BlackBerry Priv in-depth review - The King is back

In-depth review of Blackberry Priv including battery test, camera review, enterprise/ business opinion and reasons why Blackberry's new Android phone just might pull it out of the quagmire

 BlackBerry Priv Review - The King is back
5

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,11/16/2015 11:43:09 AM

10

out of 10

Performance

10

out of 5

Look and feel

10

out of 5

Ease of use

10

out of 5

Features

10

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Brilliant screen | Superb battery life | Touchscreen keyboard on-point | Mute button godsend for Enterprise customers | Privacy features & Blackberry hub

Cons:

Curved edge doesn't really have any use | Expensive

- By Sunetra Chakravarti

Blackberry have not had it easy. Not since their spectacular peak almost ten years back when everyone from Paris Hilton to the President of the United States of America could not be parted from their BB. And then the iPhone arrived and with it, touchscreen phones and everything changed. The company stubbornly tried to cling onto what they stood for and released handsets that were buggy and woefully behind the curve and sometimes pointless. Remember the Blackberry Passport?

And now, in a final roll of the dice, they have given us the Priv and with it, they have zoomed back into the reckoning, not just for the tech community but also for consumers, who demand more, especially corporate ones.

For the purpose of the review, apart from using the Priv myself, I also handed it over to a corporate user who had bemoaned the fall and fall of Blackberry and the review you read here is for both regular consumers as well as those who need a business phone that’s almost as switched-on and on the ball 16-hours each day as they themselves are- replete with conference calls, excel sheets and enough RFPs to drown the Titanic! 

Does the Blackberry Priv really have a curved screen?

It does indeed! And what a thing of beauty it is. The Plastic AMOLED screen reminded me of the LG G Flex 2 and the Samsung S6 Edge at the same time, sharp, crystal and staggeringly good at reproducing the most complex play of light and imagery in brilliant detail. 

The resolution is the same as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge at 2560X1440 with an eye-watering 540ppi. Streaming videos are detailed with rich colours as you would expect from the Plastic AMOLED marriage.

Our enterprise reviewer loved the clarity of PDFs and the fact he could read full pages of documents in one go, thanks to the 5.43-inch screen. The screen, according to him was also great for checking presentations on the go, to see if logos, formatting and infographics were being rendered properly before being forwarded onto clients.

How good is the keyboard slider?

Held side-by-side, the physical keyboard on the Priv is smaller than that of the Blackberry Classic. It still does the job really well but Blackberry have hit the ball out of the park with their touch screen keyboard which not just learns words that you use frequently but also, the buttons are larger and more spaced out. 

Also, it does a really clever thing of having words that it predicts you will use next hover above the next letter you type so all you have to so is slide the hovering word into the space you are typing. So, if you want to type in the word ‘was’, type in ‘w’ and then you get the word ‘was’ hovering over so you slide it on, making replying to usual texts and messages super easy.

Is the back of the Priv made of glass?

The back of the phone is an extremely grip-able membrane like woven material. And that makes it a winner for us. You see, the problem with curved phablets is, it is easy for them to slip out of your mitts. I remember how paranoid I was, with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge when reviewing it- the glass back was friction-free and could easily slip through and crack.

Enterprise customer says: ‘I think the Priv looks very premium and under-stated. During contract arguments in the board room, I would be very embarrassed to pull out a blingy phone. The textured look on the back in grey means business, as I do in the office.’

Does it run a Blackberry UI over Android?

The Priv runs Android Lollipop which has not been tampered with. The only indication that it is a Blackberry phone come from a couple of the most famous Blackberry apps pre-installed: Blackberry Hub, BBM and DTEK security

Enterprise reviewer says: ‘Moving contacts over from the BB Classic was easy, even though the security layers in the Classic (Work and Personal spaces are separated) made it take longer than what I would have liked. Once transferred, all the data (contacts, texts etc.) showed up in Messenger as well as the Hub.’

‘The lack of an enterprise server means that I need to use my corporate app for emails and calendar. It works well although the Hub doesn’t give me the option of delivering notifications from my email App. However, the locked screen does deliver notifications so it works well for me. But it means that I cannot use the Hub until I convince my IT folks to let me use the native email and calendar applications on this phone – in a company like ours with over 200,000 employees, I won’t be holding my breath for it!’

What are the standout features of the Priv?

    • There is a ‘mute’ button specifically to turn a ringing vibrating phone silent like a tomb and this seemed a bit pointless before our corporate reviewer pointed out that this was one of the best features on the phone: ‘The mute button on the side is great – I spend half my day on conference calls and the ability to manage this without tapping the screen is great. The volume buttons provide great access to switch profiles (priority, Do Not Disturb, Normal) too.’

      • You are able to assign keys to apps so ‘P’ can be Google Play, ‘M’ for messenger making short work of scrolling through pages of apps looking for the right one.
      • DTEK by BlackBerry app is preloaded and sagaciously advises you on the strength of your passwords and how to make your phone better protected. It also tells you which app has recently had access to what information. For a phone that is so fine-tuned to privacy and security, it is a shame it doesn't come pre-loaded with Android 6.0 Marshmallow with its superior app permission settings.
      • Exactly like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, the curved edge of the Blackberry Priv has the smarts to act as a notification centre so you can receive notifications from certain contacts as well as tasks and unread messages.

          • In what is a masterstroke, the Blackberry Priv has a microSD slot that can up the in-built 32GB memory to 2TB, and I am very sure it will be enough for even the most discerning corporate consumer with massive files to look through and store.

            What is the camera on the Priv like?

            Blackberry say that it is capable of taking on DSLRs and the 18-MP capability is indeed one of the best we have seen recently. We got a ‘The pictures of slides were good’ from our corporate reviewer which leads us to think that it will just be a novelty feature for most business people who buy it.

            However, you are able to record videos and take pictures at the same time and there is Optical Image Stabilisation on-board and all the features you would expect from a phone that costs £570. Photos taken by me were full of detail and I was very pleased with the results.

            What about the battery and processor?

            An absolutely whopper of a battery (3410mAH) powers the phone through, helped along with 3GB RAM. There was no stutter when I used it and our enterprise reviewer was very pleased with how it worked without any hint of lag or stutter. The Priv had 9 percent battery left over at the end of his 16-hour day and that elicited huge whoops of joy- turns out his usual phone, a Blackberry Classic needs topping up atleast once during the course of the day.

            Should I buy the Blackberry Priv?

            I asked my Enterprise reviewer if he would buy the device, and he said: ‘I don't care if a phone runs Lollipop/Marshmallow or Strawberry Trifle as long as it lasts through the day, works without stuttering and I am not self-conscious about using at our corporate HQ.

            I am happy that my company is not worried about my using it for work because they trust Blackberry and this phone also has the space to store all the downloaded BBC iPlayer content, as well as the app itself, to watch during long-haul flights to the US makes it worthy of the £570 that Blackberry are asking for it!’

            We couldn't have put it better ourselves.

            Blackberry Priv specifications

            OS: Android 5.1 Lollipop

            Dimension: 147 (184 opened) x 77.2 x 9.4mm

            Weight: 192g 

            Display: Curved 5.43” WQHD Plastic AMOLED

            Resolution: 2560 x 1440 at 540 ppi

            Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon 808 Hexa-Core, 64 bit, Dual-core 1.8 GHz Cortex-A57 and Quad-core 1.44 GHz CortexA53

            Camera: 18-MP Auto-Focus, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), Phase Detect Auto Focus (PDAF), Fast focus lock, HDR, 6-element f2.2 lens, Back Side Illumination (BSI2) Stacked Sensor; 2MP Fixed-Focus, f2.8, Large 1.75um pixel size

            Memory: 3GB Low Power RAM, 32GB Flash with hot-swappable MicroSD slot (up to 2TB)

            Battery: 3410mAh