Mobile Phones Guide

BlackBerry Z10 review

BlackBerry Z10 - Playing Catch-up

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Launch SRP S$918
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Overall rating 8/10
Design:
8.5
Features:
8.5
User-Friendliness:
7.5
Performance:
8
Value:
6.5
THE GOOD
Highly intelligent keyboard
Nifty camera tricks
Good design and handling
THE BAD
Expensive
UI navigation takes time to adapt
Battery life in real-world use can be better
App ecosystem is limited
Screen Share limited to BB10 devices


Performance and Conclusion

Performance 

The BlackBerry Z10 is equipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5GHz processor and 2GB RAM. To find out where the Z10 stands among the flagship devices of other mobile platforms, we used the SunSpider Javascript benchmark to assess its web browsing performance. In this comparison, we put the Z10 up against the flagship devices of competing mobile platforms:  Apple iPhone 5, LG Nexus 4 and Nokia Lumia 920. 

Test Phones Compared

Device BlackBerry Z10 Apple iPhone 5 Nokia Lumia 920 LG Nexus 4
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5GHz Apple A6 dual-core 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 dual-core 1.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 quad-core 1.5GHz
GPU Adreno 225 PowerVR SGX 543MP3 Adreno 320 Adreno 225
RAM 2GB 1GB 1GB RAM 2GB
OS BB10 iOS 6 Windows Phone 8 Android 4.2

 

The BB10 browser may be the fastest and most feature-rich HTML 5 browser ever developed for a BB device, but unfortunately most of its competitors are ahead of it in the SunSpider Javascript benchmark. While it narrowly edged out the LG Nexus 4, the Apple iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 920 were significantly ahead of the Z10.

Synthetic benchmarking aside, we found the web browsing experience on the Z10 to be on-par with the recent smartphones we've reviewed. Web pages loaded quickly and we encountered no issue with pinch zooming. The overall user experience is in no way inferior to the competition, but it is also not in any way better. As the latecomer to the mobile scene, we had slightly higher expectations of BB10 and Z10.

 

Multimedia Performance 

The Z10 sports a 4.2-inch LCD display with a resolution of 1280 x 768 pixels. This works out to a pixel density of 356ppi, which is higher than the Apple iPhone 5 (326ppi), Nokia Lumia 920 (332ppi) and LG Nexus 4 (318ppi). Frankly, it is nearly impossible to differentiate between these displays at such pixel densities but these numbers will be of great interest for those who pay close attention to such details. Viewing angles are excellent and color reproduction is excellent.

In terms of storage capacity, the Z10 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.

Similar to how HTC and Samsung tied up with Dropbox to provide free cloud storage space for their users, BlackBerry has partnered with Box to give 10GB free cloud storage for the Z10. While this pales in comparison with HTC's 25GB and Samsung's 50GB promotions, 10GB is better than having none at all.

The Z10 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. What makes the Z10 an interesting imaging device is its TimeShift setting, a camera setting which allows to take perfect group shots by tweaking individual faces so that they appear at their best. How is it possible?

TimeShift basically snaps a series of shots quickly and automatically selects the best one. Using face detection technology, it also enables you to choose the best face from the series of photos taken - for each individual - to make a perfect group shot. Below is a video that shows how TimeShift works: - 


 

 

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 Z10 Apple iPhone 5 Nokia Lumia 920 LG Nexus 4
Processor
  • Dual-core 1.5GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Dual-core 1.5GHz
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz
Display Size
  • 4.2-inch
  • 4.0-inch
  • 4.5-inch
  • 4.7-inch
Display Type
  • TFT LCD
  • IPS LCD
  • IPS LCD
  • Super IPS+ LCD
Display Resolution
  • 1280 x 768 pixels
  • 1136 x 640 pixels
  • 1280 x 768 pixels
  • 1280 x 768 pixels
Dimensions
  •  130 x 65.6 x 9mm
  • 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm
  • 130.3 x 70.8 x 10.7mm
  • 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1mm
Weight
  •  136g
  • 112g
  •  185g
  •  139g
Battery
  • 1800mAh
  • 1440mAh
  • 2000mAh
  • 2100mAh

Keeping up to the high standards set by previous generations of BlackBerry flagship devices, the Z10 outlasted the top devices from competing mobile platforms with a battery uptime of 8 hours and 6 minutes.

This is mainly attributed to the smaller display of the Z10, which led to lower power consumption as evident in the Power Consumption chart. To a certain extent, we can also say that the Z10 is fairly power efficient if you study the differences in detail. As a result, the Z10 also fared well in the Portability Index where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage with its size and weight.

One may argue that it is not fair to compare the Z10 with the Nokia Lumia 920 and LG Nexus 4, which have bigger displays and naturally draw more power. Well, our rationale for for doing so is to give you, the consumer an overview of the battery performance of flagship devices from each mobile platform. We reckon that there may be consumers out there who are sitting on the fence, and are hoping to give BB10 a try. In any case, we encourage you to check out the performance review section of the Huawei Ascend P1 article where we've compared a number of devices that have a screen size of 4.3 inches. Comparing the performance of the Z10 against the other phones tested there, you can easily conclude that the BlackBerry Z10 fares quite well with respect to battery life, power efficiency and portability.

Under normal usage conditions, we found the battery performance of the Z10 to be less impressive. With 4G LTE connectivity turned on, frequent web browsing, making some calls and texting, the Z10 barely made it through a typical day at work. Its back felt warm after using it for an extended period of time, which is considered normal for today's smartphones. 4G smartphones typically do not last long in actual usage conditions, and the odds are further stacked against the Z10 because it has a modest 1800mAh battery. Fortunately, you are able to purchase extra batteries to swap in the event that the Z10 runs out of juice. And the easy serviceability of the battery further adds to its appeal in the sea of new phones where batteries are integrated within the phone design.

 

Conclusion

The BlackBerry Z10 comes across as a device that arrived just in the nick of time to put a stop to the company's declining market share. In a market dominated by Apple iOS and Google Android, the Z10 is like a breath of fresh air.

The BB10 OS offers yet another unique user experience on a mobile device that is refreshing and intuitive if one manages to overcome the initial learning curve with regards to its swiping gestures. However, BlackBerry's situation is somewhat similar to Microsoft. Both companies have offered viable alternatives for consumers in the mobile market, but will consumers take the bait? 

For now, it is hard to give you a definite answer. BlackBerry's strength lies in its advanced keyboard and highly integrated BlackBerry Hub, but it lacks the quality and quantity of apps to backup the impressive devices that are coming into the market. Its competitors have at least two years head start in establishing their presence and building up sizable app stores; for BlackBerry to catch up, will be a long shot and a tough climb.

Available in black and white with a recommended retail price of S$918, the BlackBerry Z10 faces very stiff competition. The S$948 Apple iPhone 5 boasts a more solid build quality, better camera and has access to the largest app store in the world. The S$899 Nokia Lumia 920 may be bulky, but packs an impressive camera that rivals standalone digital cameras. While it is impossible to get the LG Nexus 4 locally, consumers can consider the equally attractive S$798 LG Optimus G which delivers smooth performance and provides access to the fast growing Google Play Store.

For Android and iOS users, we could hardly find any reason for them to switch over to BlackBerry since most are too used to the navigation style and their apps. However, existing Android/iOS user looking for a secondary device, can most certainly consider the Z10 as an option (as long as one doesn't expect the same level of app support). As for BlackBerry fans, there is no better time than now to grab the latest device from the company. Die-hard fans of the physical keyboards should give the virtual keyboard of the Z10 a try as it offers a different experience from other phones in the market. If you still dislike it, you can always opt to wait out for the Q10 which is expected to arrive next month and it will have a physical keyboard (but a smaller touchscreen).

Long time BlackBerry users should take note of this: the Z10 and future BB10 devices no longer require a subscription to BlackBerry's data plans. You still can use BlackBerry services like BlackBerry Messenger on the typical smartphone data plan.