- Physical keyboard
- BlackBerry 10 OS
- 3.1in display, 720 x 720 pixel resolution
- 8GB storage; 2GB RAM
- Price as reviewed: £289
BlackBerry is a company which is in turmoil. It has bet everything on its BlackBerry 10 operating system and a fleet of new phones to go with it. We've already seen the Z10 and Q10 flagships, and now we have the Q5, a mid-priced phone which features the most iconic BlackBerry feature of all - the physical keyboard.
However, as its recent worse-than-expected financial results highlighted, it is struggling to remain relevant in a world dominated by Google's Android. Can a £300 smartphone make the big difference? Let's see.
Design and feel
Sadly the Q5 is no where near as nicely designed as its more expensive siblings and feels decidedly cheap, despite its £300 price tag. It is made of a mixture of matte and glossy plastic and the rear case in particular looks like something I would expect to find on a sub-£100 budget Android smartphone from a no-name manufacturer - not from a well-known brand looking to re-establish itself in the smartphone market.
The black unit I reviewed (the phone is also available in red, pink, grey and white) attracted fingerprints easily and the volume buttons and fiddly flap for the SIM card and microSD felt weak and cheap.
I use the word cheap again because that is the overwhelming impression I was left with on picking the phone up for the first time and having used it for a couple of weeks, the impression hasn't left me.
The screen is 3.1in from corner to corner and has a resolution of 720 x 720 giving it a decent pixel density of 328 pixels per inch (ppi). It means text looks nice and sharp which is great for reading email and browsing the web on the phone. The IPS (in-plane switching) LCD technology used also means you get a great colour temperature and colours don't look over saturated. Viewing angles are good too, but with a screen this small it's unlikely you will be sharing it with anyone.
The biggest problem however comes from the screen's odd 1:1 ratio, rendering it all but impossible to watch videos comfortably, and it also makes webpages seem cramped and hard to navigate.
The screen is not the Q5's biggest problem, but it is not good enough to make up for the other problems.
The main attraction (I presume) for people looking to purchase the Q5 will be the physical QWERTY keyboard, a legacy of the pre-BB10 era.
Unlike the closed-up style keyboard on the Q10, the Q5 keyboard uses chiclet-style keys more traditionally seen on a laptop. Each key is its own little island in a sea of matte black plastic and while it might work well on a MacBook or Samsung Series 9 laptop, it doesn't translate as well to the Q5.
While the keyboard is undoubtedly better than most on-screen versions (with the possible exception of the Z10 ironically) it is simply not good enough to make you fork out almost £300.
Compared to the Q10 keyboard - which is superb - the Q5 keyboard is nowhere near as accurate. I found that if I tried to type at anything above crawling pace the keyboard just couldn't cope. Now it may be my typing skills, but there was no discernable improvement over the period of time I was reviewing the phone.
The layout is also a bit of an issue with the Shift and Alt keys in opposite positions to where I would have expected to find them.
The keyboard is far from terrible, but it's not a patch on the high quality Q10 keyboard and for someone with chubby fingers at least, lacks the ability to type accurately at speed.
Performance and BB10
The 1.2Ghz processor and 2GB of RAM powering this phone are more than enough for most of the tasks you will throw at the Q5. Web browsing, email, texting and BBM are, as you would imagine, handled without a problem.
The trouble is, watching videos on the Q5 screen is such a waste of time that whether or not the processor can handle it is a moot point. Similarly with games, the BlackBerry World app store is pretty thin on high-end 3D games so beyond Stick Tennis and Super Cricket it's difficult to fully test the potential of the Q5's power.
The BlackBerry 10 operating system of gestures works well on the Q5 with the BlackBerry Hub the star of this new system, bringing together all your email, messaging and social network notifications in once place.
But while BlackBerry Hub may be the shining light of BB10, BlackBerry World is still its most disappointing aspect. Despite BlackBerry's protestations to the contrary, the app store is sadly lacking in numerous core apps, and a large tranche of those listed are simply links to websites masquerading as apps.
Value and Verdict
The BlackBerry Q5 is a mid-priced phone which looks and acts like a budget device. There is very little to attract would-be smartphone buyers to choose this device over an Android or Windows Phone device of similar or lower price.
If you wanted to go budget, you could have a Samsung Galaxy Ace for £120 or a Nokia Lumia 520 for the same amount. For less than you pay for the Q5 you could pick up a Samsung Galaxy S3, which may be a year old but is still an excellent device and with access to the fully stock Google Play Store.
You could even get the world's thinnest phone, which has just been released, the Huawei Ascend P6 for £10 more than the Q5.
Basically what I'm trying to say is that the only reason to buy the Q5 is the physical QWERTY keyboard and if that is your priority, then BlackBerry pretty much has the market cornered - and unless you want to save up an extra £200 for the Q10, you are unfortunately stuck with the Q5.
- Overall 6/10
- Design 6/10
- Performance 8/10
- Screen 8/10
- Battery 7/10
- Value 6/10
- High resolution screen
- Decent keyboard
- Cheap build quality and materials
- Uninspiring design