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BlackBerry Key One hands-on impressions

With the announcement of the BlackBerry KeyOne, TCL is riding on the nostalgia-train to get back old BB fans. Just like the Nokia 3310, the BlackBerry KeyOne pays homage to the keyboard-touting smartphones of yesteryears.

The design and form factor of the BB KeyOne looks perfect — you get a decent-sized touch-screen display (4.5-inches) and a full qwerty keyboard in one large candybar form factor. It’s similar to the BlackBerry Passport which I personally really like but it’s not as wide and unwieldy. It’s closer to the BlackBerry Priv when the keyboard is fully exposed.

Think of this as a 5.5-inch smartphone with an inch of the section been replaced with a physical keyboard although you can still pull up the virtual keyboard if you want to.

The all-metal build is good, the details and trimmings that really gives you that BlackBerry look and feel. The glass display slightly curves toward the sides to give you that impression that there’s almost no bezels at all.

The capacitive buttons are placed at the bottom end, just before the physical keyboard meets the glass. The display looks nice and crisp, has close to full HD resolution but since it’s just 4.5-inch across, the pixel density is actually just the same compared to most FHD displays out here.

What’s odd though is the 3:2 aspect ratio of the screen. You won’t be able to get a full screen view of videos at this ratio and most games would be clipped because of this.

The full qwerty keyboard is a bit cramped, similar to the one of the Priv, but that’s to be expected of a phone this size. They’re a bit nimble but I guess one can get used to it after some time.

What’s really nice about this keyboard, aside form having back lights, is that it has touch gesture so you can actually make subtle swipes across the keys and it will register as a gesture on the screen. There’s also an embedded fingerprint sensor that’s integrated into the space bar key that allows for secure login.

At the back is a large camera that slightly protrudes with a dual-tone, dual-LED flash just beside it. The camera has a 12-megapixel PDAF f/2.0 Sony IMX 378 sensor that’s been used earlier on the Xiaomi Mi 5s and the Google Pixel and Pixel XL.

The back panel is covered with what seems to be a soft rubber coating with dimpled texture but we find that it’s still a bit of a smudge-magnet as well.

The front-facing camera has an 8MP sensor and wide field of view for taking selfies (what with the included selfie flash up front).

Powering the BlackBerry Key One is a Snapdragon 625 octa-core chip which is a mid-ranger processor paired with 3GB of memory. There’s Android 7.1 Nougat operating system right out of the box too. These should provide pretty good performance as we’ve seen in the Vivo V5 Plus and the Asus Zenfone 3.

The 3,505mAh battery should be be good enough for a whole day’s work and you can quickly re-charge it since it supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0.

So far, we’re liking the BlackBerry Key One. Those who are still more comfortable with a physical full qwerty keyboard will really like this phone. If there’s one thing that put us off, that would be the suggested retail price. At a suggested retail price of Php27,500 (rough extmates base don current forex rates), the KeyOne seems a little on the expensive side.

BlackBerry KeyOne specs:
4.5-inch IPS LCD display @ 1620×1080 pixels, 434ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 4
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 2.0GHz octa-core chip
Adreno 605 graphics
32GB internal storage
Up to 256GB via microSD card
WiFi 802.11ac
Bluetooth 4.2
12.2MP f/2.0 PDAF rear camera (Sony IMX378 sensor), dual-LED, dual-tone flash
8MP front-facing camera
GPS with aGPS support, GLONASS
FM radio tuner
USB Type C
Fingerprint sensor
3,505mAh Li-Ion battery
Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0
Android 7.1 Nougat
149.1 x 72.4 x 9.4mm (dimensions)
180 grams (weight)

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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