BlackBerry Q5 review: BlackBerry Q5

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.

Display

The screen is a 3.1-inch affair with a 720x720-pixel resolution, giving it a density of 329 pixels per inch (ppi). That's the same size and resolution you'll get on the Q10. That might seem like a good thing, but I actually think BlackBerry should tone the resolution down a little in order to bring the overall price down.

It doesn't match the whopping 441ppi of the Samsung Galaxy S4 , but you really don't need that kind of resolution on a screen this size. As it is, the Q5's screen is very sharp. There's no fuzziness around icons on the homescreens and small text in emails and Web pages is perfectly readable.

Its size means it's not ideal for watching movies. Crucially, it has a 1:1 aspect ratio (it's exactly square) so most videos will have enormous black bars at the top and bottom. It's fairly bright though and has satisfyingly rich colours, so whatever you do look at will look its best.

BlackBerry 10 software

The Q5 is running the latest version of BlackBerry's software, imaginatively named BlackBerry 10. It's the same software you'll find on both the keyboard-packing Q10 and touchscreen Z10. You won't find any difference in its functionality between the Q10.

BlackBerry Q5
The Q5's software is exactly the same as you'll find on the more expensive Q10.

It's a fairly neat interface. Icons are laid out in an easy to read grid, similar to iOS's layout, with recent apps displayed in a multi-tasking panel. Sorry Android fans, there are no live homescreen widgets to play with.

It's far from perfect though. There's no default homescreen -- you'll be returned to a multi-tasking panel each time you close an app. The phone will also navigate to that screen every time you open an app, which involves an annoying and pointless animation. Turn the phone on from sleep and you'll see whatever screen you were last on. If you're used to having a central homescreen to return to, you might find BlackBerry's system a little hard to live with.

BlackBerry Q5
Get used to seeing this screen -- it's where you'll be taken to every time you launch an app.

The BlackBerry Hub is a handy tool. It combines your text messages, emails and social-network notifications into one combined inbox, letting you see what's going on without needing to jump into different apps. It doesn't seem to want to sync with the separate apps, however -- if you choose to read the Facebook message in the Facebook app (or using a different device altogether) you'll still need to read it again in the Hub to get rid of the notification.

You can also tweet, post to Facebook or search through your entire phone straight from the homescreens. Type 'tweet', followed by your message and hit send to post it to Twitter without having to go into the app. Typing normally will allow you to search for that word within apps or your messages. If you need to tell the online world about your delicious latte as fast as possible, you'll save a few crucial seconds not needing to fire up the app.

BlackBerry Q5
The Hub is rather handy. It combines your messages, emails and social network accounts into one central inbox.

A big downside of BlackBerry 10 is its app store. While you can find the odd big-name title such as Angry Birds: Star Wars and Skype, other major apps such as Spotify, Instagram, Netflix and Snapseed are all absent. Even YouTube and BBC iPlayer don't get their own apps -- you'll find icons for them, but they're just links to the mobile websites. If you're a keen app addict and love comparing games scores with your mates, BlackBerry really isn't the option for you.

It's powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz processor along with 2GB of RAM. That's a marginal step down from the 1.5GHz chip in the Q10. It's only a minor difference and not one I think you'll notice in everyday use. In my testing, the Q5 seemed snappy, swift and every bit as responsive as its pricier brother.

BlackBerry Q5
Come join the app party! None of your friends are here!

It's of course considerably less powerful than smart phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S4 , but given that its software limitations mean you can't perform the same demanding tasks with the Q5 as you can with Samsung's flagship phone, you really won't need that kind of power.

Camera

On the back of the Q5 is a 5-megapixel camera. That's a step down from the 8 megapixels found on the Q10 and it's easy to tell the resulting images apart. My test shot from the Q5 displayed an even exposure overall with natural, realistic colours.

BlackBerry Q5
The BlackBerry Q5's camera did an acceptable job of capturing the scene (click image to enlarge).
BlackBerry Q5
But the Q10's higher megapixel count gave a much more detailed photo (click image to enlarge).

It doesn't have the same level of clarity and detail of the Q10's camera though. Fine detail on the brickwork of the building is much clearer, while the leaves in the top right are in considerably sharper focus on the Q10.

The Q5's snapper will do the job for getting a quick snap of your colleague's awful new tie, but don't expect to take over corporate photography responsibilities with it.

Battery

BlackBerry has stuffed a 2,180mAh battery into the Q5 -- roughly the same as in the Q10. It's not enormous, but with a smaller screen and weaker processor than most top-end smart phones, it should be able to put up a better fight.

I found it to be pretty decent overall, and I reckon BlackBerry's quoted 3G talk time of 12 hours is close to the truth. As with all phones though, it entirely depends on how you use the phone. Stream hours of video on full brightness over 3G and you'll need to give your phone a toke on the power pipe during the day. Keep brightness down and stick to the essentials and you won't struggle to get a day of use.

Conclusion

The BlackBerry Q5's screen is bright and sharp, while its physical keyboard is fairly comfortable to type on. The BlackBerry software is still far from perfect though, the design is about as interesting as the underside of a shoe and the camera doesn't impress.

It's the best -- and best value -- BlackBerry you can grab, but that's a very low bar to cross. Unless you're dead set on a BlackBerry, you can spend your money much more wisely elsewhere.

What you'll pay

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    BlackBerry Q5

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