BlackBerry Z10 review

BlackBerry Z10

BlackBerry is back with its new operating system, BlackBerry 10 and a new flagship smartphone, the BlackBerry Z10. Updated on 05/02/13.

BlackBerry has taken aim at the iPhone, Android device and Windows Phone 8 handsets with the fully touchscreen Z10. There's a lot riding on this smartphone for the Canadian firm along with the Q10 which is a version featuring the classis BlackBerry Qwerty keyboard. See also: BlackBerry 10 Price in UK: Q10 & Z10

BlackBerry Z10: Design

The Z10 is BlackBerry's first fully touchscreen smartphone - it has no physical keys or buttons for navigation. Great news for anyone who, like me, could never get on with the tiny keys of the iconic physical Qwerty keyboard associated with BlackBerrys. It means that BlackBerry has made a phone which is in direct competition with the iPhone, Android devices and Windows Phone handsets.

The overall design of the Z10 is clean and simple; it closely resembles the iPhone 5 with straight edges and rounded corners. The front looks almost exactly like the back of the iPhone 5 but with a screen while the rear looks like a plastic version of the iPhone.

BlackBerry Z10 vs iPhone 5

The Z10's rear cover is slightly rounded at the edges making it more forgiving and comfortable in the hand than the iPhone. The rubbery texture made up of tiny dimples is very similar to that of the Nexus 7.

Unlike other smartphones on the market there are no physical, or even touch sensitive, buttons on the front of the Z10. All navigation is done with gestures on the touchscreen. There is a power button on top, while volume and mute buttons reside on the right hand side.

It's slightly bigger in size at 66x130mm and we measured the Z10 at a pretty slim 9.2mm. The handset is nice and light at 135g.

The Z10 really is the BlackBerry iPhone. It comes in black or white colours.

BlackBerry Z10: Build quality

For a phone that will cost you from around £36 per month on a contract we're not overly impressed by the build quality of the Z10. With a predominantly plastic chassis the phone just has a distinctly cheap feel. We don't like the fact the rear cover is thin and flimsy, even if it does save a few grams of weight.

Furthermore, if you give the Z10 a light tap numerous internal parts give a rattling sound which doesn't exactly shout 'fine engineering'.

This would be something understandable for a budget Android smartphone but we're dealing with BlackBerry's flagship model which has to compete with the best models on the market.

The Z10 lacks the premium feel which a flagship device simply has to deliver.

BlackBerry Z10 rear cover

BlackBerry Z10: Hardware and performance

BlackBerry has opted for a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM for the Z10's engine room. The dual-core chip might sound very mid-range since most top end smartphones have a quad-core processor plus there are 8-core chips on the horizon.

We don't see this as a problem, though, as long as it can cope with what is thrown at it then all is well. In our time with Z10 this does seem to be the case. The BlackBerry 10 operating system is nippy and shows no signs of lag. We'll talk more about the OS in the software section.

Browsing the web is particularly speedy, as BlackBerry said it would be. The relatively slow result of 1710ms in the SunSpider JavaScript test doesn't reflect the browser's performance. It wasn’t flawless though as we experienced some glitchy grey areas when double tapping to zoom on the PC Advisor website.

There's no obvious support for Flash - as default it's turned off in the settings with no indication it's there at all. There's a dedicated BBC iPlayer app in the BlackBerry World app store but this simply opens the browser.

BlackBerry Z10 screen

At 4.2in the screen on the BlackBerry Z10 is quite small when you compare it to the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the wave of 5in and larger handsets which will be coming out this year. The size hasn't bothered us so far; it's big enough to comfortably browse the web, use apps and watch video content.

The screen size coupled with the resolution of 768x1280 gives the BlackBerry Z10 the highest pixel density of a phone we've reviewed. At 355ppi it beats the Nokia Lumia 920, iPhone 5, HTC Windows Phone 8X and Sony Xperia S. However, there are Full HD smartphones on their way this year which will ellipse this figure.

It's hard to find fault with the BlackBerry Z10's screen. At 355ppi it's not really a surprise that text and images look crisp and clear. Colours are vibrant, contrast is good and there's plenty of brightness should you need it. Our main concern is how quickly the display gets dirty with finger print marks, there's clearly no kind of oleophobic coating on the Z10.

There's only one model of the Z10 so you'll have to be ok with 16GB of internal storage. Unfortunately, before you even go downloading some apps, adding music and taking some snaps, a total of 4GB, a quarter of the storage is already used up by the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

Luckily there is a microSD card slot which accepts up to 64GB cards so this situation can at least be improved, albeit at an extra cost.

Most smartphones just have a microUSB slot and headphone port now but the Z10 has an additional Micro HDMI port – handy if you like connecting your phone to a larger display. Inside there is dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS and NFC which is what we've come to expect from a high-end smartphone.

The Z10 also supports 4G LTE mobile networks. So even if you don't want to use EE, still the UK's only 4G network, the Z10 will be compatible when others are rolled out. However, we've noticed that the 800MHz spectrum (one of the two frequencies being auctioned in the UK currently) isn't supported which could cause problems.

NEXT PAGE - BlackBery Z10: cameras, software and battery >>

BlackBerry Z10: Cameras

The Z10's main camera is 8Mp with an LED flash, BSI (back side illumination), a dedicated ISP (image signal processor) and a F2.2 lens. The rear camera can record video in up to Full HD 1080p quality.

So far our photos seem alright, but nothing more. You can select anywhere on the touchscreen to focus and then take a picture. The Z10 has a mind of its own with this method but fortunately you can use either volume button to operate the shutter. Here's a sample image from the Z10 (click to enlarge).

BlackBerry Z10 sample image

There are much higher quality cameras available on the market; the iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 920 are two that spring to mind.

The main show off feature of the Z10's camera is Time Shift. By taking numerous snaps in one go, you can adjust the whole image or individual elements like someone's face. It's a nice feature but don't be fooled into thinking it's new; the Nokia Lumia smartphones have a similar thing called Smart Shoot.

We like the editing software built in to BlackBerry 10 which allows you comprehensively edit and tweak your pictures. You can crop, rotate, adjust settings like white balance and add Instagram-style filters and borders.

We tested out the front facing 2Mp camera by having a video chat in BBM Video (a new feature of BlackBerry 10). The camera shoots video in 720p quality and we thought it looked pretty good.

BlackBerry Z10: Software

The Z10 is the first smartphone to launch with the all new BlackBerry 10 operating system. The firm decided to build a new OS rather than adopt a third party one such as Android or Windows Phone.

As we mentioned earlier, the Z10 has no physical buttons or touch sensitive soft keys for navigation so everything is done with gestures. Depending on your previous experience this can be a bit baffling.

BlackBerry 10 has quite a lot in common with the PlayBook OS; navigation is similar but the layout is different since the screen is portrait. We found it a little confusing at first but it really doesn't take long to learn the gestures and get acquainted with where everything is.

There is a main home screen which is blank until you launch an app. Once you have, open apps are shown in small windows with four on the screen at any one time with the most recent at the top. We would have like a way to rearrange the windows or pin favourites so they don't move off the screen.

Tapping an app opens it and swiping upwards from the bottom of the screen navigates back to the home screen. Apps always remain running unless you hit the small X button to close them.

A traditional app menu sits to the right of the main home screen so is only a swipe away. Swiping from the top of the screen brings up phone settings or options if you have an app open.

BlackBerry Z10 Hub

Last but not least is the BlackBerry Hub which sits to the left of the main home screen. This is an all-in-one inbox and notification centre for all your accounts – email, text messages, calls, voicemail, BBM and social networks. It shows everything in one feed but you can select individual accounts if that gets too confusing.

In BlackBerry 10 you're never far away from the Hub, and we like that. Swiping from the bottom of the screen minimises what you have open and shows you notifications on the left - the number of new emails for example. You can then choose whether to open the Hub by swiping to the right, swipe back down to return you your app or go straight up to head to the home screen.

Another big feature of BlackBerry 10 is the keyboard. The more you use it the better it can predict which words you need to construct your sentence. Suggested words are spread across the keyboard and choosing one involves flicking it upwards with a satisfying swipe. So far we really like it.

BlackBerry World is the new name for the app store and at launch it has 70,000 apps to choose from, according to the firm. There are also games, music and movies on offer while magazines are available from the BlackBerry Newsstand.

The Z10 has apps like Facebook and Twitter pre-installed but there are some big names missing from BlackBerry World. Amazon Kindle, Skype, National Rail and Whatsapp are just a few although BlackBerry says many of the top names are 'committed' to getting apps onto the store.

It still seems that developers very much prioritise the Android Google Play Store and the iOS App Store, and we can't blame them.

Overall we like BlackBerry 10, after a short amount of time getting used to it, it's very easy and simple to use. Although there we've not seen any lag yet the slow animation time on transitions can give a sense of lag.

BlackBerry 10 is good, however it doesn't go beyond what is already available in the form of iOS and Android. It has merely caught up and presented similar features in an alternative way.

For a more detailed look at BlackBerry's new operating system take a look at our BlackBerry 10 review.

BlackBerry Z10: Battery

The BlackBerry Z10 has a removable battery pack with a capacity of 6.7Wh (1800mAh), lower than most. BlackBerry says it will last up to 13 days on standby and 10 hours talk time.

We got about what we expected from the Z10 which was no more than a day of battery life. It's a shame that it’s a smartphone that you'll have to charge every night, many of the top smartphones last a couple of days. We were hoping it might be an area where BlackBerry could offer something more.

BlackBerry Z10: Specs

  • BlackBerry 10 OS
  • 4.2in (768x1280)
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • microSD up to 64GB
  • 8Mp rear camera (1080p video)
  • 2Mp front camera (720p video)
  • dual-band Wi-Fi
  • 4G LTE
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • Micro HDMI
  • micro USB
  • 66x130x9.2mm
  • 135g
  • BlackBerry 10 OS
  • 4.2in (768x1280)
  • 1.5GHz dual-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB storage
  • microSD up to 64GB
  • 8Mp rear camera (1080p video)
  • 2Mp front camera (720p video)
  • dual-band Wi-Fi
  • 4G LTE
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • NFC
  • Micro HDMI
  • micro USB
  • 66x130x9.2mm
  • 135g

OUR VERDICT

The design and build quality of the Z10 just makes it seem like a cheap plastic iPhone to us. Hardware is reasonable with the screen being the stand out feature and the BlackBerry 10 software makes this the most attractive BlackBerry smartphone to date. However, given the price, the iPhone or a decent Android handset is still a preferable option.

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