Z10 vs Nexus 4

We put head-to-head the best of Android - that's Google's Nexus 4 - and the best of BlackBerry, the BlackBerry Z10. Spec for spec, which smartphone is best?

It's been an awfully long time coming, but BlackBerry is back with its BlackBerry 10 operating system. With fears that the traditionally business-friendly mobile operating system is already too late to the smartphone party, and many of its once loyal fans having already turned their heads to Android devices such as Google's Nexus 4, BlackBerry hopes the Z10 can return it to favour. Here's how the BlackBerry Z10 and Google Nexus 4 smartphones stack up. See also Group test: What's the best smartphone?

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Price

It doesn't create a great first impression for the BlackBerry that the Z10 costs almost twice the price of the Nexus 4, at £534 versus £279 SIM-free (that's for the 16GB versions; the 8GB Nexus 4 costs significantly less than half the Z10's price, at £239).  

Let's be honest, though, most users will be picking up a BlackBerry Z10 or Nexus 4 free with a two-year mobile contract. In this case, the best price you'll find right now (until 13 Feb) is a free BlackBerry Z10 on a two-year, £36-per-month O2 plan; alternatively, you can get a free handset with a £47 Vodafone tariff. Meanwhile, the best deal we could find that includes Google's handset free of charge is a two-year, £29-per-month Vodafone plan.

Either way, then, the BlackBerry Z10 costs significantly more than the Nexus 4, a handset subsidised by Google to encourage take up of the Android platform and content sales at Google Play. BlackBerry can afford to do no such thing; it has a lot of ground on which to catch up in the mobile market.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Dimensions

There's little difference in the dimensions of the BlackBerry Z10 and Nexus 4 - at least, not anything you're likely to notice. The Z10 is ever so slightly smaller, at 130x65.6x9mm versus 133.9x68.7x9.1mm. Unsurprisingly then, the BlackBerry is also a tad lighter than the Nexus 4, with its 137.5g chassis tipping the scales a just 1.5g less than the 139g Nexus 4.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Build

The Nexus 4 is a cheap smartphone, but it doesn't look it. The premium design has an attractive matrix of tiny silver dots on the rear panel, of which photos do no real justice. There's a rubbery circumference to aid grip, and this shiny black smartphone feels great in the hand. With no removable rear panel, the Nexus 4 also feels very sturdy; its build quality is nothing short of exceptional.

While the Nexus 4 is available only in black, the BlackBerry Z10 comes in black or white. It's BlackBerry's first fully touchscreen phone, with no physical keys or buttons for navigation. (If you're a fan of the traditional Qwerty keyboard, look instead to the BlackBerry Q10.) The design is clean and simple, with straight edges and rounded corners. It doesn't look too dissimilar to the iPhone 5, but it's a cheaper-looking, plastic version of that handset.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Screen

BlackBerry's Z10 offers the highest pixel density we've seen in a smartphone display, and by some way. With 1280x768 pixels stretched across its 4.2in panel, it offers 356ppi. Although the Nexus 4 matches this 1280x768 resolution, its noticeably larger 4.7in panel means pixels are stretched over a greater area, resulting in a 320ppi pixel density. It's worth noting that the Nexus 4's extra screen space doesn't come at the expense of added bulk: as we mentioned earlier, there's very little difference in the sizing and weight of these two smartphones.

Both BlackBerry and Nexus use in-plane switching (IPS) panel technology, which offers vibrant colours, good contrast and excellent viewing angles. Text and images are crisp and clear.

We did notice with the Z10, however, that it's a magnet to fingerprints: there's clearly no oleophobic coating in use here.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Processor & performance

Both handsets are fitted with 2GB of RAM and 1.5GHz processors, but performance isn't equal. That's a subjective comment, of course, since BlackBerry 10 isn't supported by our usual benchmarking tool, Geekbench 2, but the quad-core Nexus 4 is the fastest smartphone we've ever tested (the BlackBerry Z10, by comparison, is fitted with a dual-core chip, although BlackBerry claims that like Windows Phone 8 BlackBerry 10 requires less poke to run quickly).

In benchmarking, the Nexus 4 recorded 2,009 points in Geekbench 2, 39fps in GLBenchmark 2.5, and 1,906ms in the SunSpider Javascript test. And, in real-world use, it feels fast and incredibly slick. The Z10, meanwhile, just beat the Nexus 4 in SunSpider with 1,710ms. We noticed some lag in its drawing of animations, but it was otherwise nippy - just not as nippy as the Nexus 4.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Storage

Two models of Nexus 4 are available, with either 8- or 16GB of internal storage; neither are expandable through removable memory. Although the Z10 is available with 16GB storage capacity only, it also boasts a microSDHC slot that can boost this by 64GB for a potential 80GB. It's interesting to note that while we thought Android was greedy, gobbling up around 2GB of this capacity for system files, BlackBerry 10 consumes a staggering 4GB.

There are ways around the Nexus' storage limit, too. Android actively pushes the cloud as an everyday medium for storage and streaming, with its Play Movies & TV, Books, Magazines, Music and more. But the cloud is accessible only while you're within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot or the constraints of your cellular download limit. At other times, you could consider carrying a Wi-Fi-enabled portable hard drive, such as the Kingston Wi-Drive.

Streaming is made all the more accessible in the BlackBerry Z10 with 4G LTE connectivity in the UK. However, early 4G tariffs are expensive, and available in select cities only.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Cameras

Both handsets specify 8Mp stills cameras that are capable of full-HD (1080p) video, and are equipped with an LED Flash. The BlackBerry Z10 lists a slightly higher-resolution front-facing cam for video chat, at 2Mp versus the Nexus 4's 1.3Mp, although both support 720p video.

Unique to the Nexus 4, as the only Android smartphone to run version 4.2 Jelly Bean, is Photo Sphere (in addition to the panorama mode introduced by Ice Cream Sandwich). This lets you snap pictures in any direction to create a stunning panoramic effect. Google also shouts about the Nexus 4's ability to take still shots during video recording, and take advantage of continuous focus, real-time zoom and time-lapse mode, plus a Movie Studio app that lets you create your own movies and directly upload them to YouTube.

BlackBerry, meanwhile, boasts BSI for better low-light performance, a dedicated ISP with a 64MB frame buffer, a five-element f2.2 lens, continuous focus, a time-shift mode, a 5x digital zoom (3x zoom for its front cam), plus image and video stabilisation. We like the editing software built into BlackBerry 10, which allows you to make comprehensive edits to your pictures. You can crop and rotate images, adjust settings such as white balance, and add Instagram-style filters and borders.

Neither camera is the best we've seen on a smartphone (the iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 920 fare better in this regard), but they are perfectly acceptable for high-end smartphones.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Connectivity

Connectivity-wise, the Nexus 4 and BlackBerry Z10 are similar. Both support dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, Micro-USB for charging, NFC (the Nexus through Android Beam and the Z10 through BlackBerry Tag), GPS and HDMI (although the Nexus 4 has a 'Slimport' connection, and the Z10 a proper 'Micro' port). Each also has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

You'll favour the Nexus 4 if you want to take advantage of its wireless charging, while the BlackBerry Z10 supports 4G LTE and can even act as a 4G hotspot. However, 4G technology is still in its infancy in the UK, and unless it's already available in your area you may be ready for an upgrade by the time it comes around. If you can take advantage (and can afford to), do: switching to 4G is akin to switching from 3G to Wi-Fi.

NEXT PAGE: Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10 software, batttery life and verdict >>

We continue our Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10 smartphone comparison review with a look at software, battery life and our verdict.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Software

The key difference between these two smartphones is the mobile operating system they run. The Nexus 4 showcases the latest version of Android's Jelly Bean platform (4.2), while the BlackBerry Z10 runs BlackBerry's much-anticipated BlackBerry 10 platform. This means the likes of Google Maps and Chrome you'd usually expect to see on your smartphone screen have in the Z10 been replaced with BlackBerry Maps and the BlackBerry Browser.

BlackBerry 10 is still friendly to business users, with a focus on multi-tasking and messaging, but the company is now reaching out to consumers, too - and that's traditionally Google's domain. For example, BlackBerry Balance helps you to separate work from play, with the creation of distinct environments for the home and office. You also get the BlackBerry Hub, a centralised messaging centre for email, instant messages and social media. Access to the Hub requires only a single swiping gesture from anywhere in the OS. Even BBM, the once-popular IM client that became infamous for its role in the London riots (we won't go into that), has had a refresh, with the addition of video chat and NFC support through BlackBerry Tag.

The BlackBerry Browser in BlackBerry 10 supports Adobe Flash, but you'll have to turn it on in the settings. Meanwhile, Android has dropped support for the standard (although it can be added to your device if you're happy to do a little tweaking).

In the main, we like BlackBerry 10. It takes a while to get used to the entirely touch-based navigation (the Z10 has no hardware buttons that serve this purpose), which largely requires you to forget about the home screen that's of paramount importance in Android and iOS. You swipe from the left to access the Hub, from the top to access Settings, and from the right to scroll through app after app (an action known as 'Flow'); if you must go home, you swipe up from the bottom of the screen.

We noticed a little more lag in BlackBerry's drawing of animations than is present in Jelly Bean, thanks to Google's Project Butter speed-boosting tweaks. These include triple graphics buffering and the ability to anticipate where on the display your finger will move next. Although the Nexus 4 may not be measurably faster in its general navigation, it certainly feels smooth and lag-free.

Jelly Bean is an intuitive operating system to use, with none of the learning curve demanded by BlackBerry 10. A notifications bar can be pulled down from the top of the screen, with each alert combined with useful detail. You can respond to any of these notifications without opening the associated app, such as returning a missed call without accessing the Call log.

Introduced with Jelly Bean is Google Now, which is the latest development in Google Search. It aims to build a profile of your usage over time, enabling it to offer you the answer to your search queries before you present them. This can range from a simple weather report to providing information about your commute to work.

A common complaint with Android is that handsets are not only sold running outdated software, but they are never upgraded. Google promises that its Nexus products will always be the first to be upgraded when a new version of Android becomes available, so you can be sure of always running the most up-to-date software.

Android is the clear winner in the apps battle. Whereas just 70,000 apps were available in the BlackBerry World app store at launch, with big names such as Skype, Kindle, WhatsApp and YouTube missing, Google Play offered some 625,000 at the last count (6 Feb 2013). This is unlikely to change any time soon, since developers will continue to first write apps for the most popular platforms.

BlackBerry 10 system files consume around double the capacity of Google Android, at around 4GB.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Battery

Although the BlackBerry Z10 has the lower-capacity battery (6.7Wh/1,800mAh versus 7.8Wh/2,100mAh), we like the fact it's removable and can be swapped out for a spare. BlackBerry says it'll last 13 days in standby mode, and offers up to 13 hours of talk time. We found we needed to charge up the phone each night during testing, whereas the Nexus 4 lasted a full day and well into the next.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Verdict

The Z10 is a great comeback phone for BlackBerry, with some decent software onboard and a very nice screen. We particularly like the ability to swap in a spare battery, add extra storage and connect to 4G LTE where available. Unfortunately, it can't match the Nexus 4's tiny price tag, incredible performance and great-looking design, nor Android's app-heavy Google Play store.

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 Z10 is a great comeback phone for BlackBerry, with some decent software onboard and a very nice screen. We particularly like the ability to swap in a spare battery, add extra storage and connect to 4G LTE where available. Unfortunately, it can't match the Nexus 4's tiny price tag, incredible performance and great-looking design, nor Android's app-heavy Google Play store.

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