Review: BlackBerry Z30 for Verizon Wireless
Dec 5, 2013, 2:00 PM by Eric M. Zeman
BlackBerry wades into the big-phone fray with the Z30. The Z30 has a huge screen, a fast processor, and plenty of smarts, but it lags competitors in several key areas.
Is It Your Type?
The Z30 breaks new ground for BlackBerry with its large screen and improved design when compared to the Z10. Those seeking a phablet-size BlackBerry that performs well finally have a device of their own.
The BlackBerry Z30 is the company's first entry into the phablet market. It boasts the biggest screen ever on a BlackBerry - 5 inches - and the large footprint that goes with it. Though it carries over many of the smaller Z10's design elements, the Z30 has updated styling and thus somewhat of a better personality than its little brother.
The Z30 is a big phone, though it doesn't rival devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 or Nokia Lumia 1520. Its size is closer to that of the Galaxy S III or LG Nexus 5. It is tall, wide, thick, and a bit heavy. Where the Z10 was fairly plain, the Z30 could have come from Motorola's Droid RAZR design studio circa 2012. The front is black with a gray strip below the display. There's a metallic band that that circles the entire outer edge that separates the front panel from the back cover. That band has a matte finish that I like. The back cover has a carbon fiber pattern appearance, with a soft touch finish that’s comfortable and grippy.
The overall footprint of the phone is significant, but BlackBerry did a good job in making the device usable. For example the front edges are tapered slightly, and the sides are rounded nicely to reduce the size of the Z30's back surface. There are no hard right angles, like those that defined the Z10. Quite honestly, the Z30 is more comfortable to hold and use than the Z10, despite the significant difference in size. This demonstrates just how important the design of a device's edges are. The Z30 will fit into most pockets, though its weight makes its presence known at all times. The soft touch finish was prone to clinging onto the insides of my pockets when I attempted to retrieve the phone.
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On the front, there's a slit at the top for the earpiece speaker next to the ever-present blinking BlackBerry indicator light. There are no physical buttons on the front of the phone. The area directly below the actual screen is touch sensitive so you can use the upward swiping gestures of the BlackBerry 10 operating system.
There are no buttons on the left edge. Instead, like most BlackBerries, the Z30 houses a dual-port setup that includes microUSB and microHDMI ports. They are positioned the exact same distance apart as on the Z10 and Q10 so as to be compatible with accessories and docks. The volume toggle is on the right edge of the Z30, with a user-configurable action key in the middle. All three buttons have a low profile, making them difficult to tell apart. Worse, they have terrible travel and feedback. For such vital keys, I was hoping for better. The screen lock button is on the top. It has a better profile and much better travel and feedback. The headphone jack is next to it.
The battery cover is damned near impossible to remove. I couldn't pry it loose with just my fingers and had to resort to using a knife to get the necessary leverage. That's annoying. You'll be disappointed to learn that the battery itself cannot be removed. That means you're stuck with the 2,880mAh power source. This is atypical for BlackBerry, which normally prides itself on offering removable batteries. The SIM card and memory card are tucked side-by-side in the side edge of the Z30, and you have to remove the back cover to access them.
In all, it's a pretty decent piece of hardware with only a few problems worth complaining about.
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