After spending two solid weeks with the BlackBerry Q10 and using it as our primary phone for the whole duration, we think we have everything we need to give you guys our full review of the QWERTY counterpart of the Z10.
In case you missed it, we’ve posted our brief first impression of this handset not so long ago. It’s best if you pay it a visit just to get your feet wet for the full review.
Design and Construction
As far as the look is concerned, we have to say that the Q10 doesn’t possess the flare and the premium feel of the Bold 9900. Instead, BlackBerry went for a more straightforward approach in the design of the Q10.
In some cases, this kind of makeover can be good at times, especially for devices that has too over-the-top design. However, we must say that it’s not going all too well for the Q10. Truth be told, it has been (for a number of times) mistaken for a cheaper model at first glance because of its too monotonous appeal.
Instead of a silver border found on the 9900, BlackBerry went for a simpler black flank with a touch of matte of finish to provide better grip. This section is sandwiched in between the plastic front panel and the totally redesigned back plate that’s aesthetically reminiscent to the small portion of the 9900’s posterior.
However, instead of a glossy feel provided by the fiberglass surface, the Q10’s back panel sports a rubbery feel that both feels good to the touch and provides better grip. Other than that, much of the trademark physique of the previous portrait QWERTY handsets under BlackBerry’s stable has been retained in the Q10’s structure.
With all of the hype going for 1080p-touting handsets, it’s easy to overlook the fact that before the Q5, the Q10 actually has the best display panel out of all the QWERTY handsets that BlackBerry made. One can even make the argument that apart from the difference in display technology (Q5 has IPS LCD, while Q10 has S-AMOLED), the Q10’s screen is just as good as the one on the Q5.
Having a 720×720 resolution may not be as convincing on paper to some, but given that those pixels are packed inside a rather small frame (3.1-inch to be exact), that brings it to the same rank as the iPhone 5 as far as pixel density is concerned.
More than just the pixel count, the Q10 also provides a decent outdoor legibility. Moreover, we were a bit surprise of how good the viewing angles are on its screen, considering that it doesn’t have IPS. Or at least that’s what is stated on its specs sheet.
However, the Q10’s screen is not without its fair share of flaws. Some of which are minor (white balance is a tad off towards the “cool” side, corners of the screen can be unresponsive at times) that we can probably sweep under the rug, but there’s one thing in particular that we just can’t let pass; and that is the bezel.
In most of our reviews, we are keen to point out how thick the bezels are on a certain device, but this is probably the first that you’ll hear us complain about a handset not having a thick enough bezel around the screen.
The reason behind our gripe is the fact that weaving through the BlackBerry OS 10 involves bezel-to-screen gestures. I mean it’s bad enough that the OS takes a bit of getting used to before everything becomes second nature, to make matters worse the bezels on the Q10 (particularly the bottom one) just aren’t wide enough to give users a more intuitive swiping gesture.
OS, UI, Apps
The Q10 comes preinstalled with the updated version of the BB OS 10 which was also recently made available to its full-touch sibling. The revamped OS brings a handful of improvements that we discussed on our previous post.
Apart from the handset’s smaller screen and its annoyingly thin bezel, the BlackBerry OS 10 on the Q10 works similarly to the one found on the Z10. That said most of the navigation/operation are still based on bezel-to-screen gestures which, as we said earlier, has a steep learning curb.
One of the biggest tradeoff in choosing a BlackBerry handset over an iPhone or Android is limited app selection, and this holds true for the Q10. And while this isn’t something that should be taken against this smartphone, it’s still something to take note of nonetheless.
Multimedia and Audio quality
If you’ve come here looking for a handset that’ll handle your video playback needs, then you’re in the wrong place. Although it didn’t have any troubles loading videos, there’s just too many things that are going against the Q10 as far as comfortable movie watching is concerned. For one the size of the Q10’s screen isn’t cut out for that task. Then there’s the issue of the screen’s aspect ratio which, in most files that we’ve tried, just left us with a strip of the film sandwiched in between two thick black borders.
Luckily, our experience with the handset’s audio isn’t as bad as the one we had on the video playback. Whether we’re on a call or just listening to tracks, the Q10 was able to deliver superb sound performance either through its loudspeaker or through its pre-bundled earphones.
Since the unit that was lent to us is the LTE variant, it had a Snapdragon S4 chip instead of a TI-OMAP found on the non-LTE model. In all honesty, however, we weren’t able pick up any significant difference between the two variants as both are well-optimized to run the OS and both did well in handling basic tasks.
Without any resource-heavy apps to test it with, we just relied on the only reliable benchmark test available for the platform. The result we got (as seen above) was slightly lower than the one we got from the Z10 which was running on a TI-OMAP processor.
Here’s the full load down of the benchmark result:
The Q10 is equipped with the same camera configuration (8MP on the back and 2MP at the front) as the Z10. As such, we expected the same result from it and we’re glad to report that the handset didn’t disappoint.
The one on the back was able to produce stills that should be more than enough for small prints and social media use. It also did well in recording 1080p videos as seen in the sample video below.
We also like the inclusion of HDR mode as part of the current BB OS 10 build. One thing to note though when shooting in this mode; the phone only makes a single shutter sound when you take a picture, but in reality it’s actually taking three shots and combining it to form a single file. Having said that, it pays to not be fooled by the single shutter sound and steady your hand/s while waiting for the phone to do its thing.
Here are some of the sample pictures that we took with the BlackBerry Q10 (HDR pics included):
Connectivity and Call Quality
Whether wired or wireless, this handset takes care of all your connectivity needs. That includes Wi-Fi hotspot, NFC and LTE which has become the standard for a flagship device. Speaking of LTE, the handset did a fine job of picking up LTE connection whenever it’s available.
Call quality was also commendable as our voices came through clear as day based on our call tests. Moreover, we never had any disconnected calls and/or dropped calls during our time with the handset.
BlackBerry Q10 LTE specs:
3.1-inch display @ 720×720 pixels, 328ppi
Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon 1.5GHz dual-core Krait
Adreno 225 Graphics
2GB of RAM
16GB of internal storage
up to 32GB via microSD card
8MP rear camera
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, dual-band, WiFi hotspot
GPS w/ aGPS support
Li-Ion 2,100 mAh battery
BlackBerry 10 OS
Dimension: 119.6 x 66.8 x 10.4 mm
Between the Z10 and the Q10, this handset actually has the bigger battery which was a bit odd considering that the former requires more juice to power its bigger and more pixel-packed display. As a result, the Q10 outlasted the Z10 in all of usage type
On a typical day of use, which includes leaving the LTE connection on with a handful of social media apps and a pair of email accounts running on the background, the average mileage we got out of a single charge ranges from 13-16 hours.
With the same setup, we tried using the Q10 as an LTE mobile hotspot to see how long it’ll last under heavy pressure. Surprisingly, it lasted for six and a half hours before the battery got drained.
Since the release of the Bold Touch 9900, BlackBerry has taken its sweet time to come up with a good successor. During this time some BB users have already given up and succumbed to the allure of an all-touch flag bearers like the HTC One, SGS4 and Sony Xperia Z. But for the few passionate loyalists, we think that all the wait was all worth it as the BlackBerry Q10 is, without question, the best portrait QWERTY handset out there in the market.
We like how BlackBerry was able to incorporate all the good stuff from their previous builds and a add handful of enhancements that ultimately led to a note-worthy smartphone. That includes a well-constructed body, top-of-the-line keyboard and intuitive aggregator that takes care of all social media and email feeds and places it all in an easy-to-access hub.
But even after saying all of these good things, we’re still gonna circle back to what we said on our first impression; the BlackBerry Q10 is not for everyone. While this handset is meant to cater for long-time BB users who’ve been dying to get upgrade their current QWERTY handset, we think that it just doesn’t have enough fire power to convince Android/iOS users to make the switch.
Another thing that’s not going right for the Q10 is its premium price which is currently pegged at Php31,990. At that price point, it makes it even harder for consumers opt for this handset instead of getting a 5-inch 1080p smartphone. Unless of course, you’re already decided to get it in the first place.
What we liked:
• Great build
• Outstanding keyboard
• Decent battery life
• BlackBerry Hub
• Snappy performance
What we didn’t like:
• Display (slightly off White Balance, unresponsive on corners)
• Too thin bezel, not suited for bezel-to-screen gestures
• So-so image quality
• Premium price