BlackBerry Q5 review

BlackBerry Q5 review

By | Sep 2, 2013

For years, BlackBerry was prominently known as a device maker that focused on the enterprise segment. With cutthroat competition from the likes of Apple, Samsung and other handset makers that made Android devices, BlackBerry made a move for the emerging markets, leveraging its messaging platform and making economy devices under its Curve series targeted at youngsters.

The company’s Curve series did exceedingly well and gave BlackBerry a share in the Indian market. In 2013, a time when BlackBerry is reinventing itself after a massive overhaul led by BlackBerry 10, the company is launching new devices across different segments. After BlackBerry Z10, its full-touch smartphone, and BlackBerry Q10, a premium hardware keyboard equipped device, it’s now looking at capturing the mid-range segment with the new BlackBerry Q5.

Unlike its two BlackBerry 10 predecessors, the BlackBerry Q5 doesn’t feature premium materials, sports inferior hardware specifications and less internal storage, but runs the same OS and delivers the same software features.

After being widely panned for the pricing of its first two BlackBerry 10 smartphones, will BlackBerry be able to capture the attention of the Indian consumer with the Q5? We try to find out in our review.

Build/ Design
The BlackBerry Q5 doesn’t resemble the company’s Curve series smartphones, a major reason for which is the inclusion of a bigger 3.1-inch touch enabled display. The phone is taller and less curved, and looks more playful than the BlackBerry Q10, which has a more serious appeal targeting business users. However, the Q5 also looks more plasticky, which is fair enough since BlackBerry’s aim was to cut costs.

Just like the Q10, the front of the BlackBerry Q5 features a square screen that measures 3.1-inch on the diagonal and the 35 key keyboard in addition to the 2-megapixel front facing camera, the notification LED and an array of sensors, sitting above the display.

The keyboard reminds us of the BlackBerry Curve phones, except that the keys on the BlackBerry Q5 are arranged in a more linear fashion and are spaced out. The keys offer good tactile feedback and are large enough for convenient and quick typing. Unlike the Q10′s keys that are soft to press, the Q5′s keys produce a ‘clickety’ sound and offer a great typing experience.

Unlike legacy BlackBerry devices, the Q5 does not include any extra hardware keys for navigating through the phone, or for accepting and rejecting calls, giving the display area more space. Also, since the BlackBerry 10 OS relies a lot on swipe gestures, there’s plenty of room to swipe into and out of the screen.

The BlackBerry Q5 doesn’t come with a non-removable back cover, though at first glance it was hard to realise this as there’s demarcation between the back and front panels.

On the right side of the phone, you will find the Volume rocker keys with a Mute key sitting between. The keys are made of plastic and feel a little cheap, though they offer good tactile feedback.

There’s a flap that covers the Micro-SIM and the microSD card slot located at the left hand side with the Micro-USB port. We found the flap to be a little flimsy and even after closing, the flap did not get tightly secured with the phone.

The Power/ Screen-lock key, 3.5mm headset jack and a secondary noise cancellation microphone sit at the top of the phone, while the speaker outlet and the primary microphone are located at the bottom of the phone.

Turning towards the back, the BlackBerry Q5 features a plastic panel with matte finish. The BlackBerry logo in silver sits at the middle, while the 5-megapixel rear camera lens and an LED flash are at the top left. The back is prone to smudges.

The BlackBerry Q5 offers a 3.1-inch (diagonal) square shaped screen. Unlike the Q10 that comes with a Super AMOLED display, this one is an IPS LCD screen that offers a resolution of 720×720 pixels and pixel density of 329ppi. The screen packs in few more pixels per inch than the iPhone 5 (326ppi) and text, images and videos appear extremely sharp and clear. It offers excellent viewing angles and good sunlight legibility.

However, the screen’s 1:1 ratio makes watching videos feel awkward as most HD videos have a 16:9 ratio, and appear smaller. We also compared the screen with that of the Samsung Galaxy S III, and found it to be less bright. Perhaps this is a deliberate move from BlackBerry in a bid to conserve battery life.

Overall, due to its small size and awkward screen ratio, the BlackBerry Q5 is not great if you want to primarily use the phone for accessing multimedia content.

Software/ User Interface
The Q5 has a hardware keyboard and runs BlackBerry OS 10.1, just like the BlackBerry Q10. As we mentioned in our Q10 review, BlackBerry has made some changes to the operating system (when compared to what we saw in the Z10) in order to add support for the QWERTY keyboard and include some new features that make full use of the hardware.

The Q5 comes with BlackBerry OS 10.1, which is a small yet important update to the first version of the OS but the basics remain almost the same and you can have a detailed look at the operating system in our BlackBerry 10 OS review.

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