Blackberry has had a wild ride the past couple of years while the Smartphone giants fight to which one of them has the larger pair of testicles. I have had a Blackberry device in the past which was a Bold 9900 and as much as the BBM part of the device was quite interesting in regards to social networking, the device wasn’t that good and suffered from many understandable and non-understandable flaws.
But now, Blackberry has followed a new path, with new hardware specifications and a totally new software experience, with some special features it thinks should change their fate for the foreseen future. I was never too sure about that, and now I have a Q5 to see what all this new-ness they talk off is about..
The device weighs 120g of a plastic case with dimensions of 120mm by 66mm with a thickness of 10.8mm. The device’s main feature is the screen which is a 3.1 inch TFT LCD display with a resolution of 720 x 720 with a stated PPI rating of 329. The rear cases a decent 5 Megapixel camera with HD video recording up to 1080p, image stabilization, and Time shit mode while the front has a 2 Megapixel camera. On the inside the device carries a Dual core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor clocked at 1.2 GHz, 2GB of ram, 8GB Flash memory and is 4G LTE ready. In regards to communication, the device quite possibly has it all with Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n (Mobile Hotspot as well), Bluetooth 4.0 and NFC. The range of sensors including is impressive as it has an Accelerometer, Magnetometer, Proximity Sensor, Gyroscope and a light sensor.
The box is as special as with any mid/low range Blackberry device; a cardboard box with a flipped top. The opening flip, reveals the device itself.
Under the phone is another flip and the rest of the contents are basically tossed in there.
So what comes in the box? Being this was a closed box unit, it has all the accessories that supposedly should come with ever unit sold in the country:
– Two sets of wall charger units, a Three pin and a Two pin (USB)
– Micro-USB Cable
– A pair of headphones
– A whole set of instruction manuals
– The Blackberry Q5 device itself
Design, Body, Display and Keyboard
If you have seen a Blackberry Q10 you will notice they have their similarities, and this is no surprise since they are almost identical (More on this later in the review). The device is plastic, all round and is a little finger-print friendly.
The device is actually quite a good looking, although I didn’t really like the look of it in other colors as the bezel around the screen remains black, but that’s personal taste I guess. In black though, it looks nice. The whole top 60% or so is the screen and the bezel engulfs the speaker, sensors and notification light being on the top and the Blackberry branding under it. The keyboard is a slight improvement over what is found on the best Curve models. The keyboard feels like a mix between the Curve’s one piece, spaced, clicky keyboard and the Bold’s stuck together individual key feeling keyboard. The key presses are slightly firmer than the Bold models, not too tough but not soft either, and does make a click noise. Holding the device is quite alright, although being that its soft plastic, it could get a bit slippery at times.
On the top, there is the headphone jack, a microphone and the sleep/wake button. Unfortunately though, unlike the volume buttons, the sleep/wake button is almost level with the body itself, which means that finding it isn’t the easiest as one would expect and it also is a bit hard, and this led to a not so simple experience locking the device after use, as I would not always get it with ease and will need time to get used to it.
On the bottom, there is another microphone, and the speaker designed to with three slots.
The back of the phone is a continuation of the front with the same plastic material. The back cover cannot be removed and so this device doesn’t have a removable battery which might be a concern for hard core users who switch their batteries often. on the top left of the device sits its 5 Megapixel camera right beside the flash and a huge Blackberry logo in the middle.
On the right side of the device sits the volume control keys and mute.
On the left is where they have decided to place their Micro-USB port right above a small covered slot where the SIM card and the Memory card can be inserted. No pinhole slider action here, good old fashioned flip.
The device overall is solid, no visible cracks or creaks after the first few days of ordinary use which meant moving it around a lot, in pockets on tables, etc.The only concern I personally had was finding the device to be slippery especially if my hands got sweaty. The size and weight are decent and it is lighter (slightly) than the Q10, which would make it the lightest Blackberry 10 device to date.
The display was a surprise to me. Being that this was the base model I expected it to be at a lower resolution than on the Q10 (its supposed bigger brother at nearly double its price).
The touchscreen on Blackberry 10 devices is where almost everything happens, with the new OS being entirely touch screen focused (more on that later in the review) the screen has to be good, and it is. The touch responses are accurate and the gestures that are the device’s highlights work easily as one would expect. The screen is the same size as it is on the Q10 with the same resolution of 720 x 720, has 329PPI with 24 bit color depth. Its 3.1 inches diagonally with a 1:1 aspect ratio. Although the screen is small compared to what is today considered regular screens, it is the only way a physical keyboard can be accommodated. The screen is beautiful to look at and use. The colors are good, while the performance of the device under direct sun isn’t the greatest, one can manage to go about get some quick information or look something up. The screen shot above is of the full resolution from the device while moving on to the Blackberry Hub from the App List.
The keyboard is quite good. It does not have the super smooth silent feel from the Blackberry Bold series but isn’t as clicky and loud as the Curve series. It does seem like one solid piece of plastic, but more tight. Typing on it is easier than on the Curve, and just as good as the Bold. Very good.
Memory and Data
The device comes built in with 8GB of internal storage, with an expansion slot for MicroSD cards and its stated to be compatible with up to 32GB (I find that weird as most devices are not compatible with up to 64GB). Almost 3.5GB of the memory is already taken up, so the end user actually only has about 4.5GB internal storage.
The device did not come with a memory card, so expect you will not get more than that amount of storage out of the box untill you purchase a card. A lot of devices today provide a fixed about of memory but they do their best to integrate some form of cloud storage or the other so the user has more storage out of the box, unfortunately at the current stage of Blackberry 10, there is no Skydrive, Google drive or Dropbox official app. Although, there is a way to upload images to your Dropbox account.
The device comes with 2GB of RAM, which was another thing I didn’t expect, especially with the Q10 having the same amount of memory. Throughout the usage, tests and hardcore use, it never really slowed down much. There are words spreading around among Q10 users that having thousands of BBM contacts and constantly chatting and switching between apps will cause extreme slowdown, but I do not have that many contacts so I cannot vouch for that myself.
The camera on the Blackberry Q5 is a very basic camera, being at 5 Megapixels, it isn’t the best camera either, but it does get the job done. It does have 1080P video recording, but looking through the images, I do not think there will be much high quality video taking in the real world. Here are some sample images taken in the real world use, untouched:
Indoors with good lighting at a mall food court.
Indoors, mediocre lighting with light from the floor in a lobby.
Outdoor, indirect sunlight while in a car.Indoor, low light, close up.
The camera performance, gets the job done, but not necessarily at a high quality. Another thing I realized is that by standard, the images are taken square 1:1 aspect ratio for the best viewing on the device itself. There are very limited options in the camera and they are:
Switching camera between front and back, shooting modes (Normal, Stabilization, HDR, and burst), Flash toggle, some scene optimization for shots, and aspect ratios. It also has a time shift mode, for taking multiple shots quickly to be able to select the most perfect one. As I said before, it gets the job done.
Blackberry 10 Operating System
Blackberry has been using Blackberry 7 for a while and when they announced this was 10, I thought this better be really a jump of three generations or so! Well, at least Blackberry thought it was. Unlike transitions between Android devices and iOS devices (iPhone OS) where the differences are an improvement, the Blackberry transition was a complete overhaul.
This is the essential “everything you need to know about Blackberry10”. Unlock the device using the button, slide the screen to the top and you are welcomed into the device. Slide upwards and to the right and you are greeted with the Blackberry Hub, more on that in a bit.
Contrary to smartphones, on the Blackberry 10, you do not unlock your device to a home screen, here you unlock it to a multitasking panel. This panel (pictured on the left on top) is where all your active applications are. You have the space for 4 active apps on a page with a scroll to the bottom for 4 more. Small Xs on the bottom right corner to close. To the right of the Home/Multitask screen you have all your apps on several pages. Most common applications are found on the device out of the box, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and some more. Transitions are clean and smooth, very little lag or stutter. It isn’t crystal sharp nor is it super quick but is smooth.
One of the nice new additions is the ability to take screen shots by pressing both volume keys. Weirdly though, this isn’t an overlay to the system so it isn’t always activated. One of the situations where it doesn’t work is the lock screen above, another is in the camera app. It wouldn’t allow me to take a screenshot of the interface nor the options.
The lock screen though shows the date, time and notifications with their respective icons. On the right of the screen is the ability to open the camera by sliding it upwards starting from the camera icon. One of the really cool, while also annoying, features on the Blackberry10 is the ability to fully unlock the device by an upwards gesture when the screen is locked. This entirely eliminates the need to press a button and then slide the screen to unlock, but it had a huge issue in practical use as every time the Blackberry Q5 was in my pocket it would unlock and open apps, it once opened the camera and starting taking images of the inside of my pocket. Sliding the screen from the top reveals the famous blackberry clock and alarm.
Speaking of the sliding downwards from the screen, Blackberry 10 allows you quick access to some features and settings.
The Blackberry Hub is supposedly the highlight software feature of the Blackberry10. It is essentially what Blackberry thinks a Hub of all your notifications and incoming data is supposed to be like. It can be modified in various ways, adding notifications, removing notifications, etc and is a very good idea. It becomes the one spot where you can check all your feeds like in the image above. Unfortunately my experience in it has had mixed feelings.
I liked the fact I can access all my feeds in one spot, that makes it alot easier than jumping through their respective apps, but on the negative side, I believe that a notification entry should not be mixed with a item entry. For example, in a typical list, I would get a notification of a missed call, a twitter reply, and an email. If I deleted the notification of the twitter reply, the reply would still be there in the twitter app, but deleting the email would actually delete the email because it is the actual email entry. Maybe others would feel different, but I personally would like my notifications somewhere and my actual data somewhere else and clear all my notifications being sure nothing is lost. In order to fix this, I remove the email from the hub, but I access the email from the Hub sections, it is a work around.
Unfortunately the Hub isn’t technically done, and there are times where it decides things randomly, for instance, Twitter notifications. Sometimes it will randomly get the last couple of notifications and bring then up as new notifications, even if you have deleted them before.
Pulling down from within an app often brings out a search option, and in the case of settings, it is often a sliding down from the top of the screen. There are a lot of gestures but it gets really easy and cool after some practice.
The sections on the device are like the Blackberry Hub, a slide to the right and the settings is accessed by tapping the three dots.. BBM is pretty much the typical expectation and still has all the essential and basic functions from before.
Applications are the big worry on getting a device with a new operating system, and although they have managed really well to get all the essential necessities such as all the social media network applications (except for Instagram and Youtube as of yet) they do not have a lot of the common applications found on other devices. The biggest factor against having so many applications is due to the screen sizes of these devices, with a square shape, most of the applications would need redeveloping.
The operating system is good, smooth, beautiful to look at and does its functions and doesn’t leave you needed options you once had. The operating system though, is not complete. There are many things that need refinement. For instance, the back button, this is often on the bottom left, but there are cases where it is on the top left, and sometimes on the top right. There are some loose ends at times and there are applications that place their settings button on the application, while others require the user to recall the sliding from the top of the screen gesture to access settings.
On the plus side of applications, they are the exact versions of the common applications on other platforms. Facebook and Twitter function identical as they would on Android and iOS, which is good and familiar.
The device performance is quite good. It isn’t super fast but it is quite smooth. All transitions are fluid, there isn’t any lags or real stutters between pages or gestures. Being that the whole device is based on gestures, this is a good thing. The multitasking performance is decent, switching between apps are just as smooth as any normal transition. They did do a good job making this Q5 perform well under everyday use.
I believe that the device’s hardware is on par with the OS’s requirements in everyday use although clocked slightly less than its bigger brother the Q10, the 1.2 GHZ processor manages to keep it fluid. There have been people complaining often that it cannot handle extremely high number of BBM contacts, again I cannot vouch for them but as far as the general use is concerned, it is flawless in terms of smoothness. Not necessarily speed, but smoothness.
In regards to the 3D Microsoft Fish Tank test it scored the following scores:
With 100 fish, it held 44-49 FPS
With 250 fish, it held 27-30 FPS
With 500 fish, it held 14-17 FPS
In comparison with full screen medium-high end touch devices from last year, this performed better.
To try it out for yourself, you can visit this link, and I think I shall be using this with future device reviews too.
The battery life on the Q5 is pretty good, especially being a blackberry device where communication is constant. In my tests, with the Phone on medium brightness, Wifi on full time, 4G mode, and general use of chatting between BBM and whatsapp, twitter and emailing, the device managed a quite decent 10 hours of use from full charge to dead. Surely this would fluctuate depending on how hard the device is used, but is certainly capable of a full day’s worth of Blackberrying. The battery has a capacity of 2,180 mAh.
The Blackberry Q5 was designed to be a budget version of the brand new Blackberry 10 platform, and indeed it is, being at around ~1500 Dhs (Around 07/13), it does pack quite alot of kit; 1.2Ghz Dual Core processor, 2 GB of Ram, 8 GB internal storage, 4G capabilities, all the latest wireless communications (including NFC and Mobile Hotspot), a decent camera and all the features of Blackberry 10 including the popular BBM. It even prefers Wi-Fi to the Blackberry data package, unlike previous devices.
I believe at this price range, all these features are at a decent cost. On the technical side of things, the device has no fundamental flaws. All the basic functions are offered, it has a modern look and feel to it, its smooth with a good keyboard. It does have work to do in terms of getting more applications, and the OS does need polishing up, but this is a promising device. I do believe this will be more successful than the Q10.
Device Pros and Cons
– Decent Build quality (fingerprints are its downfall)
– Up to par communications (NFC, 4G, Mobile Hotspot
– Good keyboard
– Above average battery life
– Good value for money
– Blackberry 10 (Security, organized content/notifications, full of features)
– Operating system still isn’t fully polished up, few loose ends and inconsistencies
– Applications are scarce, even famous ones like Youtube
– Gestures do require getting used to, it does get easy to forget them
– Camera is weak
– Non-removable battery (most people are indifferent to this now)
– Lock button is almost level with the body