Verdict: The BlackBerry Priv is an innovative handset with serious productivity potential, but a high-price and not quite top tier build quality hold it back.
BlackBerry Priv Review and Specification
The BlackBerry Priv is sure to go down as a key handset in the Canadian company’s repertoire. For years BlackBerry has been focused on its own operating systems but with the Priv it’s giving Android a try.
That makes it something different for BlackBerry, but it also brings something different to Android, as it has a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Add high-end specs into the mix and BlackBerry could be on to a winner, but has its innovative gamble paid off?
The BlackBerry Priv has a somewhat high-end design, but it fails to match up to flagship rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9.
A metal rim around the screen gives the BlackBerry Priv a premium edge, but it doesn’t extend to the back of the phone, which is made from a tensile weave. This is an easy to grip material and the textured look is a little more interesting than a plastic finish would have been, but it doesn’t look or feel as high-end as a metal or glass back would. Check out the video below for a quick look at what goes into the Priv.
As you can probably tell from the video, the Priv is also a fairly chunky and heavy phone at 147 x 77.2 x 9.4mm and 192g. That’s thanks in large part to the slide-out keyboard, so it’s somewhat unavoidable without sacrificing one of the Priv’s key features, but it does make the phone a bit unwieldy.
The screen is a vast improvement on the design. Despite having a slide-out keyboard, BlackBerry has equipped the Priv with a massive 5.4-inch display, so if you’d rather type on the touchscreen there’s plenty of space to.
It’s sharp too at 1440 x 2560, giving it a pixel density of 540 pixels per inch, for seriously crisp visuals and the AMOLED technology leaves it bright and colourful.
Interestingly, BlackBerry has also added curves to the edges of the screen, a bit like you’ll find on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, though not quite as pronounced. As with Samsung’s take this doesn’t serve any great purpose, simply giving you quick access to favourite contacts and the like, but it certainly looks good.
BlackBerry stuck a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor in the Priv, with two cores running at 1.8GHz and four clocked at 1.44GHz. That’s the same chip as the LG G4 and like that phone it also has 3GB of RAM.
That translates into solid performance, but it’s a step down from the octa-core Snapdragon 810 found in many rivals and will soon be even more dwarfed by the upcoming Snapdragon 820 handsets.
Sadly, it doesn’t quite offer top tier performance, with lag noticeable at times, but for the most part it speedily nips around, whether you’re using apps or swiping through home screens.
The BlackBerry Priv has an 18MP camera on the back, which is more than capable of taking good photos. It’s helped by optical image stabilisation and a dual-LED flash, which allow it to deliver better low light photos than many rival phones.
The high megapixel count allows for detailed, sharp images, especially when the light is good and the camera can even shoot 4K video. It’s a little light on shooting modes and options, but you can always download an alternate app from Google Play to get more tools.
What can’t be fixed is the 2MP front-facing camera, which is lower spec than most front-facing snappers on high end phones. As such the BlackBerry Priv isn’t great for selfies.
Interface and features
BlackBerry hasn’t done much to Android. In fact, you get pretty much a stock version of Android Lollipop. That’s a good thing, as it makes for a clean, intuitive interface.
The Canadian company has included a few of its own apps though, such as BlackBerry Hub, which combines all your SMS, email and other conversations into a single feed, and DTEK, which gives you an overview of how secure your device is, offering hints to improve your security and privacy. These apps are mostly nice additions and easily ignored if you don’t want to use them.
The big feature of the BlackBerry Priv is of course its slide-out keyboard. This is a lot faster and more pleasant to type on than a touch screen, so if you tend to do a lot of emailing or just type out long messages on your phone it’s a huge advantage.
On the other hand, if you don’t do a massive amount of typing the extra weight and size the keyboard adds may not be worth it, but it makes the Priv a great productivity handset. In fact, no other Android phone can match it for that.
Battery Life, Memory and Connectivity
The BlackBerry Priv rivals most other recent flagship phones for battery life, delivering around a day of moderate use, but not much more. That’s despite having a sizeable 3410 mAh juice pack. But then it also has a large screen to power. Thankfully it supports fast charging, so you can juice it up again quickly when it does run down.
Memory comes in at 32GB plus a microSD card slot with support for cards of up to 200GB, so there’s plenty of storage space. Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC.
The BlackBerry Priv is a promising phone, filling a niche which no other can, through its combination of a QWERTY keyboard, Android and flagship specs.
It’s not quite a home run, thanks to a middling design, occasionally iffy performance and a very high price tag of around £530, but if you do a lot of typing on your phone and you want an Android handset the Priv is the best option around.