February 20, 2013

BlackBerry Z10 Review

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Feature set summary for BlackBerry Z10 Review

The first BlackBerry 10 handset and the first with 4G capability. The BlackBerry Z10 has a crisp display that compliments the excellent 8-megapixel camera and front facing lens. There’s not much in the way of apps or media for BB10 yet though.

Style and handling summary for BlackBerry Z10 Review

There’s an all-business look to the BlackBerry Z10, which eschews any sexy curves or fancy trims. It comes in sensible all-black, with a mottled rubber rear. It is a fairly hefty handset, with a sizeable edge around the 4.2inch display. The black plate slips off easily – too easily.

Battery power summary for BlackBerry Z10 Review

Not great. It was tough getting the BlackBerry Z10 to keep going for a full day with average use. Streaming video, which you’ll want to do on the go with the super fast 4G speeds available, killed it in four and a half hours.

Performance summary for BlackBerry Z10 Review

Powered by a dual-core processor, the BB10 OS runs smoothly, as does media streaming. A small amount of games is available so far, and these ran without a hitch. Slightly noticeable lag when browsing the internet.

User friendliness summary for BlackBerry Z10 Review

The BlackBerry 10 operating system way of swiping to navigate is good, but is also different enough to take some getting used to. Slower typists will like the predictive keyboard.

BlackBerry Z10 Review  Scoring Summary

Style & Handling
User Friendliness
Feature Set
Performance
Battery Power
Overall Score 4G.co.uk grey star

Pros: crisp 4.2inch screen; good daytime shots from the 8-megapixel camera; excellent BlackBerry Hub; easy to use virtual keyboard.

Cons: unexciting styling; not a lot in the way of apps or media yet; lacks a stand-out feature; under-par battery life.

Verdict: If you can look past the boring design, then the BlackBerry Z10 offers 4G in a handset with a crisp display, superb virtual keyboard, and the latest version of the BlackBerry OS. But there’s no real stand out feature, and as yet lacks apps and media.

 

Full Review and Specification for the Blackberry Z10

For the last year we’ve all known BlackBerry was doing … something. The secrecy is now gone, as has RIM. And the new BB10 OS is here. The BlackBerry Z10 is the first official BB10 phone, and the first BlackBerry 4G offering. Can it win back the legions of BlackBerry fans the OS used to have?

 

Z10 means business

There’s no friendly, curvaceous styling here, or dashes of colour. It is all a no-nonsense business look, with an entirely black finish. There’s a plastic trim around the rim, and the rubbery rear. It is all serious business not sexy fun. The Z10 has a sizeable bezel around the 4.2-inch display, which sits right smack in the middle of the front of the phone. This means that, while you don’t get a spacious screen, you do get a sizeable and hefty handset, one that’s heavier than the Apple iPhone 5, and more like the size of the LG Nexus 3. For chunkiness, and height, it’s close to the Samsung Galaxy S III, and at 9mm, it is thicker.

 

At 130g the BlackBerry Z10 sits solidly in the palm, using gravity and its weight to stick to your hand. Extra grip is provided by the rubberized back. It took a while to get used to the position of the power button, which is located right in the middle of the top of the BlackBerry Z10. However, both right-handed and left-handed users will find it easy to access. Flicking up the screen quickly wakes it up as well. On the right-hand side are the volume controls, with another button for starting up the Voice Control on the BlackBerry OS. Think Siri, or Galaxy Voice. On the left-hand side are the mini HDMI and Micro USB pot.

 

It is easy to pop the back off the Blackberry Z10. A little too easy. Once off you’ll find the long, removable battery under there, along with SIM and microSD memory card slots. However, the back plate doesn’t fit that securely, leaving a little bit of a gap where it should be fitting firmly against the main body. It takes very little to prise the two apart. In fact, at one point the back even came off when it was in a pocket. We’d imagine that dropping this phone could easily see the back plate skittering off across the street or onto a railway line.

 

Say hello to BB10

To get going with the latest BlackBerry 10 operating system you just have to sign in with you BlackBery ID. You can easily create an ID if needed. And then setup the other accounts you want to use like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and so forth. Registering our Google Calendar didn’t work the first time, and but it was fine on a second go.

 

We’re familiar users of Android and iOS, so it took a bit of practice to get used to the different way BB10 handles layout and uses swipe gestures on the touchscreen. With the other operating systems, the Home Screen is quickly accessed with the push of a button. With BB10 you swipe up from the bottom of the display. It does take a long swipe to get rid of the lock screen, and this took a little bit of time to adjust to.

 

While we call it the home screen, what you get in BB10 is a scrollable grid. This contains the most recent eight apps you’ve used. Handy for most people as we generally tend to use the same few apps most of the time. Swipe the screen across to the left and you’ll find all the app icons. A bit like Apple’s iOS, these can be arranged. A swipe to the right reveals the BlackBerry Hub. This is the heart of the BB10 OS, showing all you notifications at once. Emails, Facebook, calendar entries – they will all be in here. And you can also use this screen to write a text, message or tweet.

 

What you can’t do here is access account profiles, contacts, follow the status updates of your friends, and so forth. To do anything else with your social networking and communication apps you’ll have to actually load the app itself. Overall though BlackBerry Hub is a nifty feature, and it is easy to customise the apps you see there. Another way to check alerts is to swipe up and along while in any app. This is similar to pulling down the notification or alert bar in Android or iOS. We didn’t find it worked that well when watching YouTube videos, as the video went black when we returned to the app.

 

The BlackBerry 10 has lots of other features too, some new, some old favourites. In the latter category, previous BlackBerry users will be pleased to find familiar features like BBM. New additions include BlackBerry StoryMake. There’s a full list in the BB10 extra features break down, so look there for info. However, it is a little disappointing to find nothing truly exciting new to this operating system. We kind of expected at least one, maybe two, ground breaking or innovative features. The sort of thing that you’d constantly wish you had when using non-BlackBerry phones. But there’s nothing really, just a BlackBerry take on the sort of tools we’re used to in Android.

 

Touchy

One particularly interesting feature on BB10 is the feature-rich keyboard. It has a nice layout, and is pre-loaded with a huge ranger of rather, er, interesting smilies. It has one feature we’ve not quite seen before, at least not in this fashion. As you type a word, the word that BB10 thinks you are typing will appear above the keys. This is BlackBerry’s predictive text. But the word actually appears above a specific letter key. This is what we mean. Say you start typing ‘hap’. BB10 will take a guess that you’re typing happy, and as ‘p’ would be the next letter, it will show the word ‘happy’ above the P key. Naturally, as you type, your eye moves to the next key, so this is a logical and eye catching position. If the word is correct, flick up from that key and it will appear in its entirety in your message. As we’re fairly quick at typing we didn’t really use this, but for slower typists it could be a time saver.

 

The other input feature is BlackBerry’s Voice command service. This works like Apple’s Siri, so you can use voice commands to open apps, and use main features by pressing the Voice button and speaking loudly. It worked well despite our Northern accents. Commands must be precise. Open camera works. Open the camera doesn’t.

 

A BlackBerry World of apps

BlackBerry World has been revamped for BB10. There are 70,000 on there, and about 1,000 added weekly. Compared to iTunes or Google Play that looks a bit empty. There’s lots of old and unknown titles in the games section, and they’re pricey with most at £2 to £5. Lots of social media apps, but other sections like sports or books aren’t so forthcoming.

 

Again, music and movies are fairly sparse. One Direction and Mumford & Sons were there, but many of the entries in the hip hop and rock sections left us scratching our heads. There’s a strange selection of movies. We did a search for Avengers, and found the older Uma Thurman’s movie take on the classic TV series, but not the more recent Avengers Assemble. Still good to see lots of older titles and classics, such as the original black and white version of The Fly.

 

In time, BlackBerry Wold will of course work out to be a decent competitor for the online mobile markets. But it isn’t there yet, and if you’re an app fan then Apple and Google have far, far more to offer.

 

Smooth running

Slick and smooth, the BlackBerry Z10 slides along like Torvill and Dean on ice. Smooth movements take you from menu to menu, and browsing the internet is super fast thanks to 4G connectivity but also super quick using a wi-fi connection too. Pages loaded instantly. But there was a bit of a lag when scrolling through web pages.

 

Battery life

It was a bit of a surprise to find the battery life was a bit below par. Especially as, with the 4G connectivity, the phone is really targeted at people looking to be productive on the move. Constantly connected to the internet, with the screen as bright as possible, the phone ran out of juice well before 24 hours were up. Streaming video, which is something you’re going to want to do to make the most of 4G, killed the battery in four and a half hours. With other 4G handsets we’d got used to five and half, or more, hours of entertainment use. So this was disappointing.

 

Looking sharp

Everything about the phone screams business, but even so this has a superbly sharp display with 1280 x 760 resolution resulting in 356 pixels-per-inch. This makes the screen on the Z10 more detailed than the iPhone 5’s Retina display with its 326ppi. HD video streamed via 4G is noticeably sharper, with no blurring or distortions.

 

It isn’t quite as bright a panel as the iPhone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S III. It will still remain visible under direct sunlight though and there’s excellent viewing angles with not loss of quality when tilted.

 

Doubly snap happy

The 8-megapixel camera found in the BlackBerry Z10 works well enough in daylight. Pushing the volume button or tapping the screen takes photos. We liked the auto-focus, which locked on nicely to targets. Shutter speed is fast, so there’s no lag when taking shots. We weren’t so happy with its performance under dimmer conditions, such as at night. The full flash was needed to avoid grainy shots.

 

One handy feature is Time Shift. This allows you to choose a still photo from two seconds of footage. So a bit like multi-shot, a feature on the Samsung Galaxy S III and the HTC One X+, but with the advantage being able to rewind or move forward to capture a face when it isn’t blinking or making an odd expression. The rest of the shot stays the same. For this to work though both the subject and the camera have to be very still.

 

There’s also a large number of editing options, such as adjusting brightness and contrast, cropping, filters, rotating, and rotating at an odd angle. When you’re happy photos can be quickly shared using text, BBM, email, NFC and all sorts of social media. The BlackBerry Z10 is flexible in unexpected ways, making it a doddle to upload and share lots of photos with your friends and family. The front facing camera works well for video chats, and it can even film full HD video.

 

Our conclusion

There’s just so many great features on the BlackBerry Z10, not the least of which is the sharp 4.2-inch screen, and the excellent 8-megapixel camera. And yet, there’s just nothing that really stands out. BB10 runs smoothly, and apps will come in time. But with an online store that’s a bit lacking, uninspiring features, and a rather boring design, it’s a hard phone to love.

 

Blackberry Z10 Specification

GENERAL

Type of device Smartphone
Operating System BlackBerry 10 OS
Dimensions 130×65.6x9mm
Weight 137.5grams
Form factor Touchscreen
Input Touch Screen
Processor speed 1.5GHz dual-core
CPU Dual-core
Graphic chipset
Announced January 2013
Status Available

DISPLAY

Screen size 4.2-inches
Screen type LCD
Resolution 1280 x 768
Display type WXGA

Memory

RAM 2GB
Internal storage 16GB
Memory card slot Yes

Camera

Camera 8 megapixels
Secondary camera 2 megapixels
Special camera features Back Side Illumination for better low-light performance 5-element F2.2 lens Dedicated ISP (image signal processor) with 64MB frame buffer Flash, continuous and touch to focus, image stabilization Enhanced Super Resolution Digital Zoom (5x) 1080p HD video recording 4 DOF (Degrees of freedom) video stabilization Time Shift mode for pinpointing and adjusting individual elements of your picture

Sound

3.5mm Jack Yes
Music player BlackBerry Music
Audio recording Yes
Radio No
FM Radio description

Video

Video recording Yes
Video player 3GP, 3GP2, M4A, M4V, MOV, MP4, MKV, MPEG-4, AVI, ASF, WMV, WMA, MP3, MKA, AAC, AMR, F4V, WAV, MP2PS, MP2TS, AWB, OGG, FLAC
Video calling Yes
Video streaming Yes

Additional Features

Browser BlackBerry Browser
Games Downlaod via BlackBerry World
Voice control Yes
Voice dialling Yes
Other Micro HDMI for connection to your HDTV or projector

Messaging

SMS Yes
MMS Yes
Email Yes
IM Yes

Connectivity

Wi-Fi Yes
Bluetooth Yes
USB Yes
NFC Yes
GPS Assisted, Autonomous and Simultaneous GPS Preloaded with BlackBerry Maps application

Network

Band N/A
EDGE No
GPRS No
HSDPA No
4G/LTE

Other

Colours (Standard) Black and White
Handsfree speaker phone Yes
Customisable ringtones Yes
What’s in the box Quick, Manual, Headphones, Case and USB Cable.
Website http://uk.blackberry.com/

Battery

Standby 13 Days
Talktime 10 hours (3G)
Battery life multimedia N/A