unit.
The LTE model packs a 1.5 GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor and an Adreno 225 graphics processing unit.
We have tested the LTE version of BlackBerry Q10 and found it quite fast and snappy when running multiple applications or simply browsing the menu or the Internet.
Furthermore, the smartphone embeds 2GB of RAM, which is quite a lot for a BlackBerry device. The Q10 comes with 16GB of storage, but only around 11GB are available for users. The good news is you can add microSD cards up to 64GB for additional internal memory.
BlackBerry Q10 comes with the same music and video players as the Q5. Other multimedia apps such as Story Maker, Gallery and Deezer are also included.
However, unlike the Q5, the higher-tier BlackBerry Q10 features much better earphones. Due to this addition, you don’t need to change them for other headphones in order to experience high-quality sound.
Even though it’s not aimed at music lovers, the Q10 offers quite an enjoyable music experience. The bad news is the music player does not feature any equalizers or playback control.
Still, you can use the volume keys and the voice control button in-between to play/pause or skip a song. To control the volume a short press on the volume keys is enough; but if you want to skip a song or listen to the previous one, you will have to press and hold the volume keys a little longer.
The Q10’s display is not meant to watch videos, so even if the integrated video player supports popular formats such as MP4, DivX, XviD and H.264, it doesn’t offer a great experience.
The smartphone does not come with Radio FM, offering instead users the option to sign up for a music service called Deezer which strongly resembles Grooveshark.
Aside from that, you also get Story Maker that allows you to choose some of the videos and photos stored on the phone and create a video slideshow.
The first BlackBerry 10 smartphone launched on the market, the Z10 is well known for its rather short battery lifetime. Even though it wasn’t lower than any other Android smartphone with a 4-inch display, BlackBerry fans were a bit shocked by the fact that they had to recharge their device once every two days.
However, things are completely different when it comes to BlackBerry Q10 energy consumption. Mostly due to the fact that it features a much smaller 3.1-inch display, the Q10’s 2100 mAh Li-In battery has a very good autonomy.
Depending on your needs, BlackBerry Q10’s battery can last up to around 4 days without having to recharge it. The more services and phone features you use, the more battery energy it will require.
I noticed that keeping the phone with 4G LTE network enabled and browsing the Internet drain the energy pretty fast; so unless you don’t need LTE, I suggest keeping the Q10 on EDGE network for better autonomy.
Keep in mind that BlackBerry Q10 packs a removable battery, as such, if you wish, you can carry an additional battery with you just in case. This is not possible for the Q5, which comes with a non-removable battery.
BlackBerry Q10 handset
Obviously, the first thing you will notice when looking at Q10 is the stylish design. Upon touching the phone you cannot feel the quality of the materials used to manufacture the Q10’s chassis. Both the white and black models offer the same level of quality, even though they’re made of different composite materials.
Another strong point of the Q10 is the physical QWERTY keyboard, which brings back one of the features that made BlackBerry smartphones so desirable among business users.
The excellent battery and the high-quality touchscreen display are among the highlights of the Q10 which might convince you into buying one.
BlackBerry Q10 can take decent pictures thanks to its 8-megapixel camera, and offers a great music experience that can be further improved with the addition of an equalizer and other options.
Last but not least, The Hub is the best messaging feature ever included in a mobile operating system. It’s better than anything that Android, iOS or Windows Phone have to offer as alternatives, which is one of the reasons BlackBerry 10 should live.
Even though BlackBerry’s intention to offer two controlling options for the Q10, the QWERTY keyboard and the touchscreen display, the rather unusual size ratio makes the latter unusable for watching videos.
Moreover, the lack of a Radio FM feature might stop some consumers from getting this device, though BlackBerry fans shouldn’t have any problems with that.
More importantly, BlackBerry 10 app ecosystem is rather small when it comes to third-party apps. BlackBerry World recently passed the 100,000 apps milestone which is way behind other platforms.
While the typical Blackberry user might not be bothered by popular missing apps such as Instagram, this will certainly lower the chances of Android or iOS users migrating to Blackberry 10.
If you can get past these issues, which might not be real deal-breakers for some, BlackBerry Q10 is an excellent device that should have received a lot more attention from both the public and the media.
I’m convinced the Q10 should have been the first BlackBerry 10 smartphone launched on the market. It would have certainly stopped BlackBerry’s fans exodus to other platforms with the right marketing.
I believe the Q10 is the spiritual successor of the traditional BlackBerry smartphone and the only one that could satisfy a true BlackBerry fan’s needs. The amazing QWERTY keyboard and the long battery life, as well as the powerful BlackBerry 10 platform should tempt any consumer looking for a business phone.
The attention to details and the polished design are commendable and give BlackBerry Q10 the power to challenge other flagship smartphones powered by other mobile platforms.
Those who are looking for a top-tier BlackBerry smartphone in the old tradition should not overlook the Q10. For a cheaper version of the Q10 BlackBerry fans can try out the Q5, which offers similar features in terms of software.