It's no secret that BlackBerry, nee RIM, is in trouble. The success of the new version of its mobile OS, BlackBerry 10, and the new platform's launch devices will basically make or break the company. The first of these handsets is the Z10, which will be available in the US come March (with the keyboard-based Q10 following shortly thereafter in April).
So how does the entirely touch-based Z10 and its shiny new OS fare? And more importantly, do they have what it takes to save the day?
Build and Design
The Z10 is an attractive device, especially for users that enjoy that angular, "modern" design of sleek but simple smartphones like the iPhone. Fans of wacky, unique designs and fun colors found on phones like the Nokia Lumia 920 need not apply. The Z10 comes in black or white, and it's all about being sleek and sexy rather than fun or different. And that's not an insult to the Z10, because we actually prefer this design with the square edges and rounded corners to the gaudy alternatives, but it is ultimately a matter of taste.
While some may argue that certain design features like a curved back may feel better in the hand, we found the Z10 to be very comfortable to hold, regardless of its flat back. And BlackBerry struck the perfect balance between providing users with a sizable screen and producing an unwieldy phone; even with a roomy 4.2-inch display, the handset is still skinny enough that users can reach across the entire display with their thumbs.
At 5.12 inches, it may feel a little long to some (iPhone 5 style), but at 2.58 inches wide and 0.35 inches thick, it has a relatively compact footprint overall. Part of the reason for its length is because the body of the phone extends another quarter inch or so beyond the top and bottom of the glass of the display, but the excess space to the left and right of the screen is trimmed pretty closely.
The weight of the Z10, at 137.5 grams, gives the device just the right amount of heft. It's not so heavy that it feels brick-like but it has just enough weight to keep it from feeling cheap. It's solid and has a quality feel to it.
And completing the package is the textured back of the Z10, which is another reason it feels so good in the hand. That being said, the grippy back panel will pick up every last speck of dust or crumbs on your desk whenever you set it down. But perhaps that's just my fault for being a slob.
The 4.2-inch, 1280 x 768 display of the Z10 has its ups and downs. On the one hand, we desperately miss the glossy sheen of Gorilla Glass, which is absent here. And even on its highest setting, the screen isn't terribly bright.
But with a pixel density of 356 ppi, images and text look plenty sharp, and the contrast is equally impressive. Colors also pop quite well and the viewing angle isn't anything to sneeze at.
One other thing worth mentioning is the sensitivity of the touchscreen, which is great. With an OS that is as heavily gesture-based as BlackBerry 10, it's crucial that all swipes -- from any direction, including those coming from any of the screen edges -- are read precisely, and they are. We were amazed at how quickly and flawlessly we could navigate through the interface of BlackBerry 10 after only a few minutes with the OS.
Other Buttons and Ports
BlackBerry kept the rest of the Z10 pretty simple, with the volume rocker on the right edge and the micro HDMI and USB ports on the left. For those wondering, there is still a third key between the volume up and down buttons, but it is no longer programmable. It is instead used for playing/pausing media, or, if held down, initiating voice control.
The power/standby switch is located on the top of the device, along with a 3.5mm headphone jack, while the bottom is free of any ports or buttons. Users will, however, find a slit on the bottom edge for prying off the phone's back panel, which is necessary to access both the SIM card and microSD card slots.
As for the cameras, the front-facing shooter is located just above the display and slightly to the right, and the rear facing camera is in the upper left corner on the back of the device.
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