BlackBerry Q5: A more pocket-friendly qwerty

Jul 28, 2013, 06:01 IST | Nimish Dubey

It is the most affordable BlackBerry device to be launched running the new BlackBerry 10 OS, and comes with the iconic QWERTY keypad as well, but can the Q5 spur a BlackBerry revival?

When BlackBerry released the Q10 in India a few weeks ago, the response was a decidedly mixed one. While there were many who loved the build quality and the return of the traditional QWERTY keyboard, an equal number also bemoaned the price tag of Rs 44,990, which put it in the high-end category, and up against formidable rivals like the iPhone 5, the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4.


The “it is too expensive” charge had also been levelled at the predecessor of the Q10, the all-touch Z10, which was the first phone to run BlackBerry’s new operating system, BlackBerry 10 (BB 10), but again came with a price tag of Rs 40,000.

Being expensive is not a charge that can be levelled against the third BlackBerry device to be launched in India this year, the Q5. Like the Q10 and Z10, it runs on BB 10. Like the Q10, it combines a physical QWERTY keyboard with a touchscreen. However, unlike its predecessors, it does not cost a bomb. No, at Rs 24,990, it is not cheap either, but it is certainly the most affordable BB10 and QWERTY-touch phone around.

And contrary to what some might think, it is not exactly a watered down version of the Q10, but looks rather distinct. It is narrower and just a bit thicker, and unlike in the Q10 which had large, adjoining keys, the Q5 comes with smaller ones that standalone -- it is the difference that we used to notice in the keypads of the Bold and Curve series.

Build quality is starkly different too. While the Q10 had a more curvaceous and smooth look to it, the Q5 looks taller and a lot more plastick-y. No, it does not look cheap and feels solid enough to hold but neither does it have the class that the Q10 or even its Bold processors with their metal accents used to exude.

The back cover is not removable and neither is the battery. The specs are respectable, a 1.2 Ghz dual core processor, 2GB RAM, 8 GB onboard storage (expandable via memory card), dual cameras (5.0-megapixel at the rear, 2.0-megapixel in front) and a stack of connectivity options. All this, of course, is topped off by the BB10 OS which responds very well to touch and comes with seamless social connectivity and mail and messaging muscle.

We found the keyboard on the Q5 not really in the same league as the Q10 in terms of comfort. The 3.1 inch display comes with a 720 x 720 resolution and a pixel density of 328 ppi, which makes it decent enough for viewing Web pages and videos.

And as in the Q10, using the phone involves using both the keypad and the touchscreen -- there is no D-pad or call receive orend button, and you will have to swipe the touchscreen to unlock it and also to navigate across screens.

We still think BB 10works best on the all touch Z10 and its larger display, but thatsaid, the touch-type combo actually works better on the Q5 rather than the Q10, as there is some space between the screen and the keyboard (in the Q10, the keyboard started almost right where the touchscreen ended).

While call quality of the Q5 was very good indeed, we found the 5.0-megapixel camera a bit of a letdown, with faded colours and mediocre low-light performance, although the onboard editing tools do help matters. But then, not too many buy a BlackBerry for its camera, do they?

Which brings us to the core question: should you be thinking of investing in the BlackBerry Q5? The answer, as in the case of the Q10, depends upon just how much you type. And in this case, we would also add a caveat -- it also depends on whether you were comfortable with the key layout on the BlackBerry Curve series. If you do type a lot and have no problems with the ‘island key’ QWERTY layout, then the Q5 is a very good option for typing addicts.

However, if you are addicted to the Bold series keyboard, the Q5 is not for you. Yes, the BB10 interface is a huge improvement over its predecessor, but it is not in the same league as Android or iOS when it comes to apps. No, we would not hail the Q5 as BlackBerry’s “budget warrior”. At Rs 24,990, it is hardly super affordable, but for someone looking for a good touch and type experience with a budget below Rs 25,000, it is a very decent option.

Processor: 1.2 GHz dual core
Display: 3.1-inch display with full QWERTY keyboard
Storage: 8 GB onboard storage (expandable )
Connectivity: Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G
Camera: 5.0 megapixel camera
OS: BlackBerry 10
Price: Rs 24, 990

* Good touchscreen
* Qwerty keyboard makes typing easy

* Camera is a let down
* D-pad is absent 

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