- Weak low-light camera performance
- Odd screen ratio for video watching
- Poor gaming performance
The BlackBerry KEYone is the company’s latest attempt to prove that physical keyboards (and their brand) aren’t dead. While their earlier efforts have impressed some, they have yet to release an option that made a mainstream splash.
Does their latest release keep enough BlackBerry around to satisfy long-time fans while providing modern touches that will lure in avid smartphone users?
The reviews are rolling in and we’ve scoured what the experts are saying to bring you this summary—Let’s get started!
The phone features a mostly metal design with a textured rear panel. Reviewers were all quick to point out that this phone looks like a BlackBerry. It’s thicker and heavier than most flagship competitors, but reviewers didn’t mind.
PC Magazine summed up opinions well, saying, “The KeyOne has a solid heft to it and a textured, grippy back. It'll stay in your hand, and it's well-balanced so when you shift your hand to focus on the keyboard, it doesn't feel like it's going to tip over.”
The only design complaints found were a few mentions of trouble with one-handed use.
Heading around front, you’ll see the obvious difference between this phone and most others. Beneath the 4.5-inch 1080-by-1620 IPS display you’ll find a 4-row physical keyboard.
Reviews of the display were mostly positive. Some found that the screen was dimmer than other phones. However, color and clarity received top marks. Pocket-Lint said, “While contrast isn't as impressive as it might be from an AMOLED panel, it's still decent. What's more, colours are natural and look good.”
But, if you’re looking to play games or watch videos, you might consider other options.
The first issue is the screen’s resolution. Due its 3:2 ratio, reviewers noted that most videos featured black bars at the top and bottom. So you won’t be able to enjoy the full-screen experience available on most phones.
For games meant to run in landscape orientation, the odd resolution can cause problems as well.
It’s clear that BlackBerry means the phone to be a productivity and communications tool—not a gaming and entertainment platform. This shows as well in their choice of processor. While the 2GHz octa-core Snapdragon 625 processor and 3GB of RAM offered reviewers smooth use in everyday apps, emails or web browsing, performance in games was questionable.
PC Magazine said, “This is clearly not a gaming phone; it's a messaging phone.” However, if you don’t need high-end performance, Pocket-Lint noted, “For the most part, the KeyOne is a relatively lag- and stutter-free experience.”
The phone ships with Android 7.1 Nougat and 32GB of internal storage. If you need more space, support for microSD cards makes it easy and affordable to add up to 256GB of storage.
To keep things running long into the night, BlackBerry went with a 3,505mAh battery. Reviewers had zero complaints about battery endurance. Mashable said, “I easily made it through a day and half and sometimes almost two days while doing all the things I'd normally do on my iPhone.” Should you find yourself low on power, QuickCharge 3.0 support offers an 80% top-off in just over 30 minutes.
One of the weakest points of past BlackBerry models is the camera. Reviews show they’ve improved things with the KEYone. The phone includes a 12MP rear camera with phase detection autofocus and an 8MP front-facing shooter for selfies. Reviews for both are good in adequate lighting. But, as with many smartphones, as the light fades, so does quality.
9to5Google summed up camera opinions well, saying, “Shots in less-than-ideal lighting have lots of digital noise and the colors don’t pop as much. It’s certainly the best camera on a BlackBerry, but it’s not the best camera you can buy today.”
If you’re considering a BlackBerry, you’re probably looking for a physical keyboard. And reviews for this one are great. They’ve included gesture based controls that allow you to use the keyboard as a track pad. There's also per-key shortcuts to put virtually anything on your phone a button press away. There’s even a fingerprint scanner in the space bar that reviewers loved. The only reviews that didn’t like the keyboard didn’t like physical keyboards in general.
Overall, the biggest complaint about the phone is its price. While you get a premium look and feel with the KEYone, performance is closer to the mid-tier market. Despite this, you’re paying a flagship price.
PC Magazine summed up opinions well, saying, “What you think about the KeyOne rides entirely on something that can't be measured through tests or benchmarks: It's whether you've moved on from hardware keyboards.”
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