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BlackBerry released its first BlackBerry 10 device earlier this year once its Z10 was made available across a number of U.S. carriers, but hardcore BlackBerry fans had to seriously consider whether or not they really wanted to pick it up since it didn’t have a physical keyboard. Sure – the BlackBerry Z10 does have a 4.2-inch touchscreen, but BlackBerry owners know it’s all about the QWERTY keyboard, which is why the release of the Q10 is probably a bit more anticipated than the Z10 was.

We were able to get our hands on the BlackBerry Q10 earlier this year when BlackBerry announced both it and the Z10 would launch the BlackBerry 10 platform, and at the time we were impressed with how well the QWERTY keyboard performed through our limited time with the device. The BlackBerry Q10 will soon be made available in the U.S., which means it’s about time we get our hands on the device and put it through its paces to let you know whether or not you should pick it up when it’s made available on your preferred carrier. So without further ado, let’s get into the BlackBerry Q10.

BlackBerry Q10 Specs

  • Display: 720 x 720 (330 PPI)
  • Display Size: 3.1”
  • Display Type: Super AMOLED
  • Processor: 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Processor
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Storage: 16GB Flash
  • MicroSD: Yes > Up to 32GB
  • Battery Capacity: 2100mAh
  • Rear-Facing Camera: 8MP
  • Front-Facing Camera: 2MP
  • Weight: 139g
  • Dimensions: 119.6 x 66.8  x 10.35

Official specs can be found on BlackBerry.com

Context

We all use our cell phones differently, so we feel it’s important to describe how we tend to use our cell phones on a regular basis. I pretty much am connected to the hip with my cell phone as I perform a wide variety of activities which mostly include checking and responding to emails, chatting through instant messaging, communicate on various social networks and listen to music. There are other miscellaneous activities I perform throughout my day, such as playing games, but these are the ones that I tend to do on a more regular basis.

I rely on my cell phone heavily in order to communicate with others for business and my own personal life, so I know how important it is to choose the right device depending on what you’d like to do with it. I currently carry around both an iPhone 5 and HTC One as I always like to have both an iOS and Android device on hand since they’re currently both the leading mobile platforms, but I do dabble in Windows Phone 8 every so often.

One last thing I’d like to share is my first cell phone was a BlackBerry device, the BlackBerry 8700g to be exact.

Industrial Design

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The main focus of the BlackBerry Z10 was its 4.2-inch screen, and while the Q10 features a nicely sized 3.1-inch display, the main focus here is its QWERTY keyboard, which we’ll get into shortly in our review. First, we’ll take a look at the overall design of the Q10.

The area you’re going to look at first and probably the most is the front of the BlackBerry Q10, which has a lot going on in addition to its 3.1-inch Super AMOLED display. Surrounding the screen is a thin bezel on the bottom and sides, while above the screen is where you’ll find a BlackBerry logo, front-facing camera and its speaker. Below the screen is the piece de resistance: the QWERTY keyboard.

The keyboard on the BlackBerry Q10 has a thin piece of silver separating each letter row, which when combined with the silver symbols on each key, really gives it a nice, premium look. Each key of the Q10’s keyboard is black with white symbols and has a slight groove to offer a better feel when typing with your thumbs. I admit it’s been a couple of years since I used a mobile  device with a physical QWERTY keyboard, but after using the Q10 for a while, I became very comfortable with it and could see myself typing away on it for hours.

The top of the BlackBerry Q10 is where you’ll find the devices power button and 3.5mm headphone jack, while the bottom houses its microphone and speakerphone. The Q10’s volume rocker, which includes a mute button in the middle, can be found on the right side of the device, the left side is where you’ll find its microHDMI and microUSB ports.

The back of the BlackBerry Q10 doesn’t have the Z10’s textured rubberized material, and instead has a glass weave finish which provides a nice amount of grip when holding the device in your hand. The glass weave allows for the Q10 to slide a bit, but it also grips onto your hand when the device is being held giving it a nice contrast which feels a lot better than rubber. The top-left corner portion of the Q10 is where you’ll find its 8MP camera along with its single flash, and just below it is a single strip of metal which travels to the sides of the device.

Display (very good)

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BlackBerry devices usually haven’t been known to have a worthwhile display as the company, for some reason, doesn’t tend to push the envelope in terms of what their devices’ displays offer. For its BlackBerry 10 devices, BlackBerry has finally given its customers screens that look great, starting with the BlackBerry Z10 and continuing with the Q10.

The BlackBerry Q10 features a 3.1-inch Super AMOLED screen that has a resolution of 720 x 720 with a 330 PPI. The Q10’s 3.1-inch display is large when compared to previous QWERTY-keyboard equipped BlackBerry and its Super AMOLED display means you’ll get some impressive visuals from the Q10 when viewing video or high-resolution images. Squeezing in 330 PPI into the Q10’s 3.1-inch display is also an impressive feat considering there are some mobile devices with larger screens that don’t fit that many pixels within an inch.

BlackBerry Custom Apps

The BlackBerry Q10 is only the second BlackBerry 10 device to be launched and the first device to feature a physical QWERTY keyboard. Many of the BlackBerry 10-specific applications found in the BlackBerry Z10 can be found in the Q10, but some of them act differently to better incorporate its physical keyboard.

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BlackBerry Hub: If you’re familiar with the BlackBerry Hub, which we detailed a bit in our BlackBerry Z10 review, then you’ll know exactly what to expect with the Q10 as the experience is pretty much left unchanged. BlackBerry Hub acts as a unified mailbox which houses your emails, BBMs, texts, Facebook activity Twitter as well as a number of third-party applications such as Google Talk. The thing I enjoy about BlackBerry Hub the most is the fact you can respond to all of the messages right from within the Hub, making it easier to interact through multiple services without ever launching their corresponding application.

BBM: BlackBerry’s extremely popular BlackBerry Messenger service of course makes itself available on the BlackBerry Q10 and you can expect the same experience found on other BlackBerry 10 devices. You’ll be able to make BBM video and voice calls from within the application, and BBM on BB10 allows you to add friends by simply inputting their PIN or scanning a QR code. BBM messages have also been integrated within the BlackBerry Hub, making it easier to continue messages outside of the application.

Docs To Go: We think it’s safe to say if you’re planning on getting a BlackBerry Q10, you’re going to want to be able to create and edit documents on the fly. Luckily, BlackBerry includes a version of Docs To Go on the Q10 and allows you to create and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents straight from your BlackBerry device.

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Story Maker: The BlackBerry Q10, just like the Z10, comes with Story Maker. The application allows you to create a collage the include photos and videos you’ve taken with the Q10 while also being able to add text and your own soundtrack. It’s certainly a nice little app which we’re sure BlackBerry 10 users will get a good amount of use out of if they take a lot of photos and videos, which they would prefer to have them combined in one collage video.

Killer Apps

Email (very good): The email application BlackBerry is so well known for has made its way onto the BlackBerry Q10, although it has now been integrated into the BlackBerry Hub. You’ll be able to access your single or multiple email accounts all from within the Hub, making it that much easier to control what messages you read at any given time. Combined with the Q10’s keyboard, you’ll easily respond to emails at a blazing-fast speed, that is, as long as you’ve become accustomed to a physical keyboard.

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Browser (excellent!): The BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 aren’t the first time BlackBerry has manufactured a touchscreen device, but they’re certainly the best so far and no other application benefits from a touchscreen more than the included browser. In the past, BlackBerry owners navigated their way through websites by using an moving a mouse cursor around, which was controlled through a touchpad, trackball or joystick. With the BlackBerry Q10, BlackBerry owners can now make their way through a website simply by navigating their way with the touchscreen, which you can also zoom in and out by using pinch-to-zoom gestures. The browser has great response and loading times when compared to previous versions as well support for multiple tabs, a “Reader” mode and a unified bar which combines a URL and search bar into one.

Maps (good): The Maps application included with BlackBerry 10 is powered by Tom Tom, so it’ll give you driving directions based on their data, but if you’re a commuter who relies on walking or public transit directions, don’t expect that kind of service here. It doesn’t look like there’s been much improvement to the Maps app as the graphics still look quite poor when compared to Google Maps and even Apple Maps

When I searched for a local business, the Maps application took about 20 seconds in order to deliver any results. Considering Google and Apple Maps gives you information as you type, this is pretty slow in my opinion. As long as you’re patient with the Maps app and you don’t need commuter directions, then you can expect a pretty standard experience out of it.

Entertainment

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Video Playback (good): Since the BlackBerry Q10’s screen is essentially a box as its resolution is 720 x 720, playing video suffers a bit since you won’t be able to get a widescreen view. Because of this, videos will have two large letterbox strips at the top and bottom. This cuts down the content from using the Q10’s 3.1-inch display down to around 1.5 inches, which we feel isn’t quite the optimal size for watching videos. Sure – you can get away with watching YouTube clips while you’re on your commuting to and from work, but if you’re planning on sharing the content, you better hold out to show your friend that funny video you saw on either a computer or another device with a larger screen.

Gaming (good): In our BlackBerry Z10 review, we made a note that BlackBerry World didn’t have as many worthwhile applications and games as competing mobile operating systems, such as iOS and Android. This still holds true as the variety in worthwhile games on BlackBerry 10 are slim to none as there are only a handful of games worth your time, Angry Birds Space being one of them. During our time with the Q10, it was run Angry Birds Space well, although a free endless runner called “Running Panda” was buggy as it regularly kicked me back to the game’s title screen. Unfortunately, these kinds of experiences are the reason why when gaming is concerned, BlackBerry devices tend to not be taken as serious as iOS and Android.

Speaker Quality (good): The BlackBerry Q10 features a single speaker located at the bottom of the device which does offer a nice amount of volume when turned all the way up, but it’s completely devoid of any deep bass and relies heavily on mid-to-high range sounds. The overall sound quality can be described as tinny, but it certainly isn’t the worst speaker on a mobile device we’ve heard as it should certainly serve its purpose of being able to make calls on and listen to be able to listen to music so you’re not completely bored if you happen to be without headphones.

Digital Imaging (very good)

Another area Blackberry devices are known for not excelling in is their camera’s ability. The BlackBerry Q10 features an 8PM camera, which means it’ll finally be able to take nice pictures, which will result in your friends rolling their eyes a little less when you hold up a BlackBerry device to take a picture.

Camera Application (good): The BlackBerry Q10’s camera application allows you to take a picture or video with either the 8MP rear-facing camera or 2MP front-facing camera. The photo taking options allow you to take normal, stabilization, burst and HDR shots in one of five scenes: auto, action, whiteboard, night and beach / snow. You can also control your camera’s flash and even the aspect ration to be 1:1, 4:3 or 16:9.

Photo and Video Quality (very good)

Considering BlackBerry users have been dealing with cameras that have been left in the dust by its rivals, it’s refreshing to see the BlackBerry Q10’s camera performs as well as a current-generation BlackBerry 10 device should. Our sample images were taken on sunny days indoors and the image the BlackBerry Q10 produced was full of color, high detail and contrast were all very impressive when compared to the image the iPhone 5 produced.

The video recording capabilities of the BlackBerry Q10 allows you to record video in either 720p or 1080p. In our test, we went with a 1080p recording and noticed the image quality wasn’t as high as its images, but it was still was impressive as it was able to capture some very nice shots as it was even able to pick up the slight dust that has accumulated around my figure.

Performance

BlackBerry Q10 Review BenchmarkMonths after we reviewed the BlackBerry Z10, there still isn’t an official benchmark application available for the BlackBerry 10 platform. When you consider there are only two BB10 devices available, it’s not completely surprising, but it still doesn’t make my job of reviewing devices any easier. So, just like with our Z10 review, we went ahead and ran SunSpider on the Q10 to at least get an idea of what its performance is like.

According to our SunSpider benchmark, the overall browser score of the BlackBerry Q10 is 1832 ms (milliseconds), which is slightly faster than the Z10, which we’re sure is due to the Q10’s smaller screen size. Compared to current generation Android and iOs devices, the BlackBerry Q10 doesn’t come close to their performance.

Just to clarify, the SunSpider benchmark is a Javascript engine benchmark which is used to only evaluate the speed of a device’s browser Javascript virtual machine. The results of our testing in no way reflects actual hardware benchmarks, so be sure to keep that in mind.

“Perceived Performance”: Since there isn’t an official benchmark to test the hardware of the BlackBerry Q10, we think it’s extremely important to report on the device’s perceived performance. During our time with the Q10, the device was very responsive and was easy to multitask on thanks to a combination of its 1.5GHz dual-core processor and BlackBerry 10.

Battery (excellent)

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Moderate usage (very good): During our moderate usage battery test, I used the BlackBerry Q10 to play a game, take some sample photos, browse the Internet and a number of other activities on and off for an hour. One of these activities included uploading files onto my Dropbox folder, and as a result, I recorded the Q10’s battery dropped 10% of its total battery life. This means you should expect to a little over 10 hours of battery life, depending on how you use the Q10.

Intense usage (excellent) : For our intense usage battery test, we let the BlackBerry Q10 run a YouTube video at 50% of its screen’s full brightness for an hour. We noted a drop of 10% of the Q10’s battery life during our intense usage battery test, which means you could expect 10 hours of streaming video as long as you watch it under those conditions.

Charging Time (excellent): The battery in the BlackBerry Q10 is a 2100mAh battery, which is a tad on the small side when compared to other current-generation mobile devices, but considering it only has a 3.1-inch display, we think it’s just the right size. As a result, the charging time of the BlackBerry Q10 is excellent as you can charge it from 0% – 75% of its full charge in one hour. As long as you don’t allow your Q10’s battery to drop below 25%, you can pretty much reach a full battery charge in under an hour.

Conclusion (very good)

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Since I had the pleasure to review both the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10, I’ve been asked a number of times which device should BlackBerry users purchase. After spending some quality time with both, I have to say it depends completely on what you’re going to use it for and what you’re comfortable with.

If you’ve been using a BlackBerry device with a physical keyboard and can’t imagine a life using a virtual keyboard, then you’ll feel right at home with the BlackBerry Q10 as its QWERTY keyboard is outstanding and is one I can see myself using for a long time. BlackBerry successfully delivered a modern OS with BlackBerry 10, and when combined with the physical keyboard of the Q10, you’ll be able to get some serious work done as well as be able to keep up with your personal life. I know a virtual keyboard isn’t for everyone, which is why I could easily recommend the BlackBerry Q10.

As for iOS and Android users, I still feel like there isn’t enough in BlackBerry 10 to warrant jumping ship, that is, unless you have been fumbling with a virtual keyboard and have yet to feel comfortable. In that case, I feel the BlackBerry Q10 would be the perfect reason for you to jump into BlackBerry 10 as you’ll be able to perform many of the tasks you could on iOS and Android on this device, although don’t expect the support for BlackBerry World to be as vast as the App Store and Google Play Store.

Filed in Cellphones >Featured >Reviews. Read more about BlackBerry, BlackBerry Q10 and Phone Reviews.

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