BlackBerry Q5 review:

BlackBerry Q5

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3 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars 7 user reviews

The Good Sharp, bright screen; Comfortable physical keyboard; Decent battery life.

The Bad Too expensive; BlackBerry 10 software is far from perfect; App store is miserably empty; key specs won't trouble most Android phones.

The Bottom Line The BlackBerry Q5 has a bright, sharp screen and its physical keyboard will certainly appeal to dedicated BlackBerry fans. Its software still leaves much to be desired though, the app store is miserable, and at £320, it's not the budget BlackBerry we were hoping for.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.5 Overall

With financial losses, plummeting stock prices and ridiculous statements from its boss, BlackBerry hasn't had a good time of things lately. Its BlackBerry 10 software was supposed to be its big comeback. It arrived much later than expected though, and brought with it an all-touchscreen phone, the Z10.

Hardcore BlackBerry fans were appalled at the lack of the physical keyboard, and the rest of the world was unimpressed. The Q10 brought back the keyboard, but came at a sky-high price.

The Q5 is pitched as the more affordable BlackBerry. It sports the latest software, a good screen and that all-important physical Qwerty keyboard. With a price tag of £320 though, it's hardly for the budget-minded.

The Q5 is available now on deals from £26 per month.  

Should I buy the BlackBerry Q5?

With its plain, plastic design, 5-megapixel camera and 1.2GHz dual-core processor, the BlackBerry Q5 is undeniably a budget phone. It's annoying, then, that it comes with a not-so-budget £320 price tag.

Like the Q10, it has a physical keyboard, satisfying the last few of you clinging on to your old BlackBerry Bold as though your life depends on it. It has the same good screen as the Q10 too. If you absolutely must have a phone with a physical keyboard, the Q5 and the Q10 are the only two worth considering. With its lower price, but similar specs, the Q5 represents better value for money.

It's far from impressive in most respects, however. The software is frustrating, the camera isn't great, the processor is more suited to a bottom-end Android phone and the app store is as barren as the moon. Spend the same money on an Android or even Windows Phone device and you'll be able to snag a much more enjoyable piece of kit.

Design and build quality

To look at, there's no mistaking that the Q5 is the cheaper sibling of the Q10. It's an entirely plastic phone with a very plain black design. It has a square 3.1-inch screen with the physical keyboard sitting beneath. The corners are much more square than the Q10's rounded design -- whether that's good or not is up to you.

The Q5 certainly doesn't have the same design flair as its brother. There are no sleek metal frets between the rows of keys. The back is simply a plain expanse of black plastic -- a step down from the fancy Kevlar weave on the Q10.

BlackBerry Q5 back
It's pretty dreary all round.

It definitely doesn't look nearly as luxurious as the Q10. If you want to whip a phone out of your pocket that will raise approving eyebrows around the boardroom table, the Q5 isn't the fellow for you. As a budget blower, its functional looks would just about be acceptable, but it's not quite cheap enough to get away with such a stripped-down design.

The plastic body feels fairly tough though. You won't be hammering nails in with it, but I doubt it will shatter into a million tiny pieces the first time you drop it, either. The back case isn't removable like the Q10's, so your SIM card and microSD card slots are found under a small flap on the side. This feels very weak and liable to snap off if you get it caught, so I suggest always making sure it's fully closed before cramming it into your pocket.

BlackBerry Q5 microSD slot
Here's where you put your SIM and microSD cards.

The sealed design also means you can't remove the battery. That's bad news, clearly, for those of you who like to carry an emergency battery for long days away from a plug. You'll spy the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack on top of the phone, with the micro-USB port on the left-hand side. There's no micro-HDMI port like on the Q10, so you won't be able to hook it up to a big TV.

It's 120m long and 66mm wide, making it perfectly comfortable to hold in one hand. It's 10.8mm thick though, which is definitely on the chunky side for a smart phone. At 10.3mm, the Q10 is roughly the same. If you want the slimmest phone for your skinny jeans, Huawei's Ascend P6 is a ludicrous 6.2mm.


Classic BlackBerry fans will be pleased to see the physical Qwerty keyboard is present and correct. Like the Q10, the keys are laid out in straight, rather than curved lines. There's no stylish metal fret between each row, but there is still a gap that helps your fingers identify separate rows without you needing to look.

BlackBerry Q5 keyboard
The gaps help you type without looking, but the keys could do with sticking out more.

Unlike the Q10, there are gaps between each individual key which should help make them easier to feel by touch alone. They sit quite flush with the surrounding plastic though, which negates most of the benefit. They're also quite a bit smaller that the Q10s, which won't be comfortable if you've got huge fingers.

I found both fairly comfy to type on, but it's difficult to say which is best as it really depends on what you're used to. I'd recommend getting your hands on both models to see which you prefer.

BlackBerry Q5 next to BlackBerry Q10
The Q5 (right) doesn't have the classy metal fret or curved edges of the Q10.

Unless you're totally committed to sticking with Qwerty keyboards though, I'd suggest trying to get used to touchscreen keyboards -- the BlackBerry Z10 is fully touch-enabled if you want to stick with BlackBerry phones. Yes, you don't have the tactile feedback of a physical keyboard, but the benefits make up for that. For a start, the screen can be made bigger to take up the whole of the phone.

An onscreen keyboard is also able to change depending on context -- tapping to enter a phone number on a shopping site will automatically bring up the number keypad, for example. Entering characters is also easier as you don't need to have to press an 'alt' button before pressing a key.

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