What happens then, when smartphones move into a new era in which physical QWERTY keyboards are typically eschewed for the virtual variety? Does that mean that BlackBerry gives up on what it knows best to placate the masses? Not quite. Yes, there was the BlackBerry Z10 that was released earlier this year, which adopted the same traditional slate-like, all-touch layout that can be seen on most smartphones today. But BlackBerry decided to then return to its roots and give its die-hard QWERTY fans something special: the BlackBerry Q10.
Equipped with the full physical keyboard that BlackBerry essentially became known for, the Q10 is the best of both worlds. It offers the smooth typing experience that was offered by the BlackBerrys of yore but also enjoys all of the modern trappings of the company's new-era BlackBerry 10 OS. How does it all pan out?
Build and Design
So here we have the same comfortable QWERTY-based form factor that we have all come to expect from BlackBerry, except with some updated features. The sloped keys of the keyboard and rounded corners still remain, but each row of keys is separated by a metal fret. Also, a stainless steel band runs across the top back of the unit, similarly giving the entire device a much more modern aesthetic.
The Q10 is compact enough to type easily on the keyboard with one hand, but it's just a touch thicker than I would have liked. It's 10.4mm (0.41 inches) thick, and that's just enough to make it feel slightly chunky. The sides flare out ever so gently as well, so it's a little wider than it may initially seem and everything located on the sides (ports, buttons) are at a slight angle.
That all said, the Q10 is still very manageable and comfortable to hold in the hand. It's nice and lightweight at only 4.9 ounces and the backing of the device has a high-quality feel to it, featuring "woven glass" with a soft-touch finish, so it's durable while also being comfortable and grippy at the same time.
The Q10's square, 3.1-inch Super AMOLED display is a little peculiar given the 16:9 (or 9:16, depending on which way it's held) display ratio of almost all modern smartphones, so it takes some getting used to. That said, BlackBerry has done an admirable job making sure that content is scaled accordingly so users are consistently left suffering through black widescreen bars on the top and bottom of the screen.
The quality of the display is decent, as it has both its strengths and weaknesses. The 720p resolution may normally be somewhat unsatisfactory on a larger screen, but the smaller display results in a perfectly serviceable 328 ppi. Colors, which are a touch oversaturated, are great with a nice vibrant look to them.
Unfortunately, the brightness of the display is sorely lacking as, even on its highest setting, it did not appear terribly bright. This was especially problematic in outdoor situations where the brighter backlight would have come in handy. The other issue was the screen's sensitivity; whereas on the Z10 I could easily flick my thumb back and forth across the display to navigate my way to and from the hub, I often found myself have to repeat gestures two or three times on the Q10 to swipe windows away.
Besides the QWERTY keyboard, the layout of the Q10 is basically identical to that of the Z10, with Blackberry's familiar three button rocker located on the upper right hand side, while micro USB and micro HDMI ports reside on the left. The power button and a 3.5mm headphone jack can be found on the top edge, and the speaker grille is on the bottom of the device. The front-facing camera and a notification LED are located in the upper right-hand corner of the front, while the rear-facing camera and its flash are on the back in the upper left-hand corner.
The microSD and SIM card slots are both found behind the phone's removable back panel, though it doesn't come off quite as easily as the Z10's. Instead of simply being a pry-off back door, users need to push down and slide it off the back to gain entry to the battery and card slots.
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