Some Words about the BlackBerry Z10 - A short Review

Some Words about the BlackBerry Z10 - A short Review

Submitted by Detlev Conrad … on Sat, 02/09/2013 - 23:50

I am a fan of the BlackBerry, primarily because no other company offers a similarly secure product but also because their phones (and the tablet) are robust and reliable. The keyboard on the Pearl 8120 (my first BlackBerry) was a huge improvement over a "regular mobile phone" (despite the small buttons, it was very easy to use) while the Bold 9900 (my second BlackBerry) offered the full QWERTY experience on which I happily typed multipage documents (including draft sections of my photography guide and transfer report for the PhD).

BlackBerry Z10 smartphone

I am normally also a touch screen opponent. My first touch screen device was an Acer n35 PDA in 2005. This was only followed by a Sony MP3 player in 2009 (I still have it) and my BlackBerry PlayBook in late 2011.

The touch screen on the Bold 9900 doesn't quite count as it was more an "add-on" besides the conventional controls, composed of buttons and the trackpad.

 

Despite not being keen on a touch screen for  anything but the coarsest of control and definitely not typing, I got a BlackBerry Z10 - deciding that I wanted one after playing with a demo model for a few seconds.

As far as touch screen phone goes, the Z10 is about as good as it can be done. The size is perfect for single or double handed typing, the keyboard is well sized, the predictions are very good (especially as it learns from your writing) and the spellchecker can only be described as brilliant. Admittedly, it is not quite as precise as a keyboard (I notice from typing in my password to unlock the phone - I was quicker and less likely to make a mistake on the keyboard) when typing "random characters", but for text or specifically coherent messages and notes, the spellchecker does its magic and sometimes corrects words that do not have a single right letter in them.

Other than that, as is standard for any BlackBerry, the phone comes with essential functionality "on board", such as emails, calendar, contacts and documents - including support my Microsoft Active Synch (yes, full access to MS Exchange, but one needs to click on the advanced options when adding the account). This is possibly an area where views differ between users, given that I expect a tool more than a toy, BlackBerry have done a brilliant job with the Z10. There was a moment when I was apprehensive as to whether I would like the BlackBerry Hub, well, it turns out I do like it.

Please watch the keynote for a detailed demonstration of how it is implemented in detail.

However in a nutshell, the BlackBerry Hub offers a combined message centre that makes all messages accessible to the owner and provides quick access to the next appointments. Sorting by message type is just a swipe away.

BlackBerry Z10 logo

Owning a PlayBook, the gestures are reasonably straightforward to use. A "home button" of any sort is most definitely not required on the BlackBerry 10 which "feels at home" in a purely touch screen environment.

 

The browser is fast and very responsive, in fact I am under the impression that sometimes the browser is too fast for the network connection. Pages render well and even heavy websites are responsive and easy to access and use. If one wishes to read documents without the clutter of advertisements, the reader mode introduced on the PlayBook allows for the extraction of the article content displayed on a light grey background - great for reducing eyestrain.

 

Given that I have an interest in photography, I should possibly comment on the camera and the quality of its output. I belong to the group of people who believe that photography is only achievable with a dedicated camera and that even a low end compact camera will beat a phone.

Nevertheless, I do consider the Z10's camera performance to be impressive for a phone. The autofocus is reasonably fast and accurate and releasing the shutter to record an image is extremely fast. However, similar to all camera phones, the JPEGs that are output are heavily compressed and zooming in closely one is able to discern compression artefacts.

Why could BlackBerry not allow for the option of RAW data output? It would be a first and make the camera even more impressive.

In low light, the camera will show some noise, so as with most mobile phone cameras, the Z10 will provide the best results in good light. But if the light is good, the results are very impressive (given the compression limitation mentioned above).

BlackBerry have decided to further include a photo editor with the phone by default, just playing with it, the sketch effect looked very well on a test image. Even for those that do not like "fancy effects", BlackBerry has been so kind as to include the essentials of any photographer - white balance, "brightness" (which acts like exposure), contrast, saturation, noise reduction as well as sharpening are all available in the supplied photo editor. (Note to self: I would need to test this on a photograph taken with an SLR or similar to see how compressed the output is, I have not tested this.)

lackBerry Z10 black & white

The OS as a whole can only be described as extremely responsive and quick. Multitasking is no problem either. Great attention has been also given to tiny details that make the user experience more enjoyable. When the calendar application is minimized, it will display the next appointments, BBM will show the last update (not message, update) while the file manager will give an overview over the free space available on the device and the SD card. It is this attention in to detail that makes the Z10 a great product.

Screenshot 1Screenshot 2

In conclusion I can only praise the BlackBerry Z10 for what it is - the best BlackBerry to date, an excellent business tool and brilliant smartphone.

 

Having mentioned all these positive points, let me be a bit picky and point out some very tiny, minor issues I have:

- The alarm clock offers not rising volume, I need to set the volume in advance... I really liked the ascending volume option. I don't want to be jolted out of bed by a loud (and the Z10 can get loud) alarm, nor do I want to oversleep because it was too quiet. Using music, I found a suitable compromise, but the ascending alarm would be best to have (little Update request for RIM?:))

Having said that, being able to select the days on which the alarm is to sound individually is a plus over the "older system" that only knew "every day", "weekday" and "off".

- When I use BBM messenger or text messages I sometimes end up in that subcategory of the hub. I close the application go into the Hub and am struck by a minute's confusion until I realize that I am not seeing all messages, however that might just be me...

 

I cannot honestly comment on battery life yet as I have so far either overused the phone (downloading Osmand maps for example) or charged it throughout the day. So far, this Saturday has been the first day during which I have used the phone throughout the day without charging it. Most of the day is now over and the battery is still very healthy. In expected BlackBerry fashion, the battery life on the Z10 most definitely is not a disappointment and from my experience so far, it should easily live throughout the day to be fed overnight.

Alternatively, the most heavy of users can always chose to buy a spare battery and swap it in as required.

 

So, what can I say - I am a happy customer.

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