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BlackBerry Q10 Smartphone Hardware Review (BlackBerry 10.1)

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This is the time many of you have been waiting for. BlackBerry is finally pulling back the curtains on their iconic BlackBerry Q10 with its full QWERTY keyboard. I had the pleasure to use the BlackBerry Q10 for the last week and I have to say BlackBerry has really managed to release a refined product with the BlackBerry Q10. The Q10 offers a level of familiarity combined with the latest technology that will truly appeal to users looking for the quintessential BlackBerry QWERTY Keyboard experience. This is especially so when compared to the all touch BlackBerry Z10 we reviewed in January.

I highly recommend reading our updated review of BlackBerry OS 10.1 that ships with the BlackBerry Q10 along with our original BlackBerry 10 operating system review and walkthrough. Now lets get right into it and review what the BlackBerry Q10 offers.

The Keyboard is BACK! Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

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If you really boil down what makes the BlackBerry Q10 different then you would have to focus on the keyboard. When we reviewed the BlackBerry Z10 we told you that it was the best keyboard we have ever used on glass. After using the BlackBerry Q10 I have to say that physical QWERTY keyboards still hold the crown. While the BlackBerry Z10 virtual keyboard shames most of the competition it is still a far cry from the real feedback you get from a physical keyboard. Especially when that keyboard is meticulously designed by BlackBerry, the masters of smartphone keyboards.

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From the face of you device you can see that the keyboard now takes about 1/3rd of the front of the device. Because of that modification we now have a square screen instead of the previous rectangular screen on the Bold 9900. This is also due to BlackBerry doing away with the call buttons and trackpad because of the gestures in BlackBerry 10.

Specifications

The specs on the BlackBerry Q10 are similar to the BlackBerry Z10 with a few exceptions. The main changes are the 35 key QWERTY physical keyboard with backlight and the 3.1” superAMOLED Display at 720×720 square resolution. That screen is impressive and has a 330ppi which looks gorgeous. I also found that the screen was way more resistant to fingerprints than my BlackBerry Z10. Hopefully they will bring that back to the Z10.

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One of my favorite improvements on the Q10 over the Z10 is the 2100mAh battery compared to the Z10’s 1800mAh battery. That coupled with the Q10’s smaller SuperAMOLED screen leads to much better battery life.  Also worth mentioning is that these devices have Bluetooth Class 1 which has a further range.

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So where is everything?

BlackBerry more or less kept things in the same place on the Q10 relative to the Z10. I appreciated that BlackBerry moved the MicroUSB charging port down so it does not interfere with typing when charging.  The battery cover slides down instead of snapping off like the Z10. Another small change is the proximity sensor moving to the left of the earpiece from the right though the camera stays in the same place.

Specs

How does the build quality compare?

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BlackBerry really took the quality up a notch with the BlackBerry Z10. As I mentioned the screen is much more resistant to fingerprints along with being a brighter SuperAMOLED display. BlackBerry spruced up the Q10 with steel accents all around. The frets between the rows of the keyboard are a sleek steel band. They also confirmed that the band around the device is also just black steel which is beautifully cut out for the buttons and speaker. I have dropped it twice already with nary a scratch.

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The back of the Q10 is also a bit of an inspired mix between the Bold 9900 and Bold 9700. It is made out of a carbon fiber like plastic made specifically for BlackBerry to allow for maximum RF transfer. They also placed a beautiful accent band right between the battery door and camera. That band actually sticks just a tiny bit to prop the device up on a table and keep the battery door clean. The charging port on the Q10 also feels solid though not as strong as the 9900 which was partially steel.

How does it feel in your hand?

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One of the things that really made me fall in love with the BlackBerry Q10 was the new rounded back which is a mix of the 9900 and 9700 Bolds. It has a very soft feel that really just fits perfectly in your hand and offers just the right amount of traction. I really prefer it compared to the boxy edges on the Z10 and even the 9900.

External Characteristics

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The BlackBerry Q10 is truly the iconic BlackBerry design. When you see it you cannot mistake it for anything but a BlackBerry. The main thing that sticks out is the new front with its bigger screen and straight keyboard. Keyboards on older BlackBerrys used to be either arched in a smile or frown. The Q10 keyboard is straight but the keys stick out vertically into a sort of downward-sideways facing curve. Just imagine the 9900’s keys with a bit more curve.

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The thing that really threw me off is that the Q10 seems to have three microphones or at least that is what it seems like. The Z10 introduced 2 microphones for better noise cancellation and HD voice. The Q10 details still say 2 microphones so it could just be another hole…

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The BlackBerry Q10 battery is still removable like the BlackBerry Z10 which is nice for a quick battery replacement. You can hotswap MicroSDHC cards though you have to reboot for SIM cards.

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Do gestures work well on a smaller bezel?

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It seems like BlackBerry  did a bit of tweaking to the bezel gesture system in BlackBerry OS 10.1. When we tested this out on the demo BlackBerry Q10’s in January it was difficult to perform the swipe up gesture. Now on the official OS 10.1 this gesture is effortless on the smaller screen. I dare say it is easier than the Z10 since your thumb naturally ends up right where you gesture if you are using it with one hand.

Can you use the BlackBerry Q10 with one hand?

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One of my favorite features on the BlackBerry Bold 9900 and previous devices was the ability to use it with one hand. I am happy to report that BlackBerry seems to have been paying attention to avoiding thumb acrobatics. Gestures and menus are relatively easy to access with one hand. Like the 9900 OS there are sometimes menu buttons on the top of the screen you want but I rarely find myself stretching for them.

What about Keyboard Shortcuts?

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With the return of the keyboard in the BlackBerry Q10 we thankfully have keyboard shortcuts. All of the key shortcuts seem to be there though a few less common ones are missing. Thankfully you can use keyboard shortcuts to do things like move back and forward between messages though the animation of closing and opening the email is a bit much.

 Instant Action

BlackBerry took keyboard shortcuts and universal search a little bit further with Instant Action in BlackBerry OS 10.1. This allows you to just type something like “Email Ronen” and enter and it would open up an email to me. It really works nicely!

Camera

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The camera on the BlackBerry Q10 is the same as the BlackBerry Z10. BlackBerry has really improved the low light capabilities of the camera and the hardware itself is top of the line with an 8-MP back camera and a 2-MP front camera, so both can record 720p video. The camera snaps pictures quickly and now also has an HDR feature for low or saturated light pictures.

Storage and Memory

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The Q10 follows the Z10 with 2GB of RAM which seems to be more than enough. Once again it only has 16GB of storage built in which is expandable with MicroSDHC cards up to 64GB. Hopefully BlackBerry will allow installing apps to the SD card in the future.

Processing Power

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The BlackBerry Q10 has the same 1.5Ghz dual core processor as the BlackBerry Z10. If anything the Q10 seems faster than the Z10 but that could just be a factor of the new OS. I have not run into any slowdowns so I would not consider this an issue. The Q10 also does not seem to get as hot as the Z10 when you use it constantly for awhile.

Wireless – Cellular, LTE, Wi-Fi, & Bluetooth

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The wireless connectivity of the Q10 is the same as the Z10 so no big differences there. The only change is that all the device models have LTE from what I can tell. They did manage to make the Q10 better at keeping LTE data even in weak zones. Bluetooth 4.0 is also in the Q10 which should lead to some fun accessories. We also have the same mobile hotspot and mobile tethering over USB and bluetooth.

So how is battery life?

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In the last week I have been really impressed with the Q10’s battery. The BlackBerry Z10 battery is not bad but compared to older BlackBerrys it was wanting. The Q10 solves that with easily surviving through a day of hard use. I have not had to use the second battery pack BlackBerry gave us as an accessory.

Does the bigger battery take longer to charge?

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I found charging to take a tad longer than the Z10 due to the larger battery. On the other hand I HIGHLY recommend the MicroUSB PlayBook Folding Blade charger that charges the Q10 and Z10 twice as fast as the charger that comes with the Q10!

Conclusion

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The BlackBerry Q10 is clearly the top smartphone for people who want QWERTY physical keyboards. It is no question the most refined device in the class. This is the BlackBerry 10 device physical keyboard lovers have been waiting for. The real question is if people who are not dead set on keyboards should get the BlackBerry Z10 or BlackBerry Q10. I have managed to break it down into an easy decision. The trade off is between the classic BlackBerry physical keyboard versus top gaming and movie watching on the BlackBerry Z10’s widescreen. Quite a few games ported to BlackBerry 10 are not going to work beautifully on the Q10 due to its square screen. For example, I am not sure how Cut the Rope would work with its portrait orientation. On the other hand I had no problem playing Angry Birds Space.

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The BlackBerry Z10 seems like it will be the BlackBerry 10 device with the largest gaming catalog and the BlackBerry Q10 seems to be the most efficient for email, contacts, calendar, etc. If you have to choose then you have to see which one of those is most important to your needs. Personally I found that the on screen keyboard of the BlackBerry Z10 gave me about 60-70% of the efficiency of a real physical keyboard. Its leaps and bounds ahead of other keyboards like iOS but still it does not hold a candle to the Q10.

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To sum it all you really are choosing between a keyboard or a bigger screen. Each is a tradeoff. Hopefully BlackBerry will revive the Torch line and we will not longer have to choose! Let us know if you have any questions. Also make sure to check out our review of BlackBerry OS 10.1 to get the full picture!

Some more pictures for your viewing pleasure…

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28 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. I hope the prices go down soon…

  2. Great review Ronen. I agree, Blackberry should include saving apps to your SD card, so you don’t feel limited by the 16 GB.

    • What do you think? I am not sure if they will allow it due to security. I think an alternative is to allow game developers to store their assets on the SD card.

      • Nice review Ronen, guess you had your hands on that for a few days. In my opinion the Z10 should have 32GB because it’s a gaming phone however the Q10 is ok to have 16 only.
        Can’t they encrypt the programs on the SD cards?

      • Here’s another thought for you Ronen. How about Blackberry giving the option of making the active frames so that it will display the minimized active tile info, no matter what app your in. I think this would increase the usefullness of Active frames, because people are generally just jumpin around from app to app and not just staring at the homescreesn

  3. That was a great review…. Thank you…

  4. Yep, great review :)
    You should add this pic to give an idea of which parts are metallic.
    http://rimblogs.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/screen-shot-2013-04-23-at-10-48-05-pm.png

    Comes from BB’s post about the design of the Q10
    http://blogs.blackberry.com/2013/04/blackberry-q10-design/

    And I wonder if the 2nd hole at the top isn’t some sort of sensor.

  5. Oh and I’d like to know what people think of the blueish screen. You only get whites when you’re looking straight at the screen. A slight tilt and it’s blue-white.

  6. Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oled#Disadvantages

    and various Android threads since they’ve had the “problem” for years.

  7. Yay! Come to papa.

    btw, ‘farther range.’ should be ‘further range’.

    :)

  8. Both have the same definition, and are synonyms.
    “More distant in space than another item of the same kind”
    hehehe

    So, is it Vaze, or Vase?

  9. Soon to be the best phone out there with a physical keyboard. No doubt.

  10. I love read your opinion on the blackberry and I am looking forward in getting the Q10..

  11. Can anyone tell me how the Blackberry Q10 PIN will look like, I know Porsche start with 2AA.. what will the Q10 start with.. please tell me

  12. Nice Review Ronan! I think I’ve read 80-95% of the q10 reviews, and yours is easily the best. It covers all the questions about the device without any bias, everything someone interested in it would want to know.

    Thanks!

  13. the video from Q10 is not accepted by BB 9700 bold because too large more than 6Mb

    I wonder if we can adjust the Pixel for lesser quality

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