- OS: BlackBerry 1 0.1
- CPU: 1.2GHz dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
- Memory: 2GB RAM
- Storage: 8GB ROM (expandable up to 64GB via microSD)
- LCD: 3.1 in. 720 x 720 (329ppi) IPS LCD
- Camera: S.OMP (rear) with AF; 2MP (front)
- Connectivity: 2G/3G/4G, Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n,
- Bluetooth 4.0, NFC
- Dimensions: 120mm x 66mm x 10.8 mm
- Tactile QWERTY keyboard
- 4G LTE support
- Wi-Fi hotspot
- Fast and efficient operation
- Plastic build
- Deficiency in app market
- Although it’s not for everyone, the BlackBerry Q5 is a more than capable smartphone. Its tactile QWERTY keyboard and 4G LTE connectivity help professionals become productive even when they’re on the move.
BlackBerry to me is the stubborn punk of touchscreen smartphone suburbia, where each brand’s offerings are hardly any different from one another. Punk isn’t for everyone, and so are BlackBerry QWERTY phones. I happen to belong to the faction that loves QWERTY smartphones.
The Z10 got all the attention, being the company’s first smartphone to conform to the all-touch trend. Despite being a fresh take on, the Z10 failed to leave its mark because it really felt like BlackBerry wasn’t being itself. However, it was with the arrival of the Q10 that we got to see the potential of BlackBerry Z10 as a contemporary platform for touchscreen/ QWERTY phones. Now, with the Q5, BlackBerry hopes to offer the things that made the Q10 stand out in a more modest and more affordable package.
The Q5 is, in essence, a budget Q10. It’s about the same physical dimensions as the Q10, except its edges are less rounded, giving it a more rectangular shape than its predecessor. The two phones also differ in build quality; the Q5 looks and feels less premium because of its plastic construction, which also makes it weigh significantly less. You also get the same screen size (3. 1 inches) and resolution (720 x 720 pixels) as the Q10, but instead of a Super AMOLED display, the Q5 is furnished with an IPS LCD screen. The bezel is noticeably thicker than that of the Q10, which is a good thing since you’ll be doing a lot of bezel-to-screen gestures.
The key similarity between the two devices is, of course, the full QWERTY keyboard, although the one on the Q5 has spaces between keys. My only complaint with the keyboard is that the keys are flat and sunken, which makes it a teensy bit more challenging to use than the Q10 and the Bold and Curve models. No matter how intuitive virtual keyboards are, nothing beats the real thing. Some people, like me, type faster and more accurately when their thumbs are pressing real buttons, and are therefore more productive on QWERTY phones than on touchscreen devices. Also, for touchscreen devices, you’d typically need a wireless keyboard to get some decent work done, but with the Q5, you can be nearly as productive as you would be if you were using a laptop.
Right out of the box, the Q5 gives you the ability to type Word documents and read the ones you save to your drive or download from your email client, and it’s all thanks to the pre-installed Docs To Go app. Docs To Go mimics and scales down the environment of Word, Powerpoint and Excel to make sure that Q5 users are still able to work on a familiar platform and with the most widely used file extensions. You even get the basic formatting options like bold, italicize, underline, and justification settings. Having the app packaged with the phone just makes the Q5 even handier.
Because of these features, having the Q5 in my pocket was like having a teensy laptop with me at all times, and that meant I could work on the fly without compromising convenience. In fact, this very review was created entirely on the Q5 using Docs To Go.
The best part about the Q5 is that even if it’s much more affordable than the Q10 and the Z10 (it retails locally at PHP 18,690), BlackBerry still managed to pass on one of the most significant functionalities of the two previous BB10 smartphones: support for 4G LTE. Such functionality allows people like me to go online in a non-Wi-Fi zone without compromising speed.
Although I was only able to use 3G/ HSPA+, I was able to put the Q5 to good use while I was on the go. I sent emails, did some research and communicated with my Facebook contacts, plus I was also able to use the Q5 as a nifty mobile hotspot for my laptop.
With a QWERTY keyboard, Docs To Go, and a speedy internet connection, I was able to get twice as much work done when I was on the move. It was almost as if I hadn’t left the office at all, and that’s a lot of value for those who have a mobile lifestyle.
Aside from productivity purposes, the Q5 does a pretty good job at multimedia as well, what with a crisp screen, efficient rear and front facing cameras, and a more-than capable loudspeaker. It also has NFC capabilities, which make it compatible with certain speaker units and enable it to share files wirelessly with other capable phones and tablets. The Q5 runs BB10.1, meaning you get the two most important features that come with the standard BB10 OS: BlackBerry Hub and BlackBerry Balance. The former is a really convenient function that keeps all your email, social media, and messaging notifications all in one place and lets you access them with a single swipe to the right, while the latter separates your work files from your personal files. Version 10.1 gives both features a few minor upgrades.
The device also gets a version of BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) that supports screen sharing—a nifty feature you can use to coordinate with your colleagues. With BBM Groups, you can also communicate and share lists and calendar appointments with up to 30 other users.
Features aside, the Q5 is a really capable phone. Performance is overall fast with little to no lag, on-screen action is smooth, the capacitive screen is very responsive, and the amount of hours it can run on a single charge is pretty workable.
While BB10 smartphones are able to run Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Dropbox, Twitter, Gmail, LINE, and Viber, there aren’t a lot of apps to choose from over at BlackBerry World. It’s unfortunate that BlackBerry doesn’t have as wide an app market as iOS and Android (and potentially Windows Phone 8) because BB10 is such a promising platform-for me, at least-and I’d hate to see the lack of app support be the cause of its unpopularity. It is, after all, an external factor that does not change the fact that the Q5 is a convenient, well performing, and incredibly helpful device.
First published in Gadgets Magazine, October 2013
Words by Racine Anne Castro