BlackBerry Q10 - QWERTY Reborn (Updated)

Launch SRP: S$898 Latest Price From: S$480

Performance and Conclusion

Performance

Like its full touch screen counterpart Z10, the Q10 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5GHz processor and 2GB RAM. Navigating the user interface is a breeze. The overall user experience is almost similar to the Z10, and as we commented before, we had higher expectations for the BB 10 as it is a latecomer to the mobile scene. 

Due to the screen size constraints, gesture-based navigation wasn't as smooth. For example, your finger will inevitably touch the keyboard when you swipe up from the bottom of the screen to switch between apps since the bezel between the display and keyboard is ultra thin. It does get somewhat annoying every time your finger brushes the top edge of the keyboard.

 

Multimedia Performance

BlackBerry switches from using LCD to Super AMOLED on the Q10, theefore colors tend to look brighter and more vibrant. As the screen size is smaller, the pixel density is quite high at 330ppi. The 1:1 aspect ratio of the display means that typical widescreen videos will look small on the Q10, which reiterated our point earlier that the Q10 is not well suited for multimedia viewing. This is worse than the LG Optimus Vu whose screen uses a 4:3 aspect ratio.

In terms of storage capacity, the Q10 comes with 16GB internal storage memory and a microSD card slot which can be accessed by removing the rear battery cover of the device, which supports memory cards with capacities up to 32GB in size.

Moving on to touch upon the imaging capabilities, the Q10 is equipped with an 8-megapixel rear autofocus camera which is capable of 1080p HD video recording, and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera that is capable of 720p video recording. The Time Shift mode seen on the Z10 is also present in the Q10. As the Q10 comes with BB 10.1, it has support for High Dynamic Range (HDR) which enables the rear camera to capture multiple photos at different exposure levels and layers them automatically to produce a single photo that combines the best of the dark and light areas.

 

*Updated as of 29th May 2013 - The following sections for battery mileage and conclusion were added after our battery tests were completed.

Battery Mileage

Using the same 480 x 800-pixel resolution video that we use across all our mobile device battery tests, we set the same test parameters which includes having the video looped under the following conditions:

  • Brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
Test Phones Compared
Specifications/Device BlackBerry Q10 BlackBerry Z10 BlackBerry Bold 9900
Processor
  • Dual-core 1.5GHz
  • Dual-core 1.5GHz
  • Single-core 1.2GHz
Display Size
  • 3.1-inch
  • 4.2-inch
  • 2.8-inch
Display Type
  • Super AMOLED
  • TFT LCD
  • TFT  LCD
Display Resolution
  • 720 x 720 pixels
  • 1,280 x 768 pixels
  • 640 x 480 pixels
Dimensions
  • 119.6 x 66.8 x 10.35mm
  • 130 x 65.6 x 9mm
  • 115 x 66 x 10.5mm
Weight
  •  139g
  • 136g
  • 130g
Battery
  • 2100mAh
  • 1800mAh
  • 1230mAh

 

Battery performance has never been an issue for BlackBerry flagship devices and the Q10 is no different. It clocked an impressive mileage of nearly 12 hours. However, it's also not surprising why it's able to sustain such a long battery up-time - the Q10 has the biggest battery capacity among all the BlackBerry smartphones, and the small power-efficient Super AMOLED display also helps its cause. Based on the Power Consumption chart, this is indeed true as the Q10 registered a lower 0.67W power draw compared to the Z10 (0.84W) and Bold 9900 (0.69W). Therefore, it is not surprising that the Q10 tops the Portability Index where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage with its size and weight. For more comparisons with other mid-sized phones, check out the performance page in our BlackBerry Z10 review.

Under normal usage conditions, we found the battery performance of the Q10 to be within expectations. With 4G LTE connectivity turned on, frequent web browsing, making some calls and texting, the Q10 could last through a typical day at work. If the battery runs flat, you have the option to swap the battery. Having said that, booting up or powering off the phone requires you to exercise some patience.

Booting up the Q10 takes about one minute and five seconds while shutting the phone down will cost you about 30 seconds. In comparison, the Apple iPhone 5 takes half the time to shut down and 20 seconds to power up. In yet another comparison, it took us close to 9 seconds to shut down the LG Nexus 4 and about 31 seconds to start up.

 

Conclusion

The BlackBerry Q10 has all the ingredients that makes a great QWERTY device, but it now faces the question of relevancy.

Its 3.1-inch Super AMOLED display (1:1 aspect ratio) may be too small for multimedia usage, but the size should suffice consumers who use the Q10 for what it is - a great communication device to stay connected. The QWERTY keyboard is indeed one of the best features of the Q10, making keyboard enthusiasts feel at home within minutes of using the device. We reckon many existing BlackBerry users would find themselves right at home with this new device.

The great overall package of the Q10 is only crippled by the ecosystem of apps and services in BB 10. Besides the limited (but growing) native app ecosystem, the Q10 sticks out like a sore thumb in a market flooded with touch screen devices. For both the points, timeliness seems to be the core issue with BlackBerry; there's no denying that the Q10 was late to the game. Consider this - there hasn't been any new credible QWERTY phone for a long while now and the advancement in touchscreen technology, software keyboard design, text prediction and correction have more than made up for the lack of devices with a physical QWERTY keypad in the last two years. As much as some hardcore users believe a combination device with a hidden full QWERTY keyboard design (the BlackBerry Torch 9800 comes to mind) will be able to tackle all the scenarios neatly, the reality is most people are pampered by the new-age minimalist phone designs with thin profiles and pocket-friendly weight. A device with a large touchscreen and a hidden full QWERTY keyboard have difficulties adhering to these expectations and so this is fast becoming a bygone era (though we won't rule them out all together yet). Having said that, its Z10 touch screen counterpart sports an impressive software keyboard that enables you to compose messages swiftly if you're looking for a more 'modern' BlackBerry companion.

One other quirk we noticed is that while the BlackBerry 10 OS was designed with touchscreen usability in mind, we find that the presence of the physical keyboard on the Q10 and its small screen somewhat a hindrance while trying to use the phone swiftly with its touch gestures. Comparatively, usability is much more seamless on the touchscreen-only Z10. This could also be signs that such hybrid designs are not really ideal in the modern day, unless you're a heavy user of text messengers and emailing on the move. Even so, don't forget the steep uptake of tablet devices that co-exist with smartphones, thus offsetting the need for you to rely only on your phone for composing long text messages and mails.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to what you intend to do with your mobile device (or devices) and your usage scenarios. Priced at S$898, the BlackBerry Q10 comes across as overpriced for its capabilities. There is no shortage of alternatives and better deals (both in price, capabilities and app support) out there such as the S$868 Sony Xperia ZL, S$798 LG Optimus G and the S$668 LG Nexus 4. As the only QWERTY smartphone to be announced in recent memory, the odds are stacked against the BlackBerry Q10. It will have no problems convincing die hard fans of QWERTY keyboards, but it faces an uphill task in appealing to consumers who are shopping for a smartphone with bigger display and better app selection.

7.5
Design
8
Features
8.5
User-Friendliness
7.5
Performance
8
Value
6
The Good
Excellent QWERTY keyboard
Solid build quality
Great battery life
The Bad
Small display
Videos and certain apps don't fit well for 1:1 screen aspect ratio
App ecosystem is limited
UI navigation takes time to adapt
Expensive