BlackBerry’s OS 10 ushered in a new line of smartphones for the company, namely, the all-touch Z10 and the keyboard-equipped Q10. While these phones pack good sets of hardware, their high price tags may not appeal to a significant segment of the market. The company’s answer — the BlackBerry Q5, an entry-level BB10 handset. Check out our review to find out what this device has to offer.
Design and Construction
Like with the relationship of the Curve to the Bold, the Q5 sits below the Q10 in terms of design and feel. Compared to the Q10, it’s more plasticky and doesn’t pack much flair. The design is very modest that sometimes we find the latest Curves to be more appealing.
Found on the front of the Q5 is the 3.1-inch display, right above it are the earpiece, 2 megapixel front-facing camera, and notifications light. Found below it are the BlackBerry label and the well-spaced QWERTY keyboard.
Right on top are the power/lock button, microphone and headset jack. At the bottom are the speaker and another microphone.
On the right side is the volume rocker, while on the left side are the microUSB port, and the microSD and micro-SIM slot covered by a flap. Flip it on its back and you’ll see the 5 megapixel camera and LED flash, and the BlackBerry logo.
Overall, the Q5 isn’t exactly that type of smartphone that packs a lot of eye-candy and the feel is far from premium. The volume rocker easily clicks even with a light press which makes it susceptible to accidental presses, the power/lock button doesn’t provide much tactile feedback, and the plastic flap is loose and slightly hangs open.
As for its merits, it is light, the chunkiness feels right in the hands and should snug comfortably in your pockets.
The Q5 is equipped with a 3.1-inch display with a resolution of 720 x 720 or equal to 328ppi, same as the Q10. The only difference is that the Q5 uses an IPS LCD panel instead of Super AMOLED.
Although the screen is small, the colors are great and viewing angles are good. Sunlight legibility is acceptable but you will have to manually set (no auto-brightness feature) the brightness level to maximum.
What bothers us though is the aspect ratio. At 1:1, you will experience letter-boxing when viewing photos and videos at 4:3 and 16:9. Not really a good experience given the small screen size.
OS, UI and Apps
The Q5 comes with BB OS 10.1 out of the box. We also downloaded the MR (Maintenance Release) update for the device for a more stable OS.
If you’re new to OS 10 then you should give yourself some time to learn the commands and get used to it. Swiping up from the BlackBerry label towards the screen works as the Exit. It will bring you back to your main homescreen or show a grid of currently open apps.
Swiping down from the clock will bring out shortcuts or show options to whatever app you’re using. Swiping from the right to the left will simply scroll the apps already installed, while swiping the opposite way will bring up the BlackBerry Hub which shows notifications and messages from accounts logged in on your device.
If you’re currently using an app and you get a notification, just swipe upward then to the right to have a peek of your Hub.
Everything is confusing at first but you’ll find it to be one of the most intuitive OS once you get used to it.
The biggest problem of BlackBerry is its weak app ecosystem. Although Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and LinkedIn come preinstalled, big app names like Instagram are still missing. BlackBerry World has improved though in terms of the number of native apps but majority are still in their Android port forms.
On the bright side, the Q5 can still be considered as a mini productivity tool thanks to its trusty QWERTY keyboard, and the inclusion of BlackBerry Remember, Docs To Go and Adobe Reader.
Multimedia and Camera
As a multimedia platform, the Q5 is very capable as it can handle most audio and video files but we won’t consider it as the ideal platform. Speaker is good and very audible but the small screen is a real downer especially when watching movies. For that purpose we recommend the Z10, or better yet, the Z30.
The Q5 is equipped with a 5 megapixel camera with LED flash. It shoots quick and can produce decent photos especially in bright conditions. If you like shooting fast-moving subjects, then you’d be happy to know that it also has the Time Shift feature. Take a look at the sample images below:
As for video recording capabilities, the Q5 can shoot videos at up to 1080p resolution at 30fps. Watch the sample video below:
Performance and Benchmarks
The Q5 is powered by a Snapdragon S4 dual-core CPU and partnered with 2GB of RAM – a healthy set of hardware given its entry-level position. True enough, the Q5 worked smoothly without any sign of slowdowns or crashes.
As for benchmark performance, the Q5 got an overall score of 1,503 on GeekBench. Worth noting that it scored a few hundred above the Q10 (1,216) which we reviewed a couple of months back. We can give credit to the MR update for this as it provided tons of improvements and bug fixes.
Battery life is good with the Q5 providing 2,180mAh worth of juice. With our regular use which consists of heavy SNS browsing and chatting on WiFi, light gaming, and moderate calling and messaging, the Q5 was able to last for a whole day.
We also tested it for video playback, setting it to Airplane mode, brightness at 50% and volume at 0%, and got a result of 8.3 hours worth of playback.
The BlackBerry Q5 packs a good display, decent camera, very good battery life, and above average performance. If you’re a BB7 user who is planning to upgrade to a QWERTY BB10 device but find the Q10 to be very expensive, the Q5 (at the time of writing) is your next and only option.
You might want to rethink that option though once you see how much it costs. As of late last month, it has an SRP of Php18,690. And that is for a non-LTE model with a non-premium build. You can actually buy a very decent Android mid-ranger for that amount of cash.
To conclude, the Q5 is a decent smartphone that can still be considered as a very good communication tool as BlackBerry is known for. However, I don’t think it will fly with that kind of price tag.
BlackBerry Q5 specs:
3.1-inch IPS LCD display @ 720×720 pixels, 328ppi
Qualcomm MSM8960 Snapdragon S4 1.2GHz dual-core
Adreno 305 graphics
8GB internal storage
up to 64GB via microSD card
5MP autofocus rear camera, LED flash
1080p video recording
2MP front-facing camera
720p video recording
GPS w/ aGPS support
BlackBerry OS 10.1
Li-Ion 2,180mAh battery
120mm x 66mm x 10.8mm (dimensions)
120 grams (weight)
What we liked:
* Good display quality
* Good keyboard
* Very good battery life
* Above average performance
What we didn’t like:
* High price tag for an entry-level BB10 device
* Weak app ecosystem
* Mediocre build
* No LTE