BlackBerry Q5 Review
Phone Set Up16/20
Camera & Video14/20
The BlackBerry Q5 is a great budget smartphone
The news has been inundated lately with negative comments BlackBerry’s decline. But does this mean it’s all doom and gloom for BlackBerry fans? The Q5, BlackBerry’s third device sporting the BB10 platform is a mid-range smartphone with a traditional physical QWERTY keyboard.
But will it be enough to incite feelings of hope for BlackBerry, or will the Q5 add to our widespread disappointment with BlackBerry’s flagging fortunes?
The phone at first glance looks very much like a traditional BlackBerry device; it has a relatively small 3.1-inch display, a physical QWERTY keyboard and what I can only describe as a remarkably ‘flat’ fascia.
Although the handset that I am reviewing is black, the BlackBerry Q5 does actually come in white, pink, grey and red variations, in true BlackBerry style.
At 120g, the phone is quite lightweight, though despite its 8.6mm thickness, the Q5 doesn’t feel as slim-line as it perhaps should, perhaps because of the rounded back casing. Speaking of the phone’s back casing, I find that this above all is what makes the Q5 feel and look ‘cheap’.
Although I am usually not a fan of textured exteriors on smartphones, the BlackBerry Q5’s plain, smooth casing makes you feel as though you are using a phone designed for the most basic of users. In practical terms, the plainness of the phone would also lend itself to scratching easily; in fact, the silver BlackBerry logo on the device’s back became scuffed after just a few days of use.
Comparing the Q5 to older BlackBerry models, the device benefits from having a slightly longer screen than most, making watching videos, texting and video-chatting much more user friendly. Also, the phone’s keys are far more spread out across the Q5’s 66mm width, making it slightly easier to type on compared with some BlackBerrys.
Under the hood the BlackBerry Q5 doesn’t blow me away, though for a mid-range device, its 1.2Hz dual-core processor, 8GB storage and 2GB of RAM isn’t bad. The phone’s 5 megapixel camera and lack of removable battery might be a sticking point for some users, however.
Phone Set Up
The main feature that makes the Q5 stand out from other mid-range smartphones is the fact that it sports the latest BB10.1 operating system, aimed to revolutionise the way users navigate around their device.
As seen on both the BlackBerry Z10 review and BlackBerry Q10 review, the Q5 works by swiping left and right to flit through apps, swiping down to access your settings and swiping upwards to exit an application. Although it takes a while to get used to having no permanent navigation buttons like with iPhones and Androids, the platform is actually really easy and quick to use.
Another feature of BB10 is the BlackBerry Hub, which sits to the far left of the phone’s screens, and houses all of your personal notifications, from Facebook updates to messages, missed calls and BBM alerts. This is another good way of keeping in touch with your friends and colleagues without having to manually launch individual applications.
I also like the fact that the camera icon remains permanently on screen as you flit through your apps, making it really quick to launch the camera whatever you’re doing. Furthermore, being an organisational freak, I appreciate that BlackBerry has numbered the app screens, allowing you to quickly locate specific apps without having to scroll through them all.
Lastly, one updated feature of BB10.1 is the search function. This allows you to start typing from an app screen and the device will find whatever you’re looking for. For example, if you want to find a specific text message and don’t want to scroll through your entire inbox, just type in the name or a key word that features in the message and the Q5 will locate it!
Again, Q5 offer much the same selection of features as the higher-spec BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 models, including Story Maker, which allows you to create short movies made up of your personal photos; BlackBerry Messenger (BBM), a free messenger service; and Docs To Go, an office app that allows you to open, create and edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents.
BlackBerry has come under fire for not offering enough apps in its app store. Although we have completed a deeper investigation into this (READ: BB10 vs iOs vs Android), here’s a summary of all of the apps which the BlackBerry World does include:
- Facebook Messenger
The popular apps which BB10 doesn’t offer include:
- Angry Birds
- Candy Crush Saga
Also, the BlackBerry World provides users with some alternatives to popular apps which it doesn’t offer, such as Hungry Birds (a loose alternative to Angry Birds), Candy Blast (like Candy Crush) and PicStory, an alternative to Instagram.
Therefore, while the BlackBerry app store doesn’t offer users quite the same wealth of apps as its Android and iOS counterparts do, the everyday BlackBerry user wouldn’t have to go without completely.
Camera & Video
After reviewing both the BlackBerrry Z10 and Q10 devices, I wasn’t really expecting too much from the BlackBerry Q5’s camera. However, whilst the camera wasn’t truly amazing, I felt that it matched the quality of the flagship BlackBerry models despite having fewer megapixels and being designed as a mid-range smartphone.
As with all BB10 devices, the BlackBerry Q5 allows you to take photos in quick succession by simply touching anywhere on the screen, which I really like. If you are turning the phone on its side to take a landscape shot, you can also use the phone’s volume keys to snap shots within a second.
The BlackBerry Q5 offers best face detection which is really easy to turn on from the main screen; the app simply takes a number of shots in quick succession and allows you to flit through them to find the one where you’re looking your best! You can use the feature with the front facing camera also, which is great for taking selfies!
In terms of additional camera effects, the BlackBerry Q5 lets you switch on Scene Mode, with options including Auto, Action, Whiteboard, Night and Beach or Snow. There are also a number of artistic and colourful filters which you can apply to your photos to make them look more creative. This feature is something that you’d expect on a high-spec handset, but not so much on a mid-range smartphone, so it’s a really welcome feature on the Q5.
In terms of actual photo quality, as you can see from the gallery to the left, the photos aren’t too bad, especially for a 5 megapixel camera. The Q5 won’t be winning any awards for its camera, but for a mid-range smartphone, the Q5 will certainly allow you to capture your most memorable moments.
The BlackBerry Q5 features a 2180mAh battery, which is actually slightly bigger than the BlackBerry Q10. And although I found that the Q5 performed pretty admirably when it came to battery life, I did find that it was near impossible to gauge accurately exactly how much juice you had left in the tank, so to speak.
Most Android devices allow you to see a detailed breakdown of which apps are using your phone’s battery, allowing you to terminate various apps when your juice is running low. Most other phones also allow you to switch on a power-saving mode in order to turn down your screen’s brightness and turn off battery-draining apps in order to conserve its power. However, I found that the BlackBerry Q5 offered none of this- not even a percentage of how much battery was remaining- which, alongside the fact that the battery is not removable, makes it impossible to avoid your phone dying on you if you find yourself without a charger.
In terms of battery performance, though, the Q5 was really good. Designed especially for business, the Q5 would allow you to check your emails, browse the web and create documents for hours on end, meaning that the above issue of not being able to switch on a power-saving mode is largely redundant.