BlackBerry Passport

Good for business, but lacks the personal touch

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BlackBerry Passport Features like the Hub really are executed almost perfectly, and that keyboard, once you're used to it, will become invaluable to an exec that has to reply to 100 emails a day.
By  Tom Paye Published  November 13, 2014

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Key Specs

Bluetooth: yes
Camera: 13MP rear, 2MP front
Data services: GPRS, EDGE, HSDPA, LTE
Memory: 32GB internal, 3GB RAM
OS: BlackBerry 10.3

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When BlackBerry unveiled its latest flagship smartphone, the Passport, I was less than complimentary about its chances of reviving the manufacturer's fortunes. Well aware that it had already garnered reasonably favourable reviews, my attitude was that, because of BlackBerry's lack of an app ecosystem, any new device running the BlackBerry 10 software would fail to gain the kind of mass-market traction that the vendor's older models enjoyed.

To be fair to BlackBerry, I might have spoken out of turn, because I hadn't actually tested the new device. Having had a Passport on loan for the past few weeks, however, I'm in a much better position to comment on its chances in the market. Has a thorough test changed my mind about BlackBerry's fortunes? Well, a little, but you'll have to read on to find out what's what.

Design and build quality

The defining feature of the BlackBerry Passport is its squared-off shape. You get a 4.5-inch HD touch display, under which sits a slightly squashed-looking physical QWERTY keyboard. Alongside the now-familiar rectangular smartphone shapes peddled by the big manufacturers, there's no question that the Passport stands out. Ironically, on style alone, it could certainly appeal to buyers hoping to ‘think different' about their smartphone choices.

The keyboard at the bottom isn't actually made up of physical buttons - it's more of a touchpad with letter markings on it. The device is all the better for it, though, it feels sleek in a way that no other hybrid handset has managed (including BlackBerry's own Q10), and the fact that the keyboard doubles as a trackpad for gestures is just the icing on the cake.  

Dimension-wise, you won't be wanting for thinness - the device is just 9.3mm thick, only a smidge fatter than the just-announced iPhone 6 and way thinner than what most other vendors will give you. That said, the device's strange shape, 90.3mm wide by 128mm tall, makes it difficult to hold with one hand. Of course, BlackBerry fans are accustomed to using their devices with two hands to allow for speedy typing with the physical keyboard. So for them, this wouldn't be a problem. Anyone used to something iPhone 5-sized, however, might find it a little annoying.

RELATED: BlackBerry to dial back handset launches

No Apple fan would deny the Passport's build quality, though. The device might weigh a mere 196g, but it feels solid and well-built - which is a neat trick to pull off. The materials don't feel cheap or tacky, unlike a lot of the high-end Android kit out there, and there are no visible gaps between panels and components. It's been engineered to an extremely high degree, this has. The same goes for that 4.5-inch display - it's beautiful, responsive and bright. The claimed 16m colours really shine through, and that pixel density of 453ppi makes anything you're viewing - from HD video to plain text - look stunning.

For imaging, you get a 13MP rear camera and a 2MP front-facing one. The rear camera will record 1080p video and the front 720p. That's pretty par-for-the-course when it comes to modern-day flagship smartphones. The whole package is run on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 chipset, with a quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400 CPU. These are strong stats on paper, befitting a high-end device like the Passport. Meanwhile, graphics are run on the Adreno 330 GPU.

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