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BlackBerry Priv Review Part 1: The Hardware


I have to tell you that my hopes were quite high when BlackBerry first showed me their first foray into creating an Android device with BlackBerry DNA. I was skeptical based on our experiences with the first generation BB10 devices and yet I really want them to get it right. I have to say that I am overwhelmingly impressed with what they managed to do with this first iteration. There are just so many right decisions that they made without the usual trial and error we have become accustomed to. Essentially they have delivered to us a premium vanilla Android device with many of the core features we would expect from a BlackBerry. Think of it as a Google Nexus device with BlackBerry flavoring.


With so much new going on I decided to devote the first part of my review to the hardware. BlackBerry made some decisions here that are really impressive with them failing on only one front. i would have loved to see a Nexus Imprint like fingerprint technology on the Priv but it seems like BlackBerry is working on an advanced Biometric solution that is upcoming. Lets dive into the hardware. The first thing you experience when you put the Priv into your hand is how solid the device is and how good it feels in your hand. Its a bit heavier than some Android devices but in a good way. The surprising part is that you barely even notice that it is a slider. The device is so thin that you could easily mistake it for a candybar phone. On the front you are finding the screen dominates the phone with a little sliver on the bottom for you to slide up the keyboard. I really wish that they had a way to slide it up from the sides easily but it works like my old Torch. The front of the device has a beautiful bezeled screen and the keyboard that slides out feels pretty solid but not as great as the Q10 due to the key pitch. The keys are really easy to press and as an added bonus they act as a touchpad like the Passport keyboard!!! The back of the phone has the same carbon fiber style backing with a soft touch feel for grip. They also have a dominating camera with a beautiful lens that takes great pictures in my tests. They also added dual LED flash that are in two hues so it gets both daylight and yellow light so photos look more natural.

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Just look at how slick of a sliding mechanism they added on the Priv. From what they were telling us the reliability of that mechanism is rated to 200,000 opens and closes which is insane but they have labs that are going way way past that. The sides of the phone still have a nice grip and allow you to slide open the phone without it getting stuck in your hand. The button placement is confusing for those coming from Android devices since the power button is on the left instead of the top right. Still it is all about consistency with BlackBerry DNA

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The screen is nice and bright and does not smudge easily. Supposedly we have Gorrilla Glass v4 so we should be protected as well as we can. The screens does have hard edges so I do not think I will be able to drop this as often as I do my Q10.

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The keyboard slides out very easily and as I mentioned before it allows for swiping on top of the keys.

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The top of the device has a MicroSD slot along with a SIM tray together with a noise cancelling microphone. Thankfully BlackBerry put the charging port on the bottom of the phone as a MicroUSB slot instead of the newer and harder to find USB Type C. They added in Quickcharge 2.0 so it works with certified chargers. The bottom contains the headphone jack along with the main microphone.

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Overall phone quality is very high and as I mentioned before this phone screams high end. BlackBerry really aimed for the top of the market with this device and in the last week of using it side by side with a Nexus 5x I have to say that the BlackBerry Priv has won my heart by keeping the native Android experience and only adding key improvements. For example, they have added the BB10 double tap to unlock and a swipe from the bottom to open the hub and from the left to get a quick view of the hub view.

Battery life for the week I used it was excellent. I did not charge it all day and I was easily ending up with 20-35% at the end of the day of hard use. Phone call quality was also solid especially when I used Google Hangouts. I think BlackBerry has really delivered a premium Android experience and has enhanced it with BlackBerry usability. If BlackBerry keeps on refining this concept I think they have a strong case in the market. Especially if they keep on remembering all of the small features like keyboard hotkeys and shortcuts that they already implemented in the Priv!!!

Stay tuned for the initial deep dive into the BlackBerry Priv software and let me know if you have any questions!



6 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Good to see you haven’t left BerryReview Ronen! BerryReview hasn’t been the same since your contribution level dropped off.

    Thanks for the insight into this latest from Blackberry. I’m getting the itch to finally replace my Q10, Passport isn’t an option for me since I’m tied to Verizon, an Apple device will never be in the cards, and I can’t see going with a Windows phone, so Android it is. I really hoped this could be the Android for me. The other problem is I’m hard on my phones, every BlackBerry phone I’ve had since the 9650 has been in an Otterbox its whole life. Intrigued as I am by the Priv (despite the stupid name) what this review makes clear to me is I have to stop considering it as I just see no way to gain the full functionality of the device AND the protection of a case/skin. Maybe there is some ingenius case out there, but for me an uncased phone wouldn’t last a month so it looks like Q10 will be the end of my run with BlackBerry that dates back to 7xxx series devices.

    • Hi DavidB,

      I have missed the site. It has been really crazy personally but I hope to be able to get back to things in the near term. I sort of get what you are saying though I would definitely give it a shot if you are interested. Personally I thought it is a great way for BlackBerry to appeal to those who cannot give up the thriving ecosystem on other platforms. Its like getting the pretty good of both worlds. I have never seen otterbox do a slider case but BlackBerry has one already of their own shell casings. Ill have Luis take some pictures.

      • I guess I definately need to investigate case options more before I rule it out. That said, Vienna looks to me like the best hardware merge of BlackBerry and Android. Will have to see more about the keyboard though, I really miss the awesome keyboard from my Bold. Q10 keyboard IMHO doesn’t hold a candle to the Bold’s. Then again, I preferred thumbwheel over trackmarble or trackpad. 😉

  2. Great review Ronen, I actually broke down and got a Priv myself yesterday (was nearby a corporate AT&T store and they had 1 of 3 left in stock from opening day on the 6th…the authorized retailers seem to still be taking pre-orders and telling people it will be shipped in 3-5 business days). While it is a rather impressive phone, ultimately I think I like BB10 slightly better…the touch navigation just doesn’t compare (hub is a little less intuitive) and to be frank, I actually miss some of the core apps from BB10 that almost any BlackBerry users probably doesn’t think twice about. For example, BlackBerry Travel is better than any trip organizer I’ve yet to find on Google Play, and this might seem silly but hello, Android doesn’t offer a stock photo or music app that DOESN’T want to continually sync all your info to the world wide web? Sorry but I don’t like Google Play and I don’t like Google Photos. I don’t want streaming (I have an offline mp3 collection) and I don’t want to have to actively keep every new picture of mine off the web.

  3. Another observation, I’m excited about the leather case Shop BlackBerry has for it (and charging stand too!) but it will be interesting to see how much of an accessory market there is for it – that is definitely something that has weened quite a bit in recent year (premium accessories) and since my guess is the margins are pretty good (at least the AT&T sales guys are always pushing additional purchases every time I’m in the store), hopefully we’ll see an uptick (OEM and after-market) if the phone gains momentum.

    • Yes BlackBerry definitely was limited on what they could do on the Android platform. I was impressed with what they did manage to get done considering how long it took them to refine BB10.

      BlackBerry showed off about 10 different accessories to me. They even had a swivel holster for those that want to rock them. The leather case is nice but the brown color I got was not appealing.

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