Hands-On: BlackBerry Z10 and Q10
Here is a first look at the BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 smartphones. Both phones run the new BlackBerry 10 platform and will reach U.S. carriers in mid-March.
BlackBerry, which used to be called RIM, announced two new smartphones today, the Z10 and the Q10. Here is a quick look at the Z10.
The Z10 is the monoblock touch phone that has a 4.2-inch screen. Think of it as a PlayBook Mini. It has a simple design that's very reminiscent of the PlayBook with its corners and edges. It is conservative, which is what we've come to expect from RIM and its devices. It certainly doesn't look cheap, and the overall impression it leaves is a good one in terms of overall appeal.
RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said the Z10 and Q10 aren't made of plastic, but that's what the materials feel like to me. They have a plastick-y feel, there's no doubt of that, but if they are made of plastic, it is good plastic. The manufacture, fit and finish all felt solid, which is something we've nearly always said of BlackBerry devices. These weren't manufactured in some chintzy, hole-in-the-grand plant.
Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.
I found the Z10 comfortable to hold and use. It doesn't sacrifice one-handed functionality for a too-large screen. It measures a hair under 10mm thick, and is thin enough that it will slip easily into pockets. It is lighter than I expected it to be in the hand.
The screen measures 4.2 inches, a measurement that RIM said it will use in future touch screen devices, and includes 1280 x 768 pixels. It is an LCD panel and looks good. It has a high pixel density and I didn't see any individual pixels in my time with it. It is plenty bright and colorful, as well. It's a very good screen.
The buttons on the outside of the device could be much better. I particularly didn't care for the volume toggle on the right edge. It had a cheap feel and travel and feedback weren't that good. The screen lock button, which is on top, had a better feel to it. The Z10 has a headphone jack on top, and both microUSB and microHDMI ports on the left edge.
The user interface is of course BlackBerry 10, which is brand new. For a brand new UI, it looks extremely polished and quick, though some of the gestures needed to control it take time to learn properly. We'll detail BlackBerry 10 in a separate post.
If you want to know if the Z10 hardware is better than the iPhone or a Galaxy S III, all I can say is that the hardware falls in the middle of the two: not so good as the iPhone, but a smidge better than the GSIII.
The Q10 is a traditional BlackBerry for those who like their physical keyboard. It looks and feels almost identical to the older BlackBerry Bold designs, but in a thinner, lighter, updated package.
Everything about the Q10 looks and feels great. Those married to their older devices will be pleased with the keyboard-touchscreen combo that provides the physical feedback they need with the touch experience they want. The materials have a great feel to them. The outer shell has a nice shape (and a cool pattern) that give it a good texture and make it pleasing to hold/use.
The buttons on the Q10 are better than on the Z10. The volume toggle, in particular, is quite good, providing comfortable travel and feedback. The screen lock button on top also felt good. It has the same set of ports on the right edge, and headphone jack on top.
Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.
The keyboard is great. It is a classic keyboard, with scalloped keys offering excellent travel and feedback. I had no trouble pecking out messages on the Q10 in the (really) short time I spent with it.
The screen measures 3.1 inches across the diagonal and has 720 x 720 pixels. It is a good little screen, but the odd shape (square) means that it sacrifices things like watching movies in a widescreen orientation. If consuming video is one of your favorite things, perhaps consider the Z10. I found the screen to be bright and colorful, and very pixel-rich. One thing of note, it is a Super AMOLED screen, while the Z10 uses an LCD panel. According to RIM representatives, the Q10 will have vastly superior battery life thanks to the power-saving features of Super AMOLED displays.
I can't say anything about the weight of the Q10, as all the devices on hand today were tethered and couldn't be lifted without wires attached. Even with the wires attached, it didn't feel all that heavy.
The user interface of the Q10 was just as responsive as on the Z10, but the lack of physical control buttons (send, BB, back, end) will really weird out long-time BlackBerry users. It takes a while to get the hang of the BlackBerry Flow gestures to get it right.
In all, however, the Q10 is a worthy follow-up to the BlackBerries of old.
Here is a really short video tour of how the user interface works.
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