BlackBerry Q10 Review: Can the Keyboard Bring You Back?

PHOTO: The BlackBerry Q10 has a physical keyboard.

I carry around two phones. Along with an iPhone, I lug around a BlackBerry Bold -- which many call a dinosaur -- for one reason and one reason only: the physical keyboard.

While most have moved to briskly typing on a piece of glass, I still love the feel of real keys. But over the last few years that hasn't been enough to stick with a phone. You know the saga: BlackBerry's software had become so outdated that the masses fled for modern phones with apps and browsers that actually worked.

The BlackBerry Q10 is supposed to change all that. Unlike BlackBerry's other new phone -- the Z10 -- the Q10 blends BlackBerry's new software with a traditional, physical keyboard. But is it good enough to be the only phone in my pocket? Is it good enough to replace all the iPhones and Android phones BlackBerry expats are using?

A Hard-to-Beat Keyboard
While the Z10 could be mistaken as any big-screened smartphone, there's no mistaking the Q10 – it looks and feels like a BlackBerry through and through, with a screen stacked above a keyboard.

But while it looks traditional, the phone has a freshened up aesthetic. The back of the device has a slightly curved shape and has also been spruced up with a soft-touch coating that's smoother than the plastic backs of previous BlackBerries. And don't dare call it plastic; BlackBerry says it's a "unique glass-weave material" that thinner, lighter and stronger than plastic. The 139-ounce phone is light, but not markedly thin. The 10.35mm phone is also noticeably thicker than the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S4.

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None of that detracts from the star of the show, though: the four-row keyboard. The QWERTY keyboard is everything you remember about BlackBerry keyboards – and much more. The keyboard is well-made and well-spaced thanks to the metal frets separating the rows of keys. It's also wider than some of the other models since the screen is now larger.

It's actually hard for me to write about the keyboard and not completely gush about it – the keys are the right amount of "clicky" and the perfect amount of firmness. It gave me an added level of confidence when typing. In fact, I wrote the first portion of this review on the phone while sitting on a train – it would have taken me twice as long on my iPhone and it would have had twice as many typos.

BlackBerry brought over some of the features from the Z10's virtual keyboard too. On the Q10 you can still get that predictive text function, to speed typing even more.

While the keyboard provides something very familiar to BlackBerry lovers, there's something that will take a bit of an adjustment with the Q10. A touchscreen. Sure, other BlackBerrys with keyboards have had touchscreens, but with the Q10 the software was actually made for finger swipes and touch input. It's also a much nicer screen than ever before: the 3.1-inch, 720 x 720-resolution Super AMOLED screen is bright, crisp and responsive to touches and flicks. However, the screen is smaller than I would have liked and I'll admit that at times I was looking for the classic BlackBerry trackpad.

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