Review: BlackBerry goes big with the Z30

A leadership change is underway at BlackBerry with the exit of CEO Thorsten Heins, so it’s tough to say what future direction the Waterloo, Ont.-based smartphone manufacturer may take. However, the last strategic plan we saw involved fewer smartphones and a focus on the commercial segment, with the Z30 handset as the flagship device.

While BlackBerry’s problems are too big for any one phone to solve, the Z30 is a darned nice phone. I’ve been playing with it for a few weeks, and it’s gotten positive comments from everyone that’s seem it. It has the bright 5” display of the new Android devices, with battery life that puts them to shame. I’m a qwerty guy myself, but if you’re going with an all-touchscreen phone, forget the 4.2” Z10 – you’ve got to get a 5” device.

It’s the size a touchscreen phone should be. Weighing in at 170g, it’s just 0.37” thick. I loaded up the Z30 with media for a business trip, and it was great for watching a movie on the plane – I couldn’t imagine focusing on a smaller screen for two hours. And its 2800mAh battery (BlackBerry rates it at 25 hours for mixes use) gave me all the life I needed for a day of media, surfing and texting.

The Z30 has 16GB of internal storage, but I loaded my media on a 64GB MicroSD card. Which brings me to the back. I had a heckuva time getting the back off to get to the MicroSD and SIM card slots. If you have nails, you may have better luck; after breaking a pen I resorted to a butter knife. You won’t need to take it off too often though – the battery is not removable. Luckily, BlackBerry OS 10.2 seems more stable than its predecessors.

But back to the specs. There’s an 8MP rear camera, and a 2MP camera on the front for your BBM video needs. The 16:9 5” Super AMOLED display has 1280 x 720 resolution, and the Z30 is powered by a Dual Core 1.7GHz Qualcomm processor with 2GB RAM. There’s a USB 2.0 port for charging and data synch – no proprietary cable nonsense here – and there’s also a Micro HDMI port to connect to your display or projector. It has 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and is LTE compatible.

I’ve already been using the BlackBerry Q10, so there wasn’t a learning curve OS-wise. I’ve come to be a big fan of BlackBerry OS 10. It’s a very intuitive OS, with the different swipes to open apps, get to the message hub, and access settings. And that message hub is very handy, as going back and forth between texts, social updates and three e-mail accounts before was annoying. I certainly prefer it over the Android OS, and I’ve not used Apple’s iOS at enough length to judge.

One difference with the Z30 over the Q10 though – a longer screen meant longer swipes to get where I’m going. That’s no biggie though. And the larger screen was better for typing with the soft keypad. As mentioned, I’m a hard qwerty guy, but in landscape mode the Z30’s soft keypad wasn’t bad at all.

You can get the Z30 in Canada now for $179.95 on a two-year contract, or $699.95 for an outright purchase. If you want a BlackBerry without a physical keyboard, it’s the one to get.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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