Review by Sunetra Chakravati,
2/2/2012 3:14:30 PM
Classy industrial design, distinctive from other BlackBerrys, top of the line email, great social integration
Price, minor performance lags, mediocre camera
BlackBerrys are not, by and large, particularly distinguishable. RIM has toyed with various permutations of keyboard, no-keyboard, touch-screen and weird-touch-screen in the past, but if there’s one thing uniting its erratically desirable portfolio, it’s the fact that its members are quite very definitely all made by the same company. You don’t pick a BlackBerry to go with your this-season look – unless that BlackBerry is the Porsche-designed P’9981. £1,275 price tag notwithstanding, is this the designer device you should blow your rent on?
The P’9981 carries the same chipset and spec list as the Bold Touch 9900, encased in a squared, retro-inspired metal body. It’s a shade larger at 115x67 x11.3mm, and its metal build heftier at 155g to 130g. The construct of a typical BlackBerry handset is excellent and Porsche has upped the ante here with an industrial design that positively shouts – subtly – expensiveness and, stereotypically enough, masculinity. We admit to being swayed by the leather back cover, luxuriously sturdy yet thankfully easy to prise off.
The 2.8-inch touch-screen tops a row of five buttons designed flat to lie flush with the display. If you’ve used a BlackBerry before, you’ll be perfectly familiar with the navigation. The classic BlackBerry keyboard has been redone in flat metal keys, each grooved out at the base to aid typing and show the key’s alternate symbol. Not too much has been sacrificed in the way of comfort and efficiency – but BlackBerry diehards will notice that the keys are just a tad heavier and a little more difficult to master.
Porsche has also given the BlackBerry 7 OS a once-over, with flat, wide icons lending the P’9981 a distinctively non-BlackBerry look. Because we like it for being different, it’s hard to admit that in fact, the icons are now also more difficult to read, with the icon for BlackBerry Maps particularly fiendish, seemingly disguised as a clock instead.
Menu of apps on P'9981 - guess which will help you find your way?
Like its ‘Berry predecessors though, this fashionable device operates at speed and can multitask to the tune of 10 programs open at once.
Speed in general is great, and the browser has tons of features, including full HTML support for desktop-like websites, clear images and an address bar that doubles as a search field, saving on screen real estate. We were disappointed at the regular – though minor – lags in performance. The browser was particularly prone to freezes (no longer than three seconds) but other apps lagged occasionally too. It’s not terribly debilitating to the experience, but does detract from the high-performing look and feel.
Battery life lasted around 12 hours, which is standard for a smartphone but shocking compared to older BlackBerrys with no touch-screens or glittering displays with 286ppi clarity.
Just like the Bold 9900, the P’9981 is a gold-standard email device with desktop-like inbox capabilities and a universal hub for all messages, whether from Facebook, Skype or the office. Preloaded are Facebook and Twitter, and Facebook in particular integrates very well with the BlackBerry OS, offering up its friend profile pictures and calendar events to beef your ‘Berry up. The app itself is the most comprehensive on any platform too.
Unfortunately the P’9981 for all the cost it commands doesn’t overcome the fatal BlackBerry flaw – a camera that is beyond mediocre. It can’t capture true colours in any but the most optimal light, and when the flash is on, anything within a few feet is overexposed. The shutter actually clicks before the picture is taken, resulting in slight blur for the uninitiated and despite a plethora of scene modes, you’ll find it hard to accurately capture anything but daylit vistas.
Luxury labels on smartphones are nothing new, with Armani, Prada and Ferrari all having dipped a well-heeled appendage into the world of consumer technology. But in the Porsche-designed BlackBerry P'9981, it feels like some kind of sweet spot has been fashionably tapped. In the Venn diagram of Porsche and BlackBerry owners, the P'9981 would easily be that middle ground's defining phone. Is it worth the price? Of course not. But if you’re a power banker with a hankering for speed – and let’s face it, this phone wasn’t made for anyone but – you probably already own this.