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BlackBerry DTEK50 review: An Android phone with a BlackBerry logo

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The Good The BlackBerry DTEK50 is a slim, lightweight phone that's easy to use with a single hand. BlackBerry's software tweaks mostly improve the Android experience.

The Bad The camera struggles in low light, performance is a bit lacking, and BlackBerry's security claims are seriously overblown.

The Bottom Line In a crowded mid-range smartphone market, the DTEK50 doesn't stand out. It's a $300 phone that feels like a $200 one.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

6.5 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 6
  • Camera 6
  • Battery 7

Review Sections

The new BlackBerry DTEK50 is sold as a BlackBerry phone that will make your personal information incredibly secure.

There're just a few problems. It isn't made by BlackBerry, doesn't run a BlackBerry operating system and doesn't really make your phone secure. And another thing: It doesn't come with BlackBerry's trademark physical keyboard, so fans of button-punching don't even walk away with that satisfaction.

Basically, it's your standard Android phone with a few tricks up its sleeve, and a lot of BlackBerry software tweaks. Does that add up to a phone worth buying? Probably not for many.

The BlackBerry Idol

There's nothing explicitly wrong with the BlackBerry DTEK50, because there's nothing wrong with the Alcatel Idol 4 -- the phone which BlackBerry unapologetically cloned.

Left: Alcatel's Idol 4. Right: BlackBerry's DTEK50.

Juxtaposition by Sean Hollister/CNET

In fact, the new DTEK50 is better than recent BlackBerry phones in one important way -- it's an unlocked LTE smartphone that costs just $299 or £275 (roughly AU$390 converted). The BlackBerry Priv, its predecessor, originally sold for $750.

For the comparatively small amount of money, the DTEK50 isn't bad. It's surprisingly thin (at 7.4mm) and light (at 4.76 ounces, or 135 grams). While it's partially made of plastic, a black aluminum band with shiny silver beveled edges catch the light quite nicely and make it hard to drop. It's easy to use with a single hand, unlike many modern smartphones.

The 5.2-inch, 1,920x1,080-pixel IPS screen is perfectly competent, even if it's not a stunning AMOLED display, while a pair of stereo speakers (they face front and back) make it a pretty decent phone for the occasional Netflix session.

blackberry-dtek50-2566-001.jpg

The BlackBerry DTEK50.

Josh Miller/CNET

There's also a dedicated programmable button on the side of the phone to launch any app you want. While you can't use it when the phone is locked, it's decent as a quick flashlight or camera toggle.

Even the battery life is OK for a phone this small. It ran roughly 11 hours in our standard video streaming drain test. In my personal use, I usually make it home after a full day's work before the battery dies -- unless I play Pokemon Go.

For $300, the DTEK50 feels a good bit slower than I'd hoped. It always feels like there's a slight delay before the phone opens the app, summons the keyboard or loads the link I want. Our benchmarks bear that out, too. Raw performance numbers show the DTEK50 performing at about the same level as the Moto G4, a phone that costs $100 less.

And it's a shame that BlackBerry's camera is so weak in low-light settings: I get super noisy, smudgy photos most places that aren't outdoors. I also found it much slower to focus or shoot HDR images than today's high-end phones.

It took more than dozen shots to get a flower photo this sharp from the DTEK50 camera. My Samsung Galaxy S7 did it on the first try.

Software

Nate said it in our review of BlackBerry's first Android phone, and I'll say it again: BlackBerry has actually made some useful tweaks to the Android operating system.

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