The BlackBerry Q5 is here, and about time too as the Canadian firm launches its first affordable BlackBerry 10 device.
Unveiled at the annual BlackBerry Live conference in Orlando the BlackBerry Q5 had been almost completely leaked under the moniker BlackBerry R10, so its design and specs come as no surprise.
There’s no firm word on which countries will be treated to the Q5, but BlackBerry is touting it as an entry-level to mid-tier device aimed at emerging markets.
What we do know is that it will be available in selected markets in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, with expected availability beginning in July.
It looks like the US is set to miss out on the BlackBerry Q5 and when TechRadar quizzed spokespeople on UK and Australia availability no one could provide a solid answer.
At first glance you can tell the BlackBerry Q5 will be a more keenly priced device than its high-end Q10 brother, with a swath a bezel adorning the front of the noticably plastic handset.
It lacks the premium look and finish of the Q10, but retains the classic BlackBerry QWERTY phone look, with the isolated keys a nod to past BB OS handsets such as the Curve 9320.
In terms of specs the Q5 has a lot in common with the Q10, with both devices sporting a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 2GB of RAM and a 3.1-inch, 720×720 display – although the Q5 is furnished with a lower quality LCD offering compared to the Super AMOLED screen on the Q10.
While the bezel around the screen may be larger than on its higher-end relation it’s not necessarily a bad thing as it provides more room below the display for the upwards swipe gesture required to exit apps.
On the Q10 there isn’t any space between screen and keyboard which made the motion a little tricky at times, however on the Q5 we could easily slide our finger around without fear of pressing any keys.
Of course this does mean the Q5 is longer and the Q10, and it’s also a little chunkier as well but BlackBerry has managed to keep the weight down so it’s not overbearing in the hand.
The solid plastic rear is reminiscent of the iPhone 3GS, but there’s no metallic rim round the edge to hold things together and the glossy finish doesn’t provide a great deal of grip.
Up top there’s a headphone jack and centralised power/lock key which we found was pretty difficult to hit as it wasn’t raised above the chassis meaning you really need to push down hard for the Q5 to register your action.
Down the right side are the trio of buttons which also feature on the Z10 and Q10 with volume keys sandwiching a third switch which provides a shortcut to voice commands.
On the left there’s a microUSB port, but there’s no HDMI out option – something you do get on the other two BlackBerry 10 handsets.
Instead on the left we have a plastic flap which covers microSD and microSIM ports, allowing you to build on the 8GB of internal storage inside the BlackBerry Q5.
As you may have already guessed the presence of the slots of the left means you can’t whip the back off the BlackBerry Q5 to access the 2100mAh battery.
That shouldn’t be too much of an issue though as the battery in the Q5 should easily last you more than a day if the Q10 is anything to go by – which has the same size battery.
Thanks to the decent processor and amount of RAM BlackBerry has managed to stuff inside the Q5 the BlackBerry 10.1 operating system provides a fluid and lag-free experience.
We were easily able to glide through homescreens and apps generally opened up pretty quickly.
Because the BlackBerry Q5 is running the latest version of the BB10 OS you get features such as pin to pin messaging, but the HDR camera mode hasn’t made the cut on this cut-price handset.
The camera app itself opens in a second, but the auto-focus is quite laggy and we found the Q5 took two to three seconds to snap a picture, which is a little too long for our liking.
Round the back you get a 5MP camera and single LED flash which does produce some decent snaps, plus the front facing 2MP snapper will help with video calling and vanity checks.
BlackBerry has managed to take its lightening quick web browsing performance from the Z10 and Q10 and stick it into the Q5 and we were able to load the desktop TechRadar site in under five seconds on a strong 4G connection – that’s impressive for a handset which is aimed at the lower end of the market.
Web pages, text and images appear crisp and clear on the 3.1-inch 720 x 720 display, but it’s not quite as bright and colours don’t pop like they do on the Q10′s Super AMOLED screen.
Obviously the big attraction for anyone considering the BlackBerry Q5 is its QWERTY keyboard and once again the Canadian firm shows its prowess in this area.
The isolated keys have a decent amount of travel, but we did find it was a little trickier to type on the Q5 compared to the Q10 and the whole keypad did wobble quite a bit under our prods, which just reinforced the budget nature of this device.
For anyone who’s grown up using BlackBerry keyboards the Q5 offers more of the same, but if you’re considering switching from a fully touchscreen device you probably won’t be convinced.
The BlackBerry Q5 is one for the aficionados who can’t afford, or refuse to splash cash on the highly priced Q10, with the solid BlackBerry typing experience at the heart of everything it does.
Without knowing the price it’s difficult to say how it will stand up against other handsets, but anyone who isn’t a BlackBerry fan and is in the market for a reasonably priced smartphone probably won’t be taken with the Q5.
That said if BlackBerry manage to price the Q5 low enough it would make it a seriously attractive proposition with its decent power under the hood, HD display and rapid internet browser. We’re just going to have to wait and see.