2015-05-11 08:19 PM - edited 2015-05-13 05:06 PM
It seemed like yesterday when Blackberry (formerly known as RIM) was the top dog in the mobile world. However, fast track a few years later, the company has lost majority of its market share and is fighting to keep its head above water. The fall of Blackberry has been hotly debated in the media and amongst experts all over the world. Admirably, Blackberry attempted to compete with the likes of smartphone giants such Samsung and Apple with the launch of the Z3 but unfortunately failed due to the stiff competition. Blackberry was forced to go back to the drawing board and come up with a device that will prove to be a love letter to the glory days of a company in its prime. With that said, the Blackberry Classic was born. The device encompassed of all the qualities that made the company a force to be reckoned with. This included a full QWERTY keyboard, trackpad and a 3.5 inch capacitive touchscreen. This is a device for the most hardcore Blackberry purists. Did it live up to its expectations? Read on to find out.
- Square 3.5" 720p LCD display; 294dpi; Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- 1.5GHz dual-core CPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 chipset; 2GB of RAM
- 8MP camera with auto-focus; digital image stabilization; LED flash; 2MP front-facing camera
- 1080p video capture @ 30fps; 720p video capture for the secondary camera
- 16GB of built-in storage; microSD card slot; Dropbox and Box integration
- BlackBerry 10.3 OS with Virtual Assistant
- Ability to run Android applications
- The best hardware QWERTY keyboard in the business with customizable shortcuts
- Cat. 4 LTE (150/50Mbps); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0; NFC; GPS; microUSB (SlimPort)
- Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
- 2,515mAh battery
HARDWARE & BUILD QUALITY
Blackberry was always all about functionality. When it came to build quality, it was uneven at best. The Curve and Pearl were both manufactured using high quality plastics and it is no different here. This allows the phone to be utilized comfortably during one hand use and the dimpled back provides excellent grip. There is no metal unibody design like those found in the HTC One and iPhone 6. What you have here is a simple, yet elegant design that screams functionality rather than to be a status symbol. For the most part, this approach works. Functionality is definitely at the forefront here with the sim and microsd card placed ergonomically on the left side of the device. On the right side we have volume rocker and a dedicated Blackberry Assist button (More on that later). The star of the show is the fully fledged Qwerty keyboard which proves to be a an absolute pleasure to type with. There is nothing quite satisfying than the gentle clicks of a keyboard. Coming from a HTC One, it took me awhile to adapt. However, within a few days I was typing as fast as I would on a touch keyboard. The trackpad makes a triumphant return, but its use is somewhat negated with the addition of a 3.5 inch capacitive touchscreen. There were instances where I forgot about its presence as the device is fully operable using the touch interface alone. Nonetheless, the trackpad proves to an excellent alternative to the generic capacitive screen.
The Classic sports a 3.5 inch capacitive touchscreen. The display outputs a 720*720 pixel display. This may sound mediocre on paper but the smaller screen size results in a respectable 294 pixels per inch. The display proves to be business centric as media capabilities proves to somewhat awkward on a screen this small. For example, most videos will experience the letterbox effect since videos are natively widescreen. If you can get past the sub-par media capibilities, Blackberry purists will happily sacrifice the extra screen real estate for a fully functional QWERTY keyboard. The screen itself supports 16 million colours which allows for a rich experience on a more compact display. With that said, colours are vivid yet not overly saturated and appear easy on the eye. Brightness is more than sufficient as the device will automatically adjust to lighting conditions. You will have no problem thumbing away at text messages, even when outdoor on the sunniest of days. In terms of protection, the screen backed by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, which should provide resistance to those unfortunate drops. All in all, the display fits with with Blackberry’s mantra of being purely functional, by providing nothing more than expected to.
Blackberry 10.3 has come a long way since its introduction a few years ago. Brutal competition from Android and Apple has forced the operating system to evolve exponentially over last several months. Unfortunately, the OS is not quite there yet, but does provide the essentials and just a bit more. I did quite enjoy the functionalities of the newly introduced Blackberry Hub. The hub features a side scrolling panel that provides a unified interface for all your messaging needs. If you are familiar with Siri, Cortana and Google Now, Blackberry Assist will be right up your alley in terms of voice commands and gesture controls. This feature is ingrained to the Blackberry ecosystem and lets you search locations, internet,contacts and phone data. Blackberry Assist is a nifty feature but offers little to set it apart from the competition. Blackberry Blend makes its debut here, and personally I think it’s the best of the first party applications. The app automatically syncs with your computer or tablet and allows you to seamlessly respond to emails, text messages and other notifications. We come to the part of the review where we have to address the elephant in the room. The Blackberry App Store. The offerings here are dwarfed by Apple and Android but offer the essentials. However, there is one big gamechanger. The Amazon Android app store. The presence of such an app store allows you to side-load a variety of android apps but many of these apps lack full optimization. Android apps seem to emulated which results in hit and miss performance.My recommendation is to stick with native apps offered by Blackberry World for the time being. With that said, The Blackberry OS is rough around the edges but will definitely improve with future updates, so it is by no means a deal breaker.
I would not go as far to say the performance of this device is a disappointment. However, it must be stressed that a Dual-Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 is regarded as a relic in 2015. Furthermore, the Classic is by no means an entry level device. The pricepoint is up there in the big leagues and I must say I expected more in terms of processing power. The chipset may be dated but device has been engineered to make the most of the resources it has access to. Everyday performance was good as texting, media playback and native app performance ran swiftly. This was certainly helped by the 2GB of RAM under the hood. I did experience some slowdown whilst multiple apps were running but that can be negated with a simple reboot. The Classic comes with 16 GB of storage and an additional microSD slot for those additional files such as music and videos. When it comes to sound, audio proved to be slightly tinny and one dimensional. Blackberry knows this and they have responded by throwing in set of premium earphones. Premium seems to be self-proclaimed as the earphones lack the punchy bass found in other moderate tier headsets. Sound quality is acceptable but by no means great. Battery life is certainly not the best, but not the worst either. The device will easily last a day on low to moderate usage. As a power user, you may want to think twice before acquiring this device. Aggressive media playback and app usage will sap the battery within 12 hours. The absence of a hot swappable battery forces you to carry a power bank if you see yourself in those tight situations. Then again, this phone is not marketed for the power user so if its power that you seek I recommend you look elsewhere.
Cameras have always been the vice of the Blackberry ecosystem, and it is no different here. The Classic sports a modest 8 megapixel rear camera and a 2 megapixel front shooter. Pictures look brilliant on a 3.5 inch screen but the modest pixel count tends to show on larger displays. One must remember to alter the aspect ratio if images will be outputted to larger widescreen monitors as the default setting is a square 4:3 ratio. Other than that, the camera basics include high dynamic range (HDR), autofocus, image stabilization, and a LED flash. Images appear very subdued in lowlight conditions but richly detailed otherwise.Recording proves to be the saving grace as it can shoot up to 1080p video at a solid 30 frames a second.
At face value, the Blackberry Classic is not for everyone as it appears to offer middle of the road performance and usability. However one needs to ask the question, what makes Blackberry great? The QWERTY keyboard? Check. First class BBM? Check. Optical Trackpad? Check. Ergonomic design? Check. Business centric?Check. Security Encryption? Check .With that said, this is this is a love letter to the purists out there. For those who have been waiting for the quintisessential Blackberry experience, you have to wait no more.
PROS & CONS
-Ergonomic design, engineered for one handed usage.
-Fully fledged QWERTY keyboard.
-Barebones camera app.
-Android Apps not fully optimized.
SHOULD YOU BUY THIS DEVICE?
For those looking for the classic Blackberry experience, do not hesitate as this is the smartphone for you. As stated earlier, if you are a power user who is looking for speed and high performance, I suggest you look at other flagships on the market.
Looking for some nostalgia? You can find Blackberry deals here.