Review: BlackBerry Z10 for Verizon Wireless
There are many, many new features buried within BlackBerry 10. For a full, in-depth look at everything, please see our review of the operating system here.. Our full review covers file management, document compatibility, Newsstand, StoryMaker, voice control, and much, much more.
BB10 has two apps for media playback, one for music and one for video. Both are somewhat lacking in pizzaz. They are simple and devoid of any advanced features, such as equalizers or other sound effects processing. They do a fine job of playing back the content stored on the Z10, though. Speaking of which, content can be sideloaded via microSD cards (the best option), via the BlackBerry Link desktop app (not recommended), or downloaded from BlackBerry World. The BBW store offers a decent selection of movies, TV shows, and music, with prices that are comparable to the Google Play Store, iTunes, and Windows Phone Store. In general, audio sounded good through my favorite headphones and video looked good on the Z10's display.
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The camera application is the best yet for a BlackBerry. There is no dedicated camera button on the Z10, so you need to use the lock screen shortcut or open the app from the app menu.
The camera on the Z10 opens quickly, and is incredibly fast to focus and capture images. Since there is no hardware button, images are captured by tapping on the screen. Tap the area you want the camera to focus on, and that's what it does.
Additional features are kept to a minimum. There are buttons that let you switch between the video camera, main camera, and user-facing camera. Shooting modes, which control the camera's focus and shutter speed, include normal, stabilized, and burst. Scenes, which are used to help with exposure and white balance, include auto, action, whiteboard, night and beach/snow. You can also toggle the flash between auto, on, or off.
There's also the TimeShot feature, which is meant to help capture the best image of peoples' faces. The feature essential shoots five quick shots and, using the on-screen tools, you can select which of the shots looks best for each of the faces detected in the viewfinder. It's cool if you have little kids or people who blink all the time.
The Z10's camera is 8 megapixels and takes average photos. I was impressed with its ability to obtain sharp focus and good white balance, but exposure was often incorrect and there was more grain than I'd like to see from an 8-megapixel shooter. It does not perform well at all in low-light situations, and the flash doesn't do much to help.
The Z10 can shoot video up to 1080p HD. Most of the video I shot looks good, but it revealed the same type of problems that the regular camera did. It tended to blow out whites and other bright areas, while also leaving out the details in dark spots. Focus was good, though, and colors looked great.
The gallery application works well when it comes to managing, editing, and sharing photos. The default view in the gallery app shows the most recent images captured with the camera. They are shown in a grid. You may also choose to sort via albums, thanks to controls that line the bottom of the screen.
The editing features are robust. Images can be cropped and rotated; enhanced to correct brightness, white balance, contrast, sharpness, noise, and red-eye; given artistic treatments through the application of various filters; and styled with yet more effects in the vein of Instagram. Once you're done editing the photos, you can share them easily to social networks, email, BBM, and otherwise upload the files to web sites and so on.
There are only two Verizon-branded applications on the Z10; otherwise, everything is a native BlackBerry-developed app or service. Out of the box, BlackBerry provides about three dozen apps on the Z10. The new on-device storefront for BlackBerries is called BlackBerry World. It offers BB10 owners not only apps, but music, movies, and games. The app itself is OK, but not great. The problem is with discovery. The app has tools that allow you to view only Games, Apps, Music, or Video, but even drilling down into these sections leaves you with plenty of work to do to find new and interesting stuff. Further, even though the Z10 launched more than two months ago, the 100,000 apps BlackBerry claims are in the app store are a thin selection at best. Major apps (Instagram, etc.) are still missing. Apps downloaded swiftly over LTE 4G.
The Z10's browser is a standards-based piece of software that does a much better job of handling the web than the BlackBerry browsers of old. It renders web sites quickly and cleanly, and offers features I like, such as multiple tabs, a solid bookmarking tool, and even advanced stuff such as private browsing. When used on Verizon's LTE 4G network, web sites loaded in the blink of an eye. In fact, I was surprised at how quick they were to load.
The Z10 connected with other devices easily. When paired with my car's hands-free system, phones calls sounded particularly good. I was able to pair the Z10 with stereo headphones. Playback worked fine, but the sound was thin and raspy. The Z10 can also be paired with other phones/tablets/PCs to share files.
The lock screen clock is a white digital clock that appears close to the top of the screen. As with many modern smartphones, the background wallpaper you choose plays a direct role in how visible the clock is at any given moment. Lighter wallpapers make it harder to read, darker ones make it easier to read. This is especially important when outdoors. The lock screen clock cannot be customized.
The Z10 comes with a brand-new BlackBerry Maps application. The app covers the essential turn-by-turn direction features, but lacks some of the extras that make Google Maps or Nokia Maps so good. For example, it can provide accurate routing between Point A and Point B, but there are no 3D flyovers, satellite imagery, or street views. Paired with the Z10's GPS radio, it was rarely able to pinpoint my exact location. It got the general area correct. When used on Verizon's network, the one saving grace is that maps loaded in a jiffy and were able to keep up with voice-guided directions.