BlackBerry Z10 review

The Z10 is a beautifully crafted device with excellent messaging capabilities.

  • Intuitive OS, Smooth performance; removable battery
  • Internet performance could be better; Lack of flagship apps on launch

Design and display

With its block rectangular look the Z10 looks like a cross between an iPhone 5 and a Samsung Galaxy S2. That's a good thing. It's comfortable to hold because of the matte finish on the back and it's not heavy at 137g.

Pull it out of your pocket and you'll attract "oohs" and "aahs" from friends and they'll be surprised when you tell them "it's a BlackBerry". Yes it's cool to have a BlackBerry again because it no longer looks like it was made in 1997.

BB10 - Back

The screen is a good size at 4.2ins and comes with a resolution of 1280 x 768 and a pixel density of 356PPI.

It's bright too, although it was hard to provide an exact measurement of the brightness because there is no way to turn off the auto-brightness. This means the display on the BB10 constantly adjusts to surroundings.

BlackBerry Z10 smartphone

In bright sunlight we did manage to get a maximum reading of 715cd/m2 on the Z10, which blows away the figure we got on the iPhone 5 (582cd/m2).

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We have a theory in the Dennis office that auto-brightness cannot be turned off on the BB10 because, if it was disabled and a user left the brightness on maximum, the battery would be chewed up in a couple of hours.

Hardware

BlackBerry hasn't talked up the hardware like some other manufacturers insist on doing, but this doesn't mean that it's sub-par.

The Z10 is powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core Qualcomm MSM8960 processor and is paired with 2GB of memory. Performance of the OS is super smooth easily on par with iOS and Windows Phone when it comes to smooth transitions between screens and apps. There's absolutely no stuttering.

We particularly like the ability to see exactly the amount of RAM being used in the Settings > About > Hardware menu, so you can kill apps to free up memory. However, it would be useful to be able to monitor data allowance as not everyone has an unlimited allocation.

In terms of storage, there's 16GB of internal space on offer, which can be topped up with 32GB via the micro SD card slot. The device has all the usual features such as an accelerometer, digital compass, gyroscope and GPS. It's also got Bluetooth 4 and NFC connectivity as well as 4G functionality. It has the standard micro USB connection and also micro HDMI output, so you can connect it to a TV or projector.

The device has also got the ability to create a mobile hotspot so you can connect other devices such as laptops and tablet to the internet when you're on the move.

Battery

BlackBerry has packed in an 1,800mAh battery pack into the Z10, which the firm says should keep it going for up to 10 hours of video playback or 11 hours of talk time. It's swappable too, so heavy duty users can always carry a spare.

In terms of real-world usage, you'll get a day out of the handset with moderate usage as long as your location tracking is turned off.

We did find the battery had drained 25 per cent overnight when it wasn't connected to any Wi-Fi networks and had only received a handful of messages. This seemed a bit much and we'll be looking into this further. We've raised this issue with BlackBerry and will let you know when we hear anything.

In our intesiveIT Pro battery test, which simulates a 12 hour day, the BB10 handset powered through the day and still had 19 per cent battery left after 12 hours. To but this in context, this puts its behind the Galaxy S3 (27 per cent remaining), and outdoes the iPhone 5, which died after 10 hours.

Overall

BB10 feels like a polished OS, not rushed like the original version of the Windows Phone. The BlackBerry software may not have the quantity of apps available to iOS and Android users, but it is the safest OS and has the best messaging system on any platform. We'd rank it higher than the Windows Phone OS in terms of usability and it has the potential to woo disgruntled iPhone and Android users. The Z10 is a solid all-rounder and BlackBerry will no doubt continue to boost functionality with software updates.

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Update:BlackBerry is now rolling out the BlackBerrry OS 10.1 update to BlackBerry Z10 device users to further help enhance their mobile experience. The news was revealed during the BlackBerry Live conference in Orlando at the same time as announcing the BlackBerry Q5 device and BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES) 10.1 download availability.

"BlackBerry 10 as a platform is entirely new. This is not an update to an older BlackBerry OS. It has been completely redesigned, re-engineered and reinvented," Heins told conference delegates. "We're committed to making BlackBerry 10 the mobile platform that will take the industry into the next and new era of mobile computing. That's what we're destined to do.

BlackBerry released its first software update for the BB10 OS at the beginning of March 2013. It provided five critical updates including fixes for the battery life, camera video playback and apps. The update was pushed out via carriers and BlackBerry said it was working to make it available as soon as possible.

The Canadian firm also confirmed that the Whatsapp would be made available for BB10 during March 2013.

Then, in May 2013, BlackBerry held the first of its European BlackBerry Experience Forum events in London, which are designed to reiterate the business benefits of its new BB10 handsets, operating system and enterprise server.

During the event, the company treated attendees to a sneak peek at some of the new features it is planned to introduce to BES 10 in order to bolster its interoperability with iOS and Android devices.

Meanwhile, the firm's CEO Thorsten Heins discussed the early success of the Z10, describing early sales of the device as "encouraging".

In June 2013, BlackBerry claimed that a security flaw in the Z10 - which potentially risked allowing hackers to get root-kit access to the phone - was too difficult to exploit without a great deal of user help.

This article was first pubilshed on 04/02/14 and has been updated multiple times (most recently on 11/08/14) to reflect new information that has become available since its original publication.

Verdict

An excellent effort from BlackBerry, the BB10 OS is smooth and has all the key features you'd expect. It's easy to navigate and the messaging hub is the best on any platform. The hardware included in the Z10 is also up there with iPhone and Galaxy S3.

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OS: BB10

Display: 4.2in 1280 x 768, 356PPI

Processor: 1.5GHz Qualcomm dual-core

RAM: 2GB

Internal storage: 16GB + micro SD support up to 32GB

Camera: 8-megapixel rear w/Flash, autofocus, 1080p HD recording, 2-megapixel front

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, 4G

Ports: micro USB, micro HDMI

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