BlackBerry Q5 review

£330
Price when reviewed

Early this year BlackBerry dragged itself out of the dark ages with a slick new operating system, and it’s now onto the third new handset of its new generation – the BlackBerry Q5. It follows hot the heels of the BlackBerry Z10, and the keyboard-equipped BlackBerry Q10, both of which attracted criticism for their high prices.

Step in the Q5, which is a good £170 cheaper than the Z10 and £200 cheaper than the Q10, a much better bet for email warriors on a budget. The phone has a more basic specification than the Q10, but the cuts aren’t too drastic. You now have a five rather than eight-megapixel camera, the dual-core processor runs at 1.2GHz instead of 1.5GHz, and the 3.1in, 720 x 720 display is an IPS rather than AMOLED model. However, there remains 4G support and NFC.

The Q5 is no looker. It’s available in black or white and is all hard plastic, with no rubberised rear to take the edge off, and the battery is sealed within – unusually for a BlackBerry device. It feels tough, though, and the keyboard is a good one. The spaces between the keys meant we hardly ever pressed the wrong one when typing, and we found it possible to bash out long emails quickly. We did find the keyboard was slightly too wide to use comfortably one-handed, though.

BlackBerry Q5

However, the rest of the operating system is simple to use with one thumb. BlackBerry 10 is built around gestures and messaging, and it’s always quick to get to your mail. Swiping up a little way from the gesture bar above the keypad brings up a sidebar showing if you have any new messages in your various accounts, and from there you can swipe to the right to go straight to the last inbox you used. Swiping left again anywhere on the screen gets you to the BlackBerry Hub – basically a list of your various email and social media accounts, texts, BBM, notifications and calls, with new activity displayed on each icon.

It’s a neat system that cuts through the tangle of ways we use a modern smartphone, and makes the associated information overload more manageable. The operating system also copes well with running multiple apps. Wherever you are, swiping upwards on the notification bar takes you to an open application view, where running apps are presented as cards allowing you to switch to them or close them.

The operating system also looks good on the Q5’s screen. It may not have the deep blacks of AMOLED displays such as the Q10’s, but colours are still vibrant and text is sharp. We could even read the text on web pages when fully zoomed out, but the screen’s limited vertical resolution compared to that of most smartphones means you’ll spend more time scrolling. We weren’t as impressed with the screen’s outdoor performance. While the Z10’s hyper-bright screen could cope with sunlight, the Q5’s screen looked much dimmer. It was still usable, but it struggled in sunny conditions.

The phone isn’t particularly quick, as shown by a lethargic 2,328ms in the Sunspider 0.91 JavaScript benchmark (the phone’s browser can’t complete the Sunspider 1.0 test). It renders web pages quickly, but there’s an occasional jerk in the operating system, especially in the menus. The Q5 has slightly below-average battery life; after 24 hours of use, including 30 minutes of phone calls, an hour of listening to podcasts and an hour of web browsing, the battery had dropped to 50%; we expect to see 60% remaining from a smartphone after this test.

BlackBerry Q5

We’re not that impressed with the Q5’s camera either. It takes reasonable indoor shots, apart from in very low lighting where noise becomes a problem, but we didn’t like its outdoor photos at all. Photos are dull, lifeless and lacking in detail, and colours are all over the shop. It reminds us of phone cameras from five years ago.

The Q5 is excellent for messaging and comes with some competent built-in apps for services such as Facebook and Twitter, but the rest of the app selection can’t compare to iOS or Android. We’re not fussed about raw app numbers, but rather the absence of key useful programs for UK dwellers. There’s a BBC iPlayer app, but this just loads the mobile iPlayer page, which works perfectly, but with heavily letterboxed video for the square screen.

Those of you who like to stream audio from a Synology NAS or use the Trainline app to book tickets are also out of luck. It isn’t a huge disaster, as many needs are served by mobile versions of websites, but if you have more specific requirements, such as using your phone to control your home entertainment system you’ll be out of luck.

BlackBerry 10 is the best operating system for email there is, and we’re happy to see a less expensive handset to show it off; you can pick up the Q5 for free on a £21-per-month contract. The Q5 may not have much sense of style, or the app choice of Android phones, but the keyboard is great and the operating system runs smoothly. If serious messaging is your thing the Q5 is a good-value alternative to the Q10 and Z10.

Details

Cheapest price on contractFree
Contract monthly charge£21.00
Contract period24 months
Contract providerbuymobiles.net

Physical

Dimensions66 x 11 x 120mm (WDH)
Weight120g
Touchscreenyes
Primary keyboardPhysical

Core Specifications

RAM capacity2.00GB
Camera megapixel rating5.0mp
Front-facing camera?yes
Video capture?yes

Display

Screen size3.1in
Resolution720 x 720

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth supportyes
Integrated GPSyes

Software

OS familyOther

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