Three Weeks with the BlackBerry Z10 [Review]

The new BlackBerry 10 operating system and BlackBerry Z10 smartphone has been a long time coming. That is because it seems like it has been forever since BlackBerry released a new handset, and more importantly, the BlackBerry OS was really starting to show signs of age. BlackBerry 10 changes all that with a revamped and over-hauled user interface that is a lot more modern, not too mention – a lot faster and more stable. On the hardware front, the new Z10 is packed with just about everything you would expect from a modern day smartphone – NFC, 4G LTE, HDMI out, and both front and rear-facing cameras. Having spent nearly 2 weeks with the Z10, we’re ready to finally share our thoughts on the new BlackBerry experience.

  • The hardware and form-factor of the Z10 is very nice. However, it does remind us of an iPhone 5. That said, it’s comfortable to hold and grip and we like that it doesn’t get greasy.
  • The BlackBerry 10 OS swipes require some getting used too. For example, you swipe up to return to the home screen from anywhere in the U.I. This gesture and the other gestures are quite different than what it’s like to operate either smartphone operating systems. So you really won’t want to skip out on the tutorial, or else you’ll be lost.
  • The BlackBerry Hub conveniently keeps all your messages in a unified inbox for quick access. That includes text messages, email, BBM messages, and social networking messages.
  • BlackBerry’s app store is now known as BlackBerry World. Some of the big players are already there, including LinkedIN, Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook. Regardless, the app selection is very limited for the moment, but that is to be expected. Fortunately, apps do look a lot prettier than they have been on previous BlackBerry phones. And besides for apps, there are also TV shows, movies and music available to download.
  • The 4.2″ 355 ppi display is sharp with good and accurate colors, but it doesn’t get bright enough for our taste.
  • The on-screen keyboard is excellent, and with all its BlackBerry heritage, it certainly should be! The keyboard is easy to use and lets you type quite accurately. We also love its swipe feature which predicts your next word, and lets you swipe up to use it.
  • BlackBerry 10 is fast. Performance and multitasking on the Z10 feels quick and snappy. This in part due to its 1.5GHz TI OMAP 4470 processor and 2GB of RAM.
  • Photos taken on the 8MP camera are about average, but it does offer very good low-light performance. However, we are mostly impressed with how quickly the camera snaps pics. The Time Shift feature is also pretty neat to have, although it’s hardly cutting edge. It’s basically a burst shot mode which lets you choose the best shot.
  • The new screen sharing option in BBM Video 10 is really neat – you can share your screen with another BlackBerry 10 user. We imagine that this will be a great way to easily share photos with others. But it will only take off if other people are actually using BlackBerry 10! Also, outside of BBM video, we’re not sure how relevant BBM is anymore, especially in a world where apps like WhatsApp are king.
  • Dropbox integration is built in to the OS. Nice.
  • Hdmi Out is convenient too. So now you can use the phone as a portable presentation machine.
  • Battery life on the Z10 is really healthy. We have been getting a full 24+ hour day with moderate use, this is a lot better than most typical smartphones out there.
  • Although our phone isn’t officially AT&T branded, we tested on AT&T’s network. Testing in New York City, call quality on the Z10 is very good. Callers sound loud and clear and they say the same of us.
  • The web browser has been much improved. This time around it’s fast and responsive and manages to render web sites accurately.

Verdict

BlackBerry has done a nice job revamping their OS. But it has taken us a while to get the hang of using it. To that effect, older blackberry users are sure to be a bit overwhelmed, as this is a very different user interface to operate. In any case, the new hardware for the Z10, and the upcoming Q10 are both solid, but we’re not convinced that there is enough here to allow them to successfully compete in 2013′s smartphone marketplace. Along those lines, we think that BlackBerry should have debuted with the Q10 and launched that handset first. There are still so many BlackBerry faithful left who have been holding out for the traditional BlackBerry form-factor. Sure, the Q10 is on its way, but the Z10 just doesn’t seem as exciting as the Q10.

The Good: Nice form-factor, fast performance, fast camera snaps, dropbox integration, screen sharing feature is neat, apps look nicer than before, HDMI Out, excellent keyboard with predictive words, sharp high ppi display with good colors

The Bad:  BlackBerry 10 requires a pretty big learning curve / you really need to use the tutorial, app selection isn’t there yet – but that is to be expected, display isn’t very bright, BlackBerry Maps is not nearly as good as Google Maps

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  • jv

    “APP SELECTION is very limited at the moment”

    you should be careful of your wording. There are 70,000 apps available right now. thats more than enough to wet your appetite, till the rest fall into place.