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Hands-On: BlackBerry Classic

Article Comments  4  

Dec 17, 2014, 2:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman
updated Dec 18, 2014, 2:45 PM

BlackBerry's Classic smartphone harkens back to the devices of yesteryear. Its defining feature is a physical QWERTY keyboard, something phone makers have left in the past for good reason. Here are our first impressions of the Classic.

BlackBerry is back! Sort of. After teasing the device for months, BlackBerry fully revealed the Classic smartphone at an event today in New York City. The Classic, as the name implies, harkens back to BlackBerry's more successful series of devices, such as the Bold 9900. It is a bar-style device that's half screen and half keyboard. It's for people who absolutely must have physical keys on which to type. Here are our initial impressions of the phone.

BlackBerry still knows how to make a quality piece of hardware. The company clearly crafted the Classic with care. The design is conservative to a fault. The black front and back surfaces are wrapped in a chrome band that speaks of class all the way. I like the way the metal offsets the plastics. It's perfectly suited to those who wear suits and spend their days in boardrooms and corner offices. It's a handsome piece of hardware that any executive would be proud to carry around.

By today's standards, it is a compact phone. I had no trouble holding it in my hand. The footprint is small enough that I was easily able to reach the entire front face — screen and keyboard — with my thumb. It isn't too wide or too tall, but it is rather thick and somewhat heavy. Most people shouldn't have any trouble stuffing it into their pockets, but smaller people might.

BlackBerry Classic  

The materials are excellent and they are all assembled tightly. The metal frame is solid and the plastic rear shell is strong and tucked into the frame nicely. The glass for the display has a nice feel to it under your thumb.

Because this is a classic BlackBerry, it is riddled with buttons. There's a strip below the screen that contains five physical buttons: send, menu, trackpad, back, and end. At first I thought these were capacitive buttons; it turns out they are simply flat mechanical/physical buttons. There are no physical markings to help your thumbs differentiate between them. The trackpad is, of course, rather obvious. The travel and feedback of these buttons is decent. The trackpad works really well and has excellent feedback when pressed, but I wish the main controls were a but punchier.

The 35 buttons that form the keyboard are excellent. They are small, but have a great shape that makes them easy to tell apart as your thumbs dance across the surface. BlackBerry has long separated the keyboard rows with metallic frets, as they aid usability. The frets are easy on the eyes, too. The keys have fantastic travel and feedback, with the perfect little click when pressed. The keyboard is BlackBerry's table-stakes feature, and BlackBerry nailed it.

Both the SIM card and memory card are accessed via separate trays built into the left edge of the phone. You need a paperclip to eject them. BlackBerry has its standard three-key array on the right side of the phone. The array positions a user-assignable action key in between the two volume directionals. All three keys have a decent profile and excellent travel and feedback. The screen lock button is on top, alongside the stereo headset jack, and the microUSB port is on the bottom.

The rear shell, which is NOT removable, has a dimpled pattern to it that I find comfortable against my skin. I'm rather shocked the battery isn't accessible, as BlackBerry has long touted this as a user-desired feature on its devices.

The 3.5-inch screen, which has 720 x 720 pixels, looks good with BlackBerry OS running on it. Text and GUI elements all looked sharp and the screen is bright enough to be used outdoors. After spending a few moments using the phone, I can say the UI works quickly on the device and didn't stutter or crash.

The BlackBerry Classic is an interesting return to form for BlackBerry. Many companies have left keyboards far behind in favor of more screen real estate. BlackBerry believes its core business users prefer the keyboard to a larger screen.

Here's what it looks like next to several other devices:

Classic Compare  

We plan to give the Classic a run for its money over the days ahead and will publish a full review before the holidays.

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.


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Dec 17, 2014, 4:16 PM

Please post some comparison shots

Such as next to common phones, big and small so we can tell how big it really is since it's hard to find it in a store presently.
crackberry.com or n4bb.com
I added a few.
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