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Blackberry are one of the stalwarts of the mobile phone sector, and a company that have been a little light on true innovation for the last few years. All that’s set to change with the advent of the Blackberry Passport, however. For those that still prefer a keyboard phone, Blackberry have finally given us a real top end, high spec model, and it’s jaw dropping.
Why should you want one? Well there is that keyboard for easy writing and editing, but there’s also tons of power, great screen specs, an awesome camera and all kinds of nifty tricks and features. Blackberry have set out to prove that a keyboard phone doesn’t have to be low end, and the Passport is the result: a real top of the line smart phone.
From the get go the Passport looks like something special. Square, blockish, with sharp angles and sleek profile you’re obviously getting something a little different. The aluminium rim makes for a solid build, and all in all the Passport looks space age and feels like a premium product. Weighing in at 196 grams it’s not the lightest model around, but it’s none to heavy either and slides comfortably into the pocket.
On the inside you’re really looking at top end specs. Performance is excellent, there’s more power than you could dream of, and Blackberry have thrown in a great little camera too (not to mention a solid front facing cam as well).
We’ll be honest and say that Blackberry have disappointed us a little with their last few releases, and we were pretty doubtful about the Passport. But we’ve got to say that this is the best Blackberry we’ve ever seen, and one of the best smart phones we’ve ever played with. It looks like Blackberry are back in the game!
And of course, given that full keyboard, writing is exactly what the Passport is designed for. The keyboard is a three row one, as opposed to earlier Blackberry designs that were four rows, and the keys are slightly raised. But it also doubles as a trackpad (similar to what you probably have on your laptop), so you can use it for scrolling around web pages, for example. There is a bit of a learning curve, with certain gestures (swipe left to delete whole words, for example) being pre programmed, but it takes no more than a day or so of use to master these.
This combination of top end screen specs and an innovative new full keyboard design is what really sets the Passport apart from any other phone on the market. You’re not going to be making compromises here, and frankly, that full keyboard makes sending emails a whole lot easier…
The Passport is a huge step up in terms of power for Blackberry. Whilst their last big release (the doomed Q10) had only 1.5 GHz of power, the Passport is running a massive quad core 2.26 GHz processor. Add to that a monstrous 3 GB of RAM and you’re getting some serious speeds here. Those specs stand up against some of the best renowned phone models on the market, and beat out competitors like the iPhone 6, for example.
Operating system is a bit of a different story. It’s a Blackberry. You’re running RIM. This isn’t the most popular OS on the market, but it does have its high points. For the business user (Blackberry’s target market with the Passport), Blackberry 10.3 has amazing scheduling capabilities, and plenty of business related features. The down side of this is that apps aren’t exactly easy to come by. You’ll be using Amazon’s App Store, with its watered down versions of Android apps. Hardly too exciting. Having said that, other than games we didn’t find it too difficult to find the kind of apps that we needed for productivity.
The bottom line on performance is that the Passport is a monster. It’s speedy, responsive and you’ll really be getting some hard core multi tasking out of it. And that’s more than enough to make up for the lack of games in the Amazon App Store.
Blackberry aren’t exactly famous for their cameras, but they’ve done the Passport proud. Starting at the front, there’s a full 2 MP camera, which is pretty high resolution for something used only for video calling and the odd selfie.
The rear facing camera is a 13 MP device, with LED flash, optical image stabilisation and all the features you’d generally expect to see. What we loved about the camera was its interface though. It’s just so simple to use. By far the most useful feature was an icon that tells you whether a shot would be better taken using HDR, so you don’t need to guess.
If you’re into your mobile photography then you might not have considered a Blackberry, and you’d be wrong, at least when it comes to the Passport. This is definitely one of the better smart phone cameras we’ve seen, and we’ve got no complaints about picture quality at all.
The Passport has been designed as more of a business phone than anything else, which of course means that it’s loaded down with productivity features. And that’s apart from the fact that the wide screen and full keyboard make it easier to send emails and edit presentations.
On the side of the screen you’ll notice a bar that Blackberry are calling Instant Actions. This allows you to access emails and messages with one touch, opening, deleting or moving them with the swipe of a finger. You’ll also get a Priority Hub that learns your preferences (such as who you normally respond to immediately) and will mark some emails and messages as important.
But what probably is the most effective thing about the Blackberry’s productivity design is how simple the Passport makes things like combining email accounts into one inbox. In basic terms you just add all your accounts to the phone’s system, and then the Passport funnels everything through it’s own email/messaging system, so everything’s all in one place all the time. For business users this is a big deal, and something that makes life a whole lot easier.
|Technology||GSM / HSPA / LTE|
|Dimensions||128 x 90.3 x 9.3 mm (5.04 x 3.56 x 0.37 in)|
|Weight||196 g (6.91 oz)|
|- Capacitive touch 3-row BlackBerry keyboard|
|Type||IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors|
|Size||4.5 inches (~56.5% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Resolution||1440 x 1440 pixels (~453 ppi pixel density)|
|Multitouch||Yes, up to 10 fingers|
|Protection||Corning Gorilla Glass 3|
|OS||BlackBerry 10.3 OS|
|Chipset||Qualcomm MSM8974AA Snapdragon 801|
|CPU||Quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400|
|Card slot||microSD, up to 128 GB|
|Internal||32 GB, 3 GB RAM|
|Primary Camera||13 MP, 4128 x 3096 pixels, autofocus, optical image stabilization, LED flash, check quality|
|Features||Geo-tagging, face detection, HDR|
|Video||1080p@60fps, check quality|
|Secondary Camera||2 MP, 720p|
|Alert types||Vibration; MP3, WAV ringtones|
|Loudspeaker||Yes, with stereo speakers|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, hotspot|
|Bluetooth||v4.0, A2DP, LE|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS|
|Radio||FM radio with RDS|
|USB||microUSB v2.0 (SlimPort)|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass|
|Messaging||SMS, MMS, Email, Push Email, IM, BBM 6|
|Java||Yes, MIDP 2.1|
|- BlackBerry Assistant|
|- BlackBerry maps|
|- Document viewer|
|- Photo viewer/editor|
|- Video editor|
|- MP3/WMA/WAV/eAAC+/FlAC player|
|- DivX/XviD/MP4/WMV/H.264 player|
|- Voice memo/dial|
|- Predictive text input|
You want a keyboard phone? Then Blackberry is the obvious (and probably only) choice. But with the Blackberry Passport you’ll no longer be forced to make the decision between power specs and keyboard, because the Passport has it all. Power, screen, keyboard, camera, the Passport is just ticking all the boxes.
You’re getting the usual connectivity features too, including the most recent Bluetooth version. And in terms of internal storage, there’s 32 GB of memory built in, as well as a micro SD card slot for up to 128 GB of extra storage, which should be more than enough.
So, what don’t we like? Yes, we’d like to see more apps, but no one switches to Blackberry for their great app selection. We’d also like to see the price drop just a little bit. On the whole though, we don’t have any complaints about the Passport. We simply loved it. It surprised and amazed us, and that’s tough to do. If you’re looking for a keyboard phone, then the Blackberry Passport is the only choice.
by Dan Forster, Mobile Phone Expert
Dan is our mobile phone review expert helping customers make better buying decisions. With a passion for technology and taking things apart Dan single-handedly reviews all the phones listed on the TigerMobiles.com website.