Review Roundup: BlackBerry Q10 Puts the Keyboard Front and Center

Here's a representative sampling of some of the various Q10 reviews that have been trickling out.

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In case you hadn’t heard, BlackBerry has been attempting to claw its way back into the smartphone race. The all-touchscreen BlackBerry Z10 hit the market not too long ago (see our review here), but it’s the BlackBerry Q10 that true diehards have been holding out for.

Due out in the U.S. in late May, the Q10 sports an honest-to-goodness hardware keyboard reminiscent of the keyboards that turned mild-mannered BlackBerry owners into downright fanatics in the first place.

Here’s a representative sampling of some of the various Q10 reviews that have been trickling out. Not to be a spoiler, but the basic consensus seems to be that people who love, love, love BlackBerry keyboards won’t be disappointed with the Q10; everyone else might be a tougher sell, though.

Joanna Stern at ABC News:

It is a fully modern BlackBerry – and not just by BlackBerry standards. It’s fast, has a mobile browser that beats many of the others and an outstanding physical keyboard. No, its battery life and camera are not as strong as the competition, but its bigger issue lies with the fact that it runs a brand new operating system. While the software offers something entirely different than others, overall it and its app store lack the robustness of Google, Apple and even Microsoft’s offerings.

Many who have been waiting for a new Blackberry with a keyboard and a real browser will find the Q10 to be the phone they have been waiting on for so long. As for me, I’d replace my Bold with the Q10 in a heartbeat, but ultimately it’s not enough to become the only phone I carry.

Peter Svensson at the Associated Press:

[T]he Q10 is likely to be attractive to the BlackBerry faithful. It deserves to lure some people over from Androids and iPhones as well. The keyboard makes the Q10 a good complement to a tablet. Use the bigger screen for entertainment, surfing and gaming, and the BlackBerry for messaging.

When I reviewed the Z10 model in January, I found I couldn’t point to anything about it that would make me say: “Forget those other phones: you have to buy this one.” I can for the Q10. If you value a keyboard, this is the one to get.

Andrew Cunningham at Ars Technica:

This is probably what smartphones would look like if the iPhone had been introduced but had flopped. The BlackBerry 10 operating system, which is still primarily touchscreen-driven and borrows many post-iOS elements, seems more radically different from something the RIM of old would have designed. The body of the phone, though, is old-school to the core, from the small, squat screen to the size and shape of the body to the physical keyboard…

The Q10 is a very solid and well-built little phone, and it’s one of the few options available from any smartphone ecosystem for the physical keyboard holdouts. For most buyers, though, it’s going to feel like a throwback, and we don’t mean that in a good way.

Jonathan Geller at BGR:

All in all, the BlackBerry Q10 is a phone for a very limited group of people. It’s for hardcore BlackBerry fanatics who have to have a physical keyboard, but to be honest, I don’t see much point in a phone like the Q10.

The hardware keyboard actually adds way more frustration that it alleviates, forcing you to use a small, worse quality display that is harder to touch and navigate on than a big beautiful LCD. And, the Q10 doesn’t scream luxury to me either. It’s more like a mid-range phone, not a flagship QWERTY, especially compared to the BlackBerry 9900 — which is still the best keyboard-equipped smartphone BlackBerry has ever made.

If you want to try BlackBerry’s latest hardware and software, and have to have a BlackBerry, go with the Z10. It’s not the best smartphone choice you can make, but it’s certainly better than the Q10.

Kevin Michaluk at CrackBerry:

It feels absolutely great to use and will be an easy transition for those making the leap from a legacy BlackBerry. Beyond the typing accuracy and shortcuts afforded by a physical keyboard, the BlackBerry Q10 also has a gigantic battery, which may even be a bigger deal for a lot of people. Being able to coast through a full day without having to worry about fiddling with screen brightness or LTE connectivity is an absolute luxury in a world full of slim big-screen smartphones.

It’s a BlackBerry. It’s got the look of a BlackBerry. The feel of a BlackBerry. We may be living in a world of full touchscreen phones, but this is a modern day smartphone with a keyboard that people will be PROUD to carry, use and show off.

Brian Bennett at CNET:

How compelling the BlackBerry Q10 is really hinges on whether you believe that the ideal mobile device needs to be an efficient messaging machine first and a gadget for running apps second. If so, and I admit you’re in the minority, then the Q10’s superb keyboard and message-handling capabilities make it a perfect match. Its long battery life and comfortable keyboard may be what you’ve been holding out for, and the inclusion of BlackBerry 10.1 is extra icing on the cake. Those who want a phone tied to a bigger ecosystem and one that offers a wider selection of apps and services, however, should look elsewhere.

Tim Stevens at Engadget:

[O]ur testing found text entry to be faster on the Z10 than the Q10 in most situations, but speed doesn’t always equate to satisfaction. All things being equal, we’d prefer a physical keyboard to peck at than a piece of glass to smudge, but here we’d choose the Z10 just for that larger display.

And what of the broader question, of whether the $249 Q10 can help BlackBerry get its groove back and compete with the rest? There are certainly those who won’t buy a phone without a keyboard, and the Q10 is unquestionably the best phone with a keyboard on the market. However, given how weak the competition and demand there has become, we’re not sure cornering that market will move the needle very far in BlackBerry’s favor.

Daniel Howley at Laptop:

BlackBerry has done well by QWERTY fans by bringing a handset to market with a killer keyboard and modern operating system. The Q10’s small display will almost certainly turn off shoppers accustomed to viewing websites and videos on larger screens. However, for those who have been looking for a keyboard-equipped smartphone to hammer out messages, notes and more, the BlackBerry Q10 is a good choice.

Darrell Etherington at TechCrunch:

The BlackBerry Q10 is unique among smartphones, with its square display and hardware keyboard. And BlackBerry knows that it will appeal to a certain kind of consumer. What I found in using it, is that I actually gravitated towards tasks that were productive – zapping my inbox overload, typing up actual complete paragraphs for longer posts (I’ve never used another smartphone to do that), using the newly-ported Skype app to stay in touch with teammates. This is a business phone, and an unabashed one, and in a world where we often want our devices to do everything for us, a little focus is actually a very refreshing thing.

That said, evaluate your priorities if you’re thinking about getting a Q10: the app situation is still dismal for BlackBerry 10, despite progress made since the official launch at the end of January. And the OS software itself still has some bugs, too: I experienced one black screen freeze that required a soft restart, and one issue where my cellular signal continually dropped until I turned cell traffic off and then on again. For those reasons, I still have trouble recommending it generally over the iPhone or a top-tier Android phone, if only because of the ecosystem that now surrounds those devices. But if you’re a BlackBerry lover, or if you long for the days when you could feel that keyboard under your fingers, the Q10 is very impressive device, especially from a company that more than a few people had completely counted out completely.

Roberto Baldwin at Wired:

[F]or you power-hungry, data-consuming users who have stuck with BlackBerry through thick and thin, the Q10 is the phone you’ve been waiting for. BlackBerry 10 is a wonderful OS upgrade that brings with it most of the capabilities of a modern smartphone, while the keyboard you’ve relied on for years has gotten a welcome facelift. The Q10 is also worth checking out for people who are tired of on-screen keyboards and want to switch back to something more tactile. But if you’re not the typing type, and especially if you live for your apps and your photos, you’re better off sticking to the black rectangles with the bigger screens.