BlackBerry Z10 review
It's only a smartphone, but much rests on the BlackBerry Z10's slim shoulders. It's the first phone to sport the long-awaited BlackBerry 10 smartphone OS, and carries with it all the hopes of a once-great technology company. With BlackBerry's (formerly RIM) share price and sales on the slide, the Z10 needs to make a big impact if it's to have any hope of turning the firm's fortunes around.
As such, it's perhaps appropriate the new phone bears more than a passing resemblance to the most successful smartphone around. From the profile of the rounded corners to the flat, chopped-off edges, the Z10 looks like the iPhone 5's big brother. If it's a sibling, though, it's certainly the uglier one, with a textured, cheap-feeling, soft-touch plastic rear and thicker 9.1mm waistline proving entirely less alluring than the iPhone's aluminium frame.
Still, we do appreciate the minimalist design – the volume rocker on the right-hand side and power button on the top edge are the only physical controls – and the 4.2in, 768 x 1,280 display strikes just the right balance between screen real estate and pocketability.
The Z10 is nothing if not practical, though. Lever off the back of the Z10 and you'll discover a replaceable, 1,800mAh battery and a microSD slot, ready to expand the existing 16GB of internal storage. And there's little else missing from the list of specifications: it has both front and rear-facing 8-megapixel and 5-megapixel cameras capable of capturing 1080p and 720p video respectively; there's Bluetooth 4, NFC and dual-band Wi-Fi covering the wireless side of things, plus 4G compatibility.
On paper, the Z10's core specification looks competitive, too, with a dual-core 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Plus processor backed up by 2GB of RAM – right up there with the best on the market. And the first time you fire up the Z10 the signs are good. Slide a thumb from right to left to access the app drawer, take a peek at your messages, swipe through an inbox or two and all is well. Web pages in the browser respond smoothly to pinch, pan and scroll gestures, and even streaming HD material via YouTube plays smoothly.
Start to dig a little deeper, fire up a few apps and leave them running, however, and things look less rosy, with animations and transitions from screen to screen juddering frequently. Demanding 3D games were occasionally reduced to a sluggish crawl: Wipeout-clone Ragged Edge started dropping frames madly as soon as the action started to heat up.
Running the SunSpider browser benchmark revealed that the browser isn't the quickest either. It completed the tests in an average time of 1,902ms, which is slower than both the iPhone 5 (932ms) and Samsung Galaxy S III (1,430ms).
The display is altogether more impressive. Here, the benchmark is the iPhone 5, which reaches an eye-searing 582cd/m2 at its highest setting; the Z10 outstrips it. Indeed, we measured it at a frankly astonishing 715cd/m2 – the brightest phone screen we've come across by quite some distance.
Now, we should point out there's no way to disable the auto-brightness setting, so the BlackBerry Z10 only reaches this high brightness under direct and full sunlight. The rest of the time it hovers somewhere around 300cd/m2 to 400cd/m2 in office conditions, which is still perfectly acceptable. You can also turn the brightness down manually, should you so wish.