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printed December 16, 2017
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Review: BlackBerry Classic

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Screen

The Classic's screen measures 3.5 inches across the diagonal. Like the displays of the BlackBerry Q30 and Passport, the Classic's is square. It has 720 x 720 pixels. That gives it the quality of a 720p display, just cropped down to a square shape. If you've grown used to the 5-inch wide-screens of today's flagships, dropping back down to a small, square screen is maddening.

BlackBerry claims the Classic's display is ideal for viewing email. Yeah, that's about it. I mean, it's sharp enough that on-screen elements look good and I found it plenty bright enough. Viewing angles are great. You'll be able to use the phone outside without issue, and reading emails is no problem. Looking at photos or videos on that small square screen, however, just plain stinks. There's no gentle way to say it. The Classic is not a media device, and that's never more obvious than when gazing at the screen.

Signal

The Classic is being sold unlocked at the moment, and is compatible with the HSPA/LTE networks of AT&T and T-Mobile. Verizon will also sell the phone, but so far we were only able to test it on AT&T's network around New York City.

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BlackBerry still knows how to engineer a decent telephone. With an AT&T SIM installed, I saw excellent performance from the Classic in both strong and weak network conditions. It connected calls on the first dial each and every time, even when there was almost no signal. It didn't drop any calls while I reviewed it.

Data performance wasn't quite as impressive, but it still managed to push and receive packets everywhere I took the phone. The Classic is about the slowest LTE device I've tested on AT&T's network. I didn't see a peak data speed over 12 Mbps under even the best signal coverage. In the same spot, other AT&T devices reached peaks close to 50 Mbps. When coverage was poor, web browsing slowed to a crawl, but it never timed out completely.

Sound

The Classic is an excellent voice phone as tested on AT&T's network. Calls exhibited above average quality with clear audio. The earpiece produces a significant amount of sound, and I never had trouble understanding conversations. Those who I spoke to through the Classic said I sounded “very good.” The speakerphone carries over the same call quality, which means loud and clear calls. I was easily able to use the Classic as a speakerphone in moving vehicles and other semi-noisy spaces. Ringers and alert tones are loud, too.

Battery

BlackBerry claims the Classic can deliver 22 hours of continuous use. The claim isn't terribly far off. I had no trouble getting the device to run from 8AM to midnight, and it often had plenty of power left at the end of the day. I'd say casual users can get two full days from the Classic's battery. Power users should be able to get a full day of hardcore use from the Classic with at least some room to spare.

The Classic includes a fairly sophisticated battery saving mode. You can control when it comes on, and you have a wide range of options to select for reducing power drain. For example, you can limit CPU performance, squelch notifications, turn off data/location, and so on.

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