The BlackBerry Q10 is the flagship BlackBerry phone with a physical keyboard. It offers a similar BlackBerry 10 experience to its touchscreen cousin the BlackBerry Z10, but looks and feels much more like a traditional BlackBerry handset. As such it should prove popular with long-term BlackBerry users. But how does it stack up against other high-end smartphones? We borrowed our BlackBerry Q10 from Phones4u.co.uk
BlackBerry Q10: build and design
The Q10 is a small and light device, relatively thick for a modern phone, weighing in at around 140g and measuring just 119.6x66.8mm, but a relatively fat 11mm thick. Available in white or black it is principally constructed of plastic, with a silver metal trim. The front of the BlackBerry Q10 is dominated by the screen at the top, and the physical qwerty keyboard at the bottom. At the very top is the BlackBerry logo, as well as a speaker and the front-facing camera lens.
Taking a look at the Q10's silvery edges, around the lefthand side you find USB ports, and on the right are the volume rockers. At the top is the 3.5mm jack and on/off button and down the bottom we find a speaker. Which takes us to the back of the BlackBerry Q10. This comprises two panels of textured plastic. The BlackBerry dots are detailed in silver metal in the middle, and at the top, above a slim silver band, is the rear facing camera lens and flash.
The overall feel is of quality and a certain ability to withstand the rigours of modern smartphone use. The Q10 is relatively small and squat, and this gives a feeling not of elegance but of strength. And as your BlackBerry is likely to be a workhorse this is important. We carried around the Q10 for a few days in our key- and coin-filled pockets, and found not a scratch on it.
BlackBerry Q10: UK price
Although it lists for £579 inc VAT, the Q10 costs around £500 inc VAT on pay as you go. That puts it in the upper echelon of smartphones, especially those with 16GB storage. The 16GB iPhone 5 is £529, after all. For me that's a problem, as this phone doesn't have the same premium build or performance of the iPhone, the HTC One, Sony Xperia Z, Samsung Galaxy S4 and the rest. And you don't get the advantages of Android or iOS. But that may be the point: the Q10 is a business-focussed tool and it may be that your employer is footing that hefty bill. See also: BlackBerry 10 Price in UK: Q10 & Z10.
BlackBerry Q10: specs and performance
In our tests of other BlackBerry 10 phones, we found the OS stable and responsive. And that is certainly the case here. The Q10 is reasonably snappy in use, although we found at times that we had to wait a split second for animated transitions to play out. But under no circumstances would you call it a slow phone. Inside is packed a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor with 1.5 GHz dual-core CPU and a mighty 2GB of RAM. You get 16GB of Flash storage as well as the ability to add another 32GB more via MicroSD card. On our test model 4.4GB was in use before we installed any software or media.
In our GeekBench 2 synthetic benchmark test the Blackberry Q10 produced average results of 1720 points. This compares well with the Z10's average score of 1709 (it's the same result, in essence). But given the top-of-the-market aspirations of both these high-end BlackBerries we might have hoped for something closer to the HTC One's 2721 points or the Galaxy S4's frankly unbelievable 3,000+ score. You can't argue too much with a phone that is measurably faster than the iPhone 5 (1650 points), but for £500 or so you would expect exactly that.
The good news here is that battery life is well taken care of with a 2100mAH removable battery, that's a bigger battery than that of the Z10, which itself has a bigger display with will suck out battery life. We managed to get comfortably more than a day of use out of the Q10 without having to charge it, even if we weren't quite able to run it for two days as BlackBerry claims.
Overall then the Q10 is a curate's egg, performance wise. It's certainly no slouch, but for £500 we might have expected more. See also: best BlackBerry phone in 2013.
BlackBerry Q10: display and keyboard
In order to have a physical keyboard, you have to sacrifice screen real-estate. But the Q10's 3.1in display is far from the smallest we've seen. And it looks good: a 720x720 resolution means a pixel density of 330ppi, noticably sharper than previous qwerty keyboard BlackBerries. It's a 24-bit colour depth Super AMOLED display so it is full of colour although to our eyes at least it seemed a little dark. It's possible this reflects BlackBerry 10's dark colours rather than the hardware. The touchscreen is responsive, too. The only real issue we had with this relatively small display is the 1:1 aspect ratio - if you can find any movie content in BlackBerry's media-light world, it's unlikely to look any good! Even photos seem strange at this aspect ratio.
The keyboard is, well, a BlackBerry keyboard. If you are used to using a physical keyboard on a BlackBerry you'll find it is a good one: there is a satisfying level of travel and clicked feedback in the keys, and they are of sufficient size for CrackBerry addicts to fire out a missive. A textured finish makes it easier to type in the dark.
Personally I don't know why anyone would choose a physical keyboard, especially given how good is the Z10's onscreen keyboard. So it's possible I may be missing some key points here. To me this is as comfortable to use as any qwerty keyboard on a smartphone. And it feels built to last. See also: Group test: What's the best budget smartphone for under £200?
BlackBerry Q10: BlackBerry 10
You can read our full BlackBerry 10 review here. But suffice to say that I personally like BlackBerry's latest operating system. The trouble is, not many people agree. Or rather, a lot of people strongly disagree. BlackBerry 10 is very different from both previous BlackBerry OSes and the other contenders: iOS, Android and Windows Phone. Yes it is a GUI that comprises a series of app tiles, but navigation is noticably unique. To see your email and social messages you swipe to the left from any Window. To reach a screen of all your open apps simply swipe up from the bottom of any screen. It sounds simple, and it is, but it takes a bit of getting used to. And if you're a long-time iOS or Android user this might cause you some pain. BlackBerry 10 shows just how closely aligned Android and iOS are, and as the odd one out it can be off putting.
But that doesn't mean it's a bad OS: far from it. BlackBerry 10 is fast and stable. It's also secure, and has the advantage of BesX: the free software that lets network admins remotely manage smartphones and remote email.
Indeed, the only big problem I have with BlackBerry 10 is the paucity of the BlackBerry World. I don't want to get into a pedantic argument about numbers of apps, or how many of the top 50 apps are available for BlackBerry (or how many of those apps are simply shortcuts to websites, mentioning no YouTubes). Instead I will say only this: like Windows Phone BlackBerry is very much a second citizen when it comes to apps and media. This may not be a problem: if the BlackBerry Q10 is your work email phone, for instance, you don't want it to be clogged up with movies and games. You want to preserve the battery life. Or perhaps you just don't care about apps on your phone.
But if the Q10 is going to be your only smartphone, and you do want to be able to access lots of top apps, music and movies, you may be disappointed.
BlackBerry Q10: Cameras
The Q10'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 Q10 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 Q10 (click to enlarge).
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 Q10'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. See also: The 8 best smartphones: What's the best phone you can buy in 2013?