Review: BlackBerry Z30
Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 10:27PM
Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla in 10.2, Apps & Launches, BB10 OS, BlackBerry, BlackBerry Z30, Breaking news, Buyers Guide, Canada, Events and Launches, First Looks, Lifestyle, Mobile, News, Opinion, Public service, Reviews, TimeShift, messaging

Text and photos by Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Feeling very much like the product the Z10 should have been, BlackBerry's new flagship Z30 isn't just the largest BlackBerry device we've seen and used but also the most refined in terms of software enhancements and user experience with BlackBerry OS 10.2.

The BlackBerry Z30, which sells outright for $700 but will be sold through various carrier plans, has a 5-inch AMOLED screen, it is a farily large smartphone verging on the popular supersized-smartphone category which some have decided to call 'phablets.' It is an elegant device, one that seems to be an amalgam of the Z10's monolithic look and feel plus the Q10's woven glass composite backplate. It feels like a polished stone in the hand with the various lines elegantly tapering at the edges.

Built to an exacting degree, the Z30 feels extremely well designed and constructed and is easily one of the best put together smartphones we've tested this year.

BlackBerry threw in a lot of surprising new features with the Z30 that push its status as a flagship device even further. It has BlackBerry Natural Sound technology, which is even more advanced than HD voice using a wider band of the audio spectrum to enable better call quality.


The Z30 is an excellent device for communicators who are on the phone all the time. It has 4 microphones which in itself is quite a feat (and industry first), but add the fact that these are constantly measuring and amplifying audio on demand for better overall quality and response and you get consistently clear calls even on speakerphone.

This feature makes it possible for users to hear nuances and variations in tone, giving your BBM Voice and Video calls a clearer, more natural quality.

Natural Sound will not work for regular phone calls or even other VoIP applications like Skype, which will be closer to the quality of HD voice. That's unfortunate.

While it isn't a feature most people will miss but once they've tried it in BBM Voice, it might make them wonder how they can get it as an overall standard feature.

BlackBerry's already highly regarded for the software keyboard in the Z10, the fast and predictive keyboard which gives you various options for what it thinks the next word you are typing is, and can be put up on your text box with a quick swipe up.

The Keyboard is even better on the larger 5-inch screen and BlackBerry says that it is the closest experience to that of a physical keyboard like say on the Q10. Having used the Z30's keyboard for a week, I was quite impressed and certainly would have a hard time going back to a Z10 which will feel somewhat cramped.

The other bit of software which I wish other mobile operating systems would take note of are the message previews that appear on the home screen.

Next to the logo of each service (i.e Mail, BBM, Facebook) you can quickly press and see a header pertaining to the nature of the message you received without having to unlock the screen or get into the app itself. 

This is a simple, yet wholly useful feature and one that shows BlackBerry's focus on productivity and maximizing one's time. Used in conjunction with the new accessory cover, the message previews allow a one glance overview by simply opening the magnetic cover, it is subtle and smart.

The Z30 is powered by a Dual Core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm MSM8960T Pro processor, 2GB of RAM and features 16GB of standard (but expandable) storage. This is standard fare for most smartphones today. The Z30 does go over and above by offering quad-core graphics, which is helpful for smoother visuals and transitions as well as for supporting games and graphics intensive applications. 

Most impressive is the new battery, which promises 25 hours of mixed use. I found this to be somewhat accurate and the battery , which is not user-removable, does give the Z30 a longer running time than other BlackBerrys out there and most competitors.

The camera is the same 8 megapixel shooter as the Z10 and with the same features (TimeShift) so it doesn't disappoint. Although when compared to some of the leading cameras on phones today, the Z30's just isn't in their league for low light performance. Still, you have a useful and versatile all-around shooter.

Conclusion


BlackBerry has never shied away from trying something new. With the Z30, which has apparently been in production for some time now and just waiting for the right components, we have a large screen which gives a better overall visual experience.  That said, the Z30 does not feel as gangly or gargantuan as some so called phablets, which are just blown-up versions of standard-sized phones (whatever standard-sized is, these days).

BlackBerry said 5-inches was the sweet spot for one handed use, I think 5-inches is the absolute ceiling. BB10 is mostly gesture based and most of those gestures require your thumb. I did have some initial difficulty navigating around and moving through open apps. Add the fact that the Z30 is quite slippery and you have a bit of an ergonomic learning curve to deal with. It can be overcome, but it will take time.

In terms of speed, performance, functionality and most of all, messaging, then the Z30 is a champion. Many reviewers and analysts are putting unreasonable pressure on the Z30 as the product 'to bring BlackBerry back," which is ridiculous, since no single product can be expected to save an entire company. What the Z30 does is make us appreciate BlackBerry for what they do well.

The Z30 simply proves that BlackBerry has continued to improve and innovate within the space that it is most familiar with. The hardware is solid although somewhat derivative of previous models. The software, while still lacking in many key apps users of other systems are enjoying, crushes the requisites of messaging, email and yes, even web browsing is much better on the Z30. Battery life is a true success with this device as are the new microphone and voice technologies which no one else has right now. The $700 no contract price tag, however, may turn some users off.

Possibly the best smartphone BlackBerry has ever produced, the Z30 and its accompanying OS 10.2 (now available for older BB10 phones) shows great promise for users who have been waiting for a true flagship large screen BlackBerry device.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Article originally appeared on Reviews, News and Opinion with a Canadian Perspective (http://www.canadianreviewer.com/).
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