Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Blackberry Priv

I've never liked Blackberry phones because they have very limited functionality and features to be even called a  smartphone.  Their decline in the market was inevitable when compared to the iOS, Androids and Windows phones. However, it’s now time to resurrect the Priv. Let's see if it's got what it takes to come back in competition.

Design, Display & Hardware:


The Priv (Would that be Privacy or Privilege?) is a great looking handset with the slide out QWERTY being it's main selling point. You might not find any real competition to this form factor in the market today. The only problem is the keyboard feels too crammed unlike any other Blackberry device, even the recently launched Passport. You still get used to it if you really enjoy typing and using its smart features. More on that later though!.

The right side of the device has the volume controls and a mute button in between the rocker. Yikes!   Alongside the left edge has the Power button, while the bottom edge has the Micro USB and 3.5mm jack. The top of the device has a slot each for the nano SIM and the Micro SD card.

The 5.4” AMOLED capacitive curved edged screen with 540 ppi is one of the best looking screens, maybe next only to the Samsung S6. Below the screen is the front speaker grill taking up the full width of the device and ultimately adding to the overall look of the phone. The back meanwhile feels soft and offers a good grip, thanks to the fact that it’s  made of carbon/glass weave.  It does press in a bit which is not something I like personally considering the fact that it's a flagship device. Naturally, it also has the 18MP camera lens and the trademark Blackberry logo underneath.

The zippy Snapdragon 808 chipset with a Dual-core 1.8 GHz Cortex-A57 & quad-core 1.44 GHz Cortex-A53 & Adreno 418 GPU gives the Priv all the power along side 3GB of RAM & 32GB ROM. The battery is 3,410 mAh sealed one wireless charging and Qualcomm Quick Charge 2.0 support which can get you from zero to 60% in about 30 minutes. But guess what, there's no quick charger in the box which sucks!


Software:


It comes out of the box with Android OS v5.1.1 Lollipop and a custom BlackBerry launcher, not something you'd ever expect to read but that's the reality. RIM should get credit for already having their own OS being able to natively install Android apps since last year, but using a different OS and mixing your core features and apps is a different ball game all together, which again they've played very well here in the Priv.

Feature-wise , there are Popup Widgets for some apps, for example which on being swiped up show up latest info/notifications . Sliding up from the bottom of the screen like we do for the Google search also has option of adding 2 more shortcuts so you can set them for your favourite apps , which is a neat little feature.

Then there's the slide out quick actions hidden on any of the left or right edge you want for tasks, contacts , messaging options . Not customisable though but can be turned off.

Camera :


The rear camera is 18MP (4896 x 3672 pixels) phase detection autofocus camera with OIS, dual-tone LED flash, Schneider-Kreuznach optics supporting 2160p video recording. The camera interface is neat but the same can't be said about the app which crashes and freezes quite a few times. Video recording at 1080p is 60fps while 4K limits to 30fps. Daylight photos are great while the ones at night are nothing to talk about.

The 2MP front-facing camera supports 720p video recording & a selfie panorama mode. One of the most disappointing front cameras on any phone this one! My old Samsung Grand clicked better pictures. Blackberry need to fix this in the Priv 2 if it ever comes out as a flagship.

Gaming & Multimedia:


AnTuTu benchmark score of 45787 are just above the Huawei Mate S but significantly lower than LG G4, Nexus 5x, Moto X Pure edition etc. You get the jist, same processor on core Android phones working more efficiently that they do on the Priv. Other tests like GFX 3.0, benchmark OS II etc. are nothing to rave about other just confirming that it's not really high end graphic/gaming device.

The touchscreen keyboard has some extra features like predictive text which come up as a word on the alphabet and can be inserted as text by a swipe up action.

The physical keyboard meanwhile doubles up as a trackpad and allows home screen scrolling , swiping pages for ebooks etc. Swiping back on them also lets you delete words . Also, all keys can get an option of  assigning shortcuts by long pressing them.

There's only Google Play music as default and no video player so Google photos is your only option which obviously means only a few video formats supported and you'll need an additional player. Speaker quality is great and with the earphones it's not bad either.

I tried Asphalt 8 but it didn't work really great when using the motion controlled option and the phone did heat up quite a bit.


Conclusion:


A Non-removable battery, missing quick charger, lacklustre front camera and a hefty price tag are some flaws with the Priv which some Blackberry fans won't mind but if you've been an Android user for long, look at the flagships of all major brands to get your Christmas gift  !

The Blackberry Priv gets a 3/5.

★★★☆☆

Pritesh Khilnani


Blackberry Priv at CeX


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