BT Hardware review

With the release of the BlackBerry 10 OS the BlackBerry Q10 is the flagship device with the physical keyboard.

A lot of BlackBerry users still refuse to give up on the iconic keyboard that made BlackBerry such a hit so with the release of the Q10 and subsequent models to follow, it’s no surprise that it sold out at Carphone Warehouse in store and at Selfridge’s store. News now is the they have not only the Black but also the White in stock as I can confirm so if your in the market good place to start.

The foundation for the BlackBerry software strategy is now set for years to come, and the Q10 builds on it slightly with BlackBerry 10’s first significant update, for the Q10 we are reviewing my OS version is 10.1.0.238. This operating system update features a number of enhancements specific to the physical keyboard design, including support for keyboard shortcuts, which I’m still learning. In addition to many of the legacy keyboard shortcuts being present, BlackBerry has also introduced Instant Action shortcuts to the homescreen experience, which compliment Universal Search results by allowing you to jump deeply into an application. Many of the native apps on the Q10 also take advantage of the new dark theme, which in addition to adding an extra touch of sex appeal to BlackBerry 10 also help maximize the Q10’s battery life given its lovely AMOLED display. A number of other updates further refine BlackBerry 10, including HDR mode in the camera and improvements to notifications.

The Q10 is riding high above any previous BlackBerry OS devices when it comes to specs however. Packed inside is a dual-core 1.5 GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor and 2GB of RAM with 16GB of internal storage, Micro SD slot so you can add up to 64GB. There is an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera with autofocus (yes, no more EDOF) and a 2 megapixel front-facing camera. 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 4G Mobile Hotspots, GPS, Bluetooth v4.0, NFC – they’re all here as well. Of course the highlights are the 3.1-inch 720 x 720 SuperAMOLED display and the full QWERTY physical keyboard.

One of the big things that stick out here for us is the size of the Q10 battery. Coming in at 2100 mAh, this beauty is far bigger than any battery we’ve seen in a BlackBerry to date. When you figure that the battery on the Bold 9900 is only 1230 mAh and the Z10 battery is 1800mAh, you know that you’ll be getting some amazing battery life on the Q10.

So What’s in the box
Obviously the Q10, plus Battery, Earphones, USB charging cable, Mains Adapter.

Our first Impressions:
The BlackBerry Q10 feels strikingly familiar when you first pick it up. It has the classic BlackBerry design with a physical keyboard nested below a sizeable screen. While we like the BlackBerry Z10, there is something about picking up a smooth BlackBerry with a keyboard that feels just right. The rear is constructed of a light-but-tough glass weave with a matte finish, while the outside frame is a cool and sturdy steel. The device itself feels solid, strong and will no doubt stand up to the trials of everyday use.
The front the Q10 screams BlackBerry. Under the 720 x 720 touchscreen display sits a full QWERTY physical keyboard that is just itching to be put to the test.
The right side of the device is sporting the volume control buttons while the left has the micro USB sync/charge port as well as a new micro HDMI out port for connecting the Q10 to a TV or external display. On the top sits the familiar lock / standby / power button while the speaker opening is on the bottom.
The Q10 will be available in both black and white versions – the differences being only that the white model has a slightly different backing (more on that later). Feast your eyes on the galleries below.

Q10 – Appearance and Design
Lets take a closer look around the device. First off, on the left side is a micro USB port and micro HDMI port. They’re higher up than they are on the Z10, which is great – now you can have everything plugged in without it interfering with your typing. This was a big issue on some older BlackBerry phones so we’re happy to see that the position has been moved up.
On the right side, you have the hardware media control keys – volume up, down and mute. These are pretty much identical in styling to the Z10 – they’re eye-catching metal, and feel distinct when adjusting blindly. On the top is a standard 3.5 mm headphone jack, a standby on/off key, and two noise cancellation microphone ports. On the bottom is a single speaker port and primary microphone. Sorry, no charging contacts here. That’s likely to save on manufacturing costs. It looks like any charging dock you get (if there are any available) will have to use USB. The front face is dominated by the display and backlit keyboard. Above, there’s a speaker, sensor array, notification LED, and front-facing camera. On the back, you’ll find little more than the camera and LED flash.

It’s obvious looking at the Q10 that it’s more closely related in design to the Bold 9900, and that was a conscious decision on BlackBerry’s part to maintain a sense of familiarity. The biggest physical difference is the missing trackpad and navigation keys (menu, back, send, and end buttons) which consequently made it unnecessary to have a curved keyboard to accommodate them. Still, the layout is largely familiar, and that’s a testament to the staying power of a design that was established as far back as the BlackBerry 8800 in 2007 (though it was realistically nailed down with the Bold 9000 in 2008). The last major flagship device from BlackBerry along this vein was the Bold 9900, launched in 2011, which still looks great today, as does its little brother the Curve 9320.

The Q10 definitely feels like a BlackBerry. It has the classic design and solid build quality. The edge-to-edge glass on the front display fits really tightly within the frame. The frets between the rows of keys, the way each key has an arc to catch thumbs, and the overall shape are all hallmarks of BlackBerry design. It’s a little bit longer than the Bold 9900, and only 9 grams heavier – enough to give that solid tool-like feel in the hand. The outer metal band hearkens back to the Bold 9900, and feels decidedly different compared to the composite, steel-reinforced frame of the Z10. You will find eye-catching metal bands through the keyboard frets which are a bit wider than before and angle downwards at the outside edges of the device.

There’s also a new band around the rear below the camera. The rear fret actually raises the device slightly, so that it stays stable when laying flat and makes sure the camera and rear surface don’t get scratched up. The domed, unified rear has an altogether new feel, while (in the black model, at least) still incorporating the same glass weave material that BlackBerry’s been using for awhile now. The white BlackBerry Q10 sticks with the divot style of rear that was employed with the BlackBerry Z10, though it’s slightly harder than the Z10 to ensure blue jean dye doesn’t rub off on it. In terms of construction, the BlackBerry Q10 is as tightly built as anything BlackBerry has made in the past, and feels like it could weather a long life of steady usage.

Q10 – Touchscreen Display
Though smaller than what you’ll get on the BlackBerry Z10, the Q10’s touchscreen is effectively just as sharp (technically, the Z10 crams in a few more pixels per inch). The AMOLED screen on the Q10 shows off BlackBerry 10 in all of its glory. It is bold and bright and looks sharp from edge to edge. Now, the switch to SuperAMOLED is significant; until now, most BlackBerry users were accustomed to LCD screens. Though there have been many debates on AMOLED versus LCD, the bottom line is that AMOLED uses up less power and less physical space. The main difference is that LCDs activate individual pixels to block out a single backlight, while each pixel on an AMOLED screen emits its own light. Because AMOLED creates blacks simply by turning off individual pixels, we found the Q10 made for much stronger blacks than the Z10, though LCD has an edge on whites and visibility in direct sunlight. On that note, the dark themes included in OS 10.1 look fantastic on the Q10 and save you battery life to boot.

Q10 – Keyboard Review
The keyboard on the BlackBerry Q10 is nearly identical to that of the BlackBerry Bold 9900 but with a few exceptions. The individual keys on the BlackBerry Q10 are significantly bigger than what they were on the Bold 9900 series. Rather than the slight curved layout of the Bold 9900/9930, the keyboard now sits completely straight. Though that classic “smile” always felt fairly ergonomic, it’s been removed since the navigation array (trackpad, menu, back, and phone buttons) isn’t there anymore. The P’9981 had a similar squared-off grid layout to the keys, but they were significantly harder to press by comparison. The Q10’s keys sit noticeably lower than those on the 9900, which some may prefer, but on the whole we were really happy with how it felt. There are still metal frets between each row of keys that provide separation between rows and gives a bit of contrast to the otherwise solid front of the device.BLACKBERRY-Q10_WHITE_Keyboard
The layout of the keys stays true to BlackBerry styling – a full set of QWERTY keys as well as both right and left shift buttons, an ALT key and a symbol key. The keys feel great and are very responsive. After typing on the Q10 for a while we fell right back into our old ways. The only real functional addition to the keyboard is the voice activation shortcut from the 0 key. Aside from that, the keyboard doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but that’s okay with us. After all, the Bold 9900 keyboard was definitely our favorite to date and the Q10 looks to be right up there, if not better thanks to the increased size per key.

We’re also happy to see that keyboard shortcuts play a big role on the Q10 (as they should). Instant Action is a big part of the Q10 experience – it allows you to perform tasks much more quickly than tapping around to find what you need. Want to send a BBM? Start typing “BBM Kevin” and the Q10 shows the option to compose a new BBM to Kevin. So, rather than going to the BBM app or jumping into BBM via the Hub, you can quickly type out what you want to do and you’re off.
There are over 200 keyboard shortcuts scattered throughout BlackBerry 10.1, many of which you can see referenced directly in the system menus. This is huge, because many of the handiest keyboard shortcuts were never discovered by more casual users. These can help you get around much more quickly, such as hitting the N key in the Hub to hop down to the next message, or the Delete key to trash a message (rather than digging through a context menu). Saving these few seconds on common tasks every day will quickly add up to minutes saved, and help turn you into a productivity machine.
It goes without saying that the BlackBerry Q10 has the most comfortable physical keyboard you will find on the smartphone market. Sure, the stereotypical businessperson will appreciate the ease with which they can shoot out an e-mail, but women with longer nails have long had issues with touchscreens, and will be just as happy to get their thumbs on some real buttons again.
Let’s put it this way: if you’re a physical keyboard person, you’re going to love the Q10. Full Stop.

Q10 – What No buttons and trackpad!
Of course there is no getting around the fact that the Q10 has no trackpad or navigation buttons. We’ve all been big fans of the trackpad since it first popped up on and it’s been a huge part BlackBerry devices since. Honestly, not having it does seem a bit odd at first. I found myself constantly reaching for the back button more times than I’d like to admit and there were plenty of “oh shit” moments when I aimed for the trackpad only to tap the screen instead. In short, it’s a learning process. If you’ve been a long-time BlackBerry user you’ll want the buttons and trackpad to be there, but they aren’t. As we found however, after you use the device for any length of time you will adjust to the lack of buttons and trackpad. It’s definitely worth the couple of days it takes to get used to the new layout. Switching back to my Curve 9320 with the trackpad I found myself in the Q10 mindset and forgetting about it. Keep in mind that BlackBerry 10.1 introduces new cursor tools to make it easier to select text without a trackpad.
Another part of this situation is using the device one-handed. The trackpad made it very easy to get around, but don’t worry! The Q10 works perfectly fine in one hand, though those with smaller hands might

Q10 – Camera
The BlackBerry Q10 is sporting an 8 megapixel rear-facing camera with new HDR mode, auto-focus and 1080p video recording. For those unfamiliar, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. In this mode, the camera takes multiple shots at various exposure levels and laces them together. This ensures that you get a complete picture – bright backgrounds don’t get blown out, and darker areas aren’t unrecognizable splotches.
On the front is a 2 megapixel camera with 720p video recording – something we’ve been wanting on this form factor of BlackBerry for YEARS. It’s great for BBM Video Chat, and Skype video calling!
The camera is readily available and can be launched by either the camera app icon or the quick launch icon on the bottom of the home and lock screens. It starts up quickly with near-zero lag so taking photos in a pinch isn’t an issue. What’s notable here as well is that the shutter sound is much shorter and softer than that of the Z10 (though that may be an OS 10.1 thing).
For shooting modes you’ll find Normal, Stabilization and Burst. Scenes gives you Auto, Action, Whiteboard, Night and Beach or Snow. The mode change icon between still, video, and Time Shift shooting has been moved to the bottom of the camera app for easier and less confusing access.
While the Z10 offers up 4:3 and 16:9 aspect rations for photos, the Q10 also adds 1:1 to the mix to match its own screen ratio.
Formats Audio & Video: 3GP, 3GP2, M4A, M4V, MOV, MP4, MKV, MPEG-4, AVI, ASF, WMV, WMA, MP3, MKA, AAC, AMR, F4V, WAV, MP2PS, MP2TS, AWB, OGG, FLAC
Audio & Video encoding / decoding: H.264, MPEG-4, H.263, AAC-LC, AAC+, eAAC, MP3, PCM, Xvid, AMR-NB, WMA 9/10, WMA10 professional, WMA-LL, VC-1, VP6, SPARK, PCM, MPEG-2, MJPEG (mov), AC-3, AMR-WB, QCELP, FLAC, VORBIS
As for post-processing, the built-in Photo Editor app now includes improved red- and gold-eye reduction – very handy for those low-light portraits where you need to use a flash.
Overall the camera on the Q10 is great. It’s light years beyond that of the older devices and especially the admittedly crappy EDOF camera on the Bold 9900/9930. To test out the camera we used the 720p, 1080p and HDR. Pictures below.
Images – 720p


Images – 1080p

Q10 – Video Recording
As mentioned in the above, the BlackBerry Q10 comes loaded with an 8 megapixel camera that is capable of capturing up to 1080p videos. We put it to the test using both 720p and the 1080p. We were quite pleased with the results given it’s still just a smartphone that’s doing the capturing. As seen in the 2 videos below, picture quality was clear and the audio, even with the noisy background in my home city of Dundee, at the Dighty Burn near where I live, was handled with grace. In short, it’ll do the trick for most folks for capturing those quick moments. The first one on a windy day as you can hear the noise of the wind.
Image Formats: BMP, WBMP, JPG, GIF, PNG, TIFF, SGI, TGA

Video – 720p

Video – 1080p

Q10 – Sound Quality
The sound quality is surprisingly good, by that I mean much better than most devices I’ve used apart from the the HTC One. And it comes with beats audio sound chip. High notes sound rich and the Base isn’t too heavy, in fact the overall sound is very good. With a RF Micro Devices RF7252 Linear Power Amplifier Module.

Q10 – as a phone
There’s not much to be said on the phone options for the Q10 that hasn’t been said before. There’s nothing fancy but you still have everything you need. The phone screen gives you three panes for call history, contacts and dialer.
New in BlackBerry 10.1 is the ability to cut, copy, and paste phone numbers into and from the dialer screen as well.
The physical keyboard also now allows users to set keys for speed dial, as on legacy BlackBerry devices. This isn’t enabled by default however; users need to flip it on through the Phone settings, but after that, you can make it so that long-pressing a key initiates a call to a designated contact.
Overall the Q10 just feels like a BlackBerry, the weight is good, it fits well in-hand and sound quality is top notch, helped in no small part to the twin noise-cancelling microphones at the top. We did a few tests and everything is on par with what you’d expect here. Just like the BlackBerry Z10, the BlackBerry Q10 is capable of HD Voice if it is supported by your network.
We should note that the microphone is on the bottom of the phone now as opposed to the front. It’s a small change but nothing concerning really.
Closing Thoughts – Love keyboard
For the most part, the BlackBerry Q10 specs and platform match the BlackBerry Z10 very closely. Those who want a full touchscreen experience should opt for the Z10. And those who love their physical keyboard and can’t make the transition to touchscreen typing should definitely pick up the Q10. It feels absolutely great to use and will be an easy transition for those making the leap from a legacy BlackBerry. Beyond the typing accuracy and shortcuts afforded by a physical keyboard, the BlackBerry Q10 also has a gigantic battery, which may even be a bigger deal for a lot of people. Being able to coast through a full day without having to worry about fiddling with screen brightness or LTE connectivity is an absolute luxury in a world full of slim big-screen smartphones.
We may be living in a world of full touchscreen phones, but this is a modern day smartphone with a keyboard that people will be proud to carry, use and show off, not hide it away and use in some dark corner, just because your friend as a 5” smartphone. BlackBerry is back baby!
One thought I personally must make is that the keyboard on the white version looks better, flatter, smarter. Although it’s only a colour difference it just looks so much cleaner, even the frets work better with the white version.

BlackBerry Q10 Review Summary

If you love your physical keyboard BlackBerry then the Q10 is for you – no question. If you’re a BlackBerry fan but want to step things up, you may opt for the BlackBerry Z10 or even hold out to see what new devices come down the road. Overall we couldn’t be more pleased with the BlackBerry Q10.

BlackBerry Q10 Specifications
BlackBerry Q10 keyboard shortcuts
BlackBerry Q10 How To Applications
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Dave Thornton

Senior Editor

Senior Editor
Been involved in technology for many years, more than I care to remember. Live in Dundee, Scotland. I like Android, Windows Phone OS, BlackBerry OS and iOS, and love writing about all things techie. Currently have a Honor 6+, Elephone P6000, Nexus 5, Chrombook C720, HTC One M7, Nokia Lumina 625, Microsoft Lumia 435, Blackberry Q10, HTC Hero and iPad mini