The BlackBerry Q5 is the third BlackBerry 10 device to hit the market and the second to feature a physical keyboard (the first being the Q10). It was originally unveiled during BlackBerry Live 2013 and while it has been released in various markets already, it will ultimately be available in a variety of colors including black, white, red and pink.
The Q5 is a more affordable option to those not opting for the higher priced BlackBerry Z10 or BlackBerry Q10 and arguably could have (or should have) been released along with the others - or even as the first BlackBerry 10 device. The price of the Q5 is currently around $500USD so even though it's the least expensive BB10 device currently available, you'll still be shelling out quite a bit to pick one up (though it will most likely be cheaper if/when it hits the US).
At first glance the Q5 could fit well into the Curve line thanks to the classic BlackBerry design and separated Curve-style keys, but once started up it's obvious this is a new device for a new set of BlackBerry users.
The Q5 is running BlackBerry 10.1 and does it well thanks to the 1.2GHz processor and 2GB of RAM. Believe it or not, the Q5 has the same 3.1" 720x720 display of the Q10, the only difference being the Q5 is an LCD compared to the SuperAMOLED screen of the Q10.
It's clear BlackBerry will be providing options for users who still want a physical keyboard, as well as full touchscreen devices - now with the Z10 and down the road with devices like the rumored BlackBerry A10.
One thing to note is that my Q5 came from the UAE so it's sporting an Arabic keyboard - so if you were wondering about it, now you know.
BlackBerry Q5 Unboxing
Of course we had to unbox the Q5 as it's a bit of a tradition at this point. The usual items are in the box with the Q5 - manuals, USB cord, power block and ear-buds. BlackBerry and carriers haven't opted to include any type of case with the BlackBerry 10 devices, but it doesn't seem to be causing too much of an uproar from most users.
Features and Specs
The Q5 has some good features overall, but falls short in places as well. What's good is that it has a 1.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM - more than enough to power the BlackBerry 10 OS and keep it running smoothly. The 3.1" LCD touchscreen is bold and bright and the Q5 is sporting LTE, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS and NFC. The integrated 2180mAh battery is actually one of the biggest to date, but the fact that it's non-removable is a downer.
Where is falls short are in things like the small 8GB of internal storage, a 5MP camera and lack of a micro HDMI port. The Curve-style keyboard feels like a bit of a step backwards as well. It's not a bad typing experience but still feels a bit out of date.
While the BlackBerry Q10 was the first full QWERTY BlackBerry 10 device to market, the BlackBerry Q5 is a more entry-level device for those in emerging markets or users looking for a more inexpensive way to start out with BlackBerry 10. The Q5 keeps the classic BlackBerry design while brining back the Curve-style keyboard we've seen on devices such as the Curve 8300 and Curve 8330. As opposed to the flush keyboard of devices in the Bold and Torch lines (and most recently the BlackBerry Q10) the Q5 takes on the separated keys style instead.
The keyboard sits under the bright 720x720 LCD display (328ppi). Inside is a dual-core 1.2GHz Snapdragon processor with 2GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage. The processor is more than enough to handle BlackBerry 10 running on the Q5 and we noticed no lag or slow downs when navigating around the OS.
On the right of the Q5 are the volume and mute buttons. The left has a MicroUSB charging/sync port as well as the covered MicroSD and SIM card slots. Notably absent is the Micro HDMI out port that we've seen on the Q10, Z10 and BlackBerry PlayBook.
The power/standby button is on top of the device while the speaker rests on the bottom. You won't find any charging contacts here either which isn't a huge issue, however the non-removable 2180mAh battery is one of our big gripes on the Q5.
The whole packaged is wrapped from head to toe in gloss plastic. It makes the device feel solid all around and gives a cohesive look, but still leaves you feeling slighted a bit as there is no "flair" to show off the Q5. You won't find any added design features like keyboard frets or stainless steel bezels. What you see is what you get.
Appearance and Design
The BlackBerry Q5 is a good looking device. It's the classic BlackBerry design - screen on top, keyboard underneath. It's plain and simple. You can tell that it's not a "high end" device from looking at it head-on however. There is nothing shiny - no frets between the keys and no stainless feel bezel. It's not flashy at all but that's ok. It still does what it has to without compromising anything at the core.
The Q5 will be a familiar device for current BlackBerry users
The Q5 will be a familiar device for current BlackBerry users. Anyone that has used a Curve in the past will automatically know the Q5 keyboard and get a good feel for it right away. While it's not totally the same as what we've had in the past, it's pretty close. The keys are spaced well and just the right size. The Q5 weighs in at around 4.2oz so it's not a heavy device by any means and it definitely feels good in the hand. The flat plastic wraps around the sides and across the back of the device making it feel very solid overall - to the point that I really had no fear of dropping it. It's a very slick device in that at times I did find it hard to grip, but at the same time it fits in the hand very well.
It's worth noting that the casing on the Q5 is plastic all the way around. It's black from head to toe. It does remind me a bit of older devices like the Curve 8500 as there is no design separation from the front to back of the phone. It feels very solid overall but still leaves me wanting a bit more. Understandably it's a lower-tier BlackBerry 10 device, but it isn't necessarily "cheap" it still feels a bit plain in my opinion.
The 3.1" 720x720 LCD touchscreen on the Q5 fits the device very well. It's not too big and not too small. As opposed to the SuperAMOLED screen of the Q10, the Q5 has an LCD screen which is what we've been accustomed to in the past. The screen is bold and bright and shows colors very well. The LCD screen goes back to what we have on older devices and the Z10. As the Q10 has a SuperAMOLED display we get the cool black theme designed to save battery. On the Q5 the theme is the same as the Z10 so the calendar and other blacked-out apps from the Q10 will be white here. I still wish the option was available to choose a white or black thee however.
What I do like is that there is a good amount of space between the bottom of the screen and the top of the keyboard, leaving room for gestures. On the Q10 there is very little space between the bottom of the screen and the top row of keys making some bottom gestures hard at times. On the Q5 however I found that I rarely had issues trying to perform any gestures from the bottom of the screen. There is a good amount of space left over the top row of keys but you still don't really loose too much of the design thanks to the BlackBerry logo being pushed down. Rather than it being on top of the screen, it helps to fill the space underneath so it's not just an awkward gap.
Keyboard and Typing
The Q5 keyboard is both a hit and a miss. While I've been able to type on it without a hitch, I have to say that in my opinion it is also a fairly loud keyboard and very plastic. It's safe to say that I was spoiled by the keyboard on the Bold 9900 as well as the Q10 so I'm used to a "softer" keyboard at this point. The keys on the Q5 are the tic-tac buttons we've seen on the Curve models for years and are a bit more "clicky" (yes, clicky) than most recent devices, making for a much louder hit when typing.
The Q5 keyboard is both a hit and a miss
That being said, it's not a bad keyboard. The keys are nice and big and well spaced making for a good typing experience overall. I do like having the spaced out keys in that I find I make less errors when typing as my fingers don't wander to keys I'm not trying to hit. I'll admit that on my Q10 when I'm pounding out a message I sometimes hit the wrong keys with my thumbs, but on the Q5 it seemed to be much less of an issues for me.
The top three rows of keys on the Q5 are all the same size (letters, ALT, delete and enter) so there is nothing abnormal about typing. The size of the bottom rows keys is nice as well though I do wish the space key was just a touch longer.
Just as with the Q10, the Q5 brings in plenty of keyboard shortcuts as well which helps get things done faster. Instant Action remains one of my favorite features and really makes me appreciate having a physical keyboard.
The camera on the BlackBerry Q5 is sadly only 5MP. While it's not the worst camera on a mobile device (we're looking at you Bold 9900!) it's certainly not the greatest. The good news is that I've was able to get some surprisingly good photos despite the low specs. I don't really use my BlackBerry camera for any crazy photo shoots and I'd expect that most Q5 users won't be looking to achieve greatness with the camera. For quick, on the spot photos or the occasional landscape or food shot (shame on you!) the Q5 will hold up just fine however. The front-facing camera rings in at just 2MP - just barely enough for decent Skype or BBM Video and maybe a selfie or two. The short of it - don't expect too much from the camera on the Q5.
Here's a few shots to compare with the Q10. For the outdoor shot the Q10 did a much better job, but inside the Q5 did better and showed off much more color.
The battery is a mixed bag for me with the Q5. I suppose I'm spoiled by having so many devices with removable batteries over the years, so not being able to remove the battery in the Q5 is a downer for me. With my Q10 and Z10 I love that I can bring along my BlackBerry Battery Charger Bundle when I go out and never have to worry about not having power. While I can obviously charge the Q5 if I need to (even with said battery bundle) I don't like that I can't swap out a dying battery for a new one.
That being said, the 2180mAh battery in the Q5 is one of the largest to date in a BlackBerry and it's big enough that most days I don't need to worry about swapping a battery anyway. I found that it kept me going even on my busiest days and there were only a few times where I actually had to stop and plug in to charge which was awesome. I'd say it's a fair tradeoff in the end. As far as battery life goes on the Q5 I don't really have any complaints.
The Q5 is sporting 2GB of RAM which is on part with both the Q10 and Z10. So as you can imagine, the BlackBerry 10 OS runs very smooth and there is no lag when navigating around at all. Everything zips along and the Q5 has more than enough RAM to keep things going.
I do have to knock the Q5 for only having 8GB of internal storage. While it's not a deal-breaker, you'd expect a device to have at least 16GB of storage at this point. Granted you can use a memory card up to 32GB for storing media so in the end most users should have huge issues when it comes to internal storage.
Q5 as a Phone
I actually really like the feel of the Q5 as a phone. It fits well in the hand and doesn't feel too large for me as the Z10 does at times.
The phone screen offers up recent call history, a dial pad and phone contacts. Along the top are tabs for All, Missed and VVM (providing you have it set up). One issue I have is that not all contacts with phone numbers appear in the contacts list within the phone app. This has been an issue in the OS for some time now that will hopefully get resolved in later builds.
Phone calls were good quality. I had no issues hearing the other party and I was told I sounded loud and clear as well.
The Q5 has the usual bag of connections that you'd expect including Bluetooth, GPS, Wifi, NFC, DLNA and mobile hotspot. The good thing is that even though this is a lower-tier device, everything OS-wise is still in there. So no missing out on any connection features here. Even if you opt to go with the Q5 over the Q10 or Z10 you'll still have all of the same features as the other devices.
When it comes to the OS on the Q5 there really isn't anything new here. The Q5 is running BlackBerry 10.1 and is the same as what's now (mostly) available on the Q10 and Z10. OS 10.1 on the Q5 runs very smooth - I was actually impressed to see it run so well. Moving around the homescreen and going in and out of apps produced no lag and jumping into the Hub or using gestures was no different.
We won't get into more of the OS here as we covered it before in both our Z10 and Q10 reviews as well as our BlackBerry 10 review, so be sure to check those out for more as the Q5 OS is the same.
BlackBerry World is getting bigger by the day and already has a huge selection of apps, games, movies, music and TV shows available for the Q5. Thankfully BlackBerry is doing a great job of making nearly all Q10 content available on the Q5 as well. When the Q10 was first released there was a gap in content since developers hadn't made many of their apps available for the new device, so at first it was a struggle for new Q10 owners to find everything they were looking for. With the Q5 the issue is mostly diminished as most content is widely available.
BlackBerry Q5 Accessories
Of course if you do pick up a Q5 you'll want to grab some accessories to go along with it. We've already got some great items in stock with plenty more on the way. You can check out the latest headsets, cables, external batteries, car mounts and much more at ShopCrackBerry.
BlackBerry Q5 Review Summary
The Q5 has great battery life, fits well in hand, is very sturdy and works like a champ
Ultimately the BlackBerry Q5 is a good device. It's not the top quality of the BlackBerry Z10 or Q10 but it will still find it's place in many markets. I actually really enjoyed using it for the past few weeks. I've always been a big fan of the smaller devices and the physical keyboard, so the Q5 is a good fit for me. I won't be making it my full-time device but I'll certainly revisit it from time to time. The Q5 has great battery life, fits well in hand, is very sturdy and works like a champ. I have to take points off for the lack of a removable battery, low resolution camera and lack of HDMI out though.
The Q5 obviously won't be competing with more modern devices, but for BlackBerry users on a budget or those looking to get started with BlackBerry 10, the Q5 is a good option. If you're going to spend the money though, I'd say take the jump and go with the Q10 though.
Great battery life
Sturdy, feels good in hand
Inexpensive by comparison
Keyboard is nice (for the most part)
No removable battery
Low resolution camera
No HDMI out
Overall plastic design feels lacking
The Bottom Line
If you love a physical keyboard and are looking for an inexpensive alternative to the Q10, the Q5 is for you. Available in a variety of colors and at a more affordable price, the Q5 will find it's place among new users and emerging markets with no problem. It has a few downsides as we discussed but overall it's running the same BlackBerry 10 with nearly the same processing power as other devices, so you aren't really compromising too much in the long run by choosing the Q5. If price doesn't matter however, the Q10 (or Z10) are better phones for the money.
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