­­­­BlackBerry launched their new physical keyboard device the Q10, powered by their new BB10 operating system, in Ireland in May of this year. Initially launching on the O2 network it has now launched on Vodafone too and no doubt will spread to the rest of the networks over the summer

I got my Q10 at the end of May and have been using it every day since then so this review is based on 3 weeks of usage to date.

First off the specs:

Screen: Super AMOLED touchscreen, 720 x 720 pixels, 3.1 inches (~328 ppi pixel density)

CPU: Dual-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A9 (TI OMAP 4470)

Network: 802 a/b/g/n dual band Wi-Fi, HSPA/LTE (4G), NFC, Bluetooth 4

Sound: 3.5mm jack and loudspeaker

Camera: 8mp, 1080p 30fps autofocus rear facing camera and 2mp 720p front facing camera

Battery: Li-ion 2100mAh

Dimensions: Size: 119.6 x 66.8 x 10.4 mm. Weight: 139g

Connections: Micro HDMI port and Micro USB port

Memory: 2GB ram and 16GB storage with microSD support up to 64GB

Design

The Q10 is the replacement for the 9900 which to many BlackBerry physical keyboard users was almost perfect. Gone is the touchpad and the Q10 now has a slightly larger more rectangular keyboard compared with the 9900. The device feels solid. It feels like a premium product and certainly looks the part with its glass weave back cover. There’s no creaks or squeaks from any part of it including the keyboard. The keyboard is lovely to use and though I was torn between this device and the Z10 I’m so glad I plumed for the Q10. If you like physical keyboard devices then you’ll understand how good this keyboard is when you try it. I can type long emails or work on documents right from my phone. I can even do all of this without looking at my screen such is the accuracy of having these type of keyboards.

The device doesn’t slip in your hand when you’re operating it and it’s easy to navigate the touch screen with one handed thumb gestures. Unlike many other high end devices, BlackBerry gave the Q10, and its sister device the all touch Z10, a removable back cover to enable access to the battery for swapping in a new one which is great in this day and age to be honest. It has a standard micro usb for charging the device and for connecting to a PC/Mac located on the side. What’s really neat though is that it comes with a micro HDMI port (also located on the side of the device) which makes it easy to connect to your TV or projector without the need for an extra adaptor. Very handy for presentations on the go or for watching 1080p video on your TV. The 3.5mm headphone socket is located on the top of the device and the loudspeaker is located on the bottom.

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Screen

The screen is 3.1 inches in size and is plenty big for the user who wants/needs a physical keyboard but it won’t necessarily appeal to those that value screen real estate over physical keyboards. But remember when you have your touch screen keyboard visible it covers up a lot of the screen anyway. The screen is very responsive and the colours are rich and vibrant as only a super amoled can be. These types of screens produce better blacks then LCD but some say that the screen isn’t as bright as other devices. BlackBerry designed a special algorithm that controls the screen brightness automatically in dark and bright light. I do find that in bright sunshine the screen isn’t quite as bright compared to other devices I’ve had or tested but it doesn’t bother me too much and maybe fixable in a future OS update. Due to the 3.1 inch 720×720 square screen the device is clearly not for media consumption but why watch a 1080p film on a tiny screen when you can output it from the built in HDMI port to a nice big 42 inch screen. In saying that with the 328 pixels per inch screen pictures and films are eminently watchable on the device though. I did find that sometimes the screen was a little unresponsive when trying to press buttons in corners but this has improved following an OS update and I suspect it’ll improve again with OS 10.2 due soon.

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Battery & Storage

The device has 16GB of built in storage of which about 12GB’s is available immediately. There’s 2GB of RAM so you never feel like you’re running short even when you’ve lots of apps open (more about this later). There’s also a micro SD card slot which can take up to a 64GB memory card. The battery is huge for such a device. It’s a lithium ion 2100 mAh battery and it really does last. With very little use I really can get 2 full days out of the battery and with moderate to heavy use (lots of browsing, calls and email but not much video) I can get a day and a bit out of the device. I would imagine most people will have little or no difficulty getting a full days usage out of a single battery even with very heavy use.

Camera

The camera is pretty good. It’s an 8 megapixel autofocus camera with a built in LED flash and it can record 1080p video (with dual stereo microphones). It’s not superb in low light by any means but is certainly functional and to be honest if you’re buying a phone for a top notch camera then you’re not thinking clearly. If you want a good camera go buy a DSLR. That doesn’t mean that the camera hasn’t a few neat tricks. It supports burst mode (as many pics taken as you want as long as you hold the shoot button, in this case the space bar). There’s also a choice of images sizes from square (1:1), 4:3 and 16:9. Another unique trick is the face recognition with multi shot. This setting is great for group photos which can be ruined by one or more blinkers. The setting detects multiple faces and allows you to hone in on the problem faces and find the best image while maintaining the rest of the faces that were correct.  The camera also supports HDR photography.

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Operating system

This is one of the bigger if not the biggest changes in the device. BlackBerry have made the long and somewhat painful move to their new BB10 os based on the QNX operating system (a company they bought a few years back). It’s a gesture based operating system. You can turn on your device with a swipe and navigate and or peak at apps using gestures. BB10 no longer requires BIS (BlackBerry Internet Services) which is a double edged sword. Yes you no longer need to pay for that service but you now don’t benefit from data compression so you will find moving from an old BlackBerry to one of the new ones that you use considerably more data than before. It’s a snappy OS even with the dual core 1.5ghz processor (many have said why not use a quad core but after using the device I dont really see the need for a quad core processor here).

Email, SMS, MMS, notifications, BBM (BlackBerry messenger, whatsapp, twitter, facebook, linkedin and calls messages are accessible by a new setup called the hub. It will probably take many people some time to get used to but once you do it’s very handy altogether. Calender, contacts and email can all sync depending on the email account you’re using so Gmail syncs everything. With the contacts on your device, BB10 will gather contacts from all sources such as email, linkedin, twitter facebook etc… This may seem odd at first as you may have duplicate contacts but you can link contacts to ensure there’s no duplicates.

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BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) allows for video sharing and voice calling and with BBM launching cross platform this summer it will make this app very handy indeed. The video sharing feature allows you to share your screen so you can show people whatever you want.

The BlackBerry navigator app allows for turn by turn navigation and is adept at getting me to where I want to go. It hasn’t let me down and on occasion plots better routes then google maps. One thing that is odd which took me a while to figure out. You have to put the house number after the street address to find a location for some reason. Once you do that you’re fine.

The Remember app is linked to Evernote so you can sync notes from your device to your Evernote account but it’s much more flexible then just that feature. You can share anything on your device directly with remember which is a great feature. It’s so handy for quick work on the go.

I have found that the BB10 Twitter app is a bit of a let-down. The BlackBerry OS7 twitter app is so good unfortunately it hasn’t translated into a great BB10 version. The BB10 version does not support multiple accounts and just in general isn’t as easy to navigate and work with compared with it’s OS7 counterpart. Hopefully this will be rectified in future updates.

BlackBerry World (the new name for the BlackBerry app store) is much improved. But here BlackBerry will never keep everyone happy. The fact is many people want lots of apps when they get a new device and BlackBerry have done well to get many of the important ones such as Skype, Soundhound, Whatsapp and foursquare with other top apps following such as Instagram and Bloomberg. To be honest I don’t feel like I’m missing many apps. The browser is so good it meets my needs for most things but this will not satisfy the majority of people so BlackBerry will have to do more to get the top apps on BlackBerry world. Netflix being one of the most sought after apps too.

Docs to Go and the native Adobe reader app are excellent for document processing/viewing on the go. With the HDMI port you can just carry your presentation on your device and off you go to the meeting. The new docs to go even supports many of the transitions on the new Microsoft Office so your presentations don’t look dull (the rest being up to you 😀 ).

Plenty of games available too such as angry birds, cut the rope, tetris and need for speed and while it might be a little difficult to play these games on the small Q10 screen, hook the device up to a TV/Projector via the HDMI port and you’re on to a winner.

The browser is top notch and scores 485 on the html5test (top of the pile of all mobile browsers) and a sunspider javascript test score of 1465ms. It fully supports Adobe Flash too so you get to see websites the way they were meant to be.

The operating system is also superb at multi tasking. Apps stay live while minimised and I found I could have lots of apps open without any detriment to the smoothness of the operating system. Something which I think BlackBerry trumps over other operating systems.

Miscellaneous

The device has NFC capabilities but to date I don’t see much use for this which is a real shame. I think having NFC tags on things would be very handy. Think of bus stops if you your phone could tag a bustop NFC tag it could immediately open that particular bus stops timetable and live real-time bus information. So much handier then having to search yourself. Hotspot and internet tethering are also available. Volume buttons are on the side of the device which together with the music player can function to control song selection (next/previous) and playback. The system has built in assisted GPS also.

Conclusion

For physical keyboard fans this device is definitely worth considering. This device does primarily appeal to a select group but there are so many bad physical keyboard devices on other OS’s out there it really is surprising how no other company has matched BlackBerry in this area and with BB10 now BlackBerry has an OS to challenge the others. There is a learning curve with BB10 but once you get going on it you’ll find yourself as productive if not more so as you were on your old device. The OS is also very new and will evolve considerably which is something BlackBerry will have to keep doing if it wants to eek out a corner of the market from which to profit from. There’s no getting away from it though, if you want all the apps you had on your iOS or Android device you may be disappointed so BlackBerry will have to keep working  on this gap although the browser does make up for this. The device was a long time coming but now it’s here it hasn’t been a let down at all.

If you’ve any questions for me fire away in the comments section.

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