Blackberry Z3 detailed review
The BlackBerry Z3 makes its way towards the market at a time when phone manufacturers, after focusing on the top-end for much too long, have realised the importance of the budget/mid-range segment. With the launch of good (and sometimes exceptional) phones like the Motorola Moto G, Nokia’s line-up of Windows Phones and challengers from Indian phone makers like Micromax and Xolo, the segment that falls between Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 20,000 hasn’t been this alive in years.
The BlackBerry Z3, at Rs. 15,990, is a confident device that shows that you do not need to be powered by an operating system from Microsoft or Google to serve as both a solid, value for money offering to customers and a device that can, to a certain extent, challenge the traditional constraints that phones in this segment suffer from.
The Looks & Build
Even if you’re not a fan of Blackberry phones, you would be hard-pressed to deny that the Z3 is one of the best built and premium looking phones at its price. The Z3 is large, as most phones today are wont to be, and its build quality is firm and sturdy despite relying exclusively on plastic. The Z3 has a textured non-removable back panel that helps you keep a grip on the phone. The back is where the 5MP camera and flash are set along with the speaker grill on the bottom left corner. The face of the device has the 5-inch display, the 1.1 MP front camera, the BlackBerry logo and…that’s it. The left spine has the power/lock, volume and voice control buttons while the right spine has a flap that hides the microSD and micro SIM slots.
The Z3 isn’t the slimmest phone but despite its thickness and overall size, the phone feels relatively light, its 164 grams not really making it bulky or difficult to handle. The phone also looks good and chances are unless you tell somebody about how much it actually costs, their guesses will be a lot higher than the actual price-tag.
The Z3’s 5-inch screen is colourful, accurate but it is shackled by a resolution of 960×540 pixels. This is understandable because of the phone’s price but at times five inches does seem like too much real estate for that resolution to cover. However, there’s not too much to complain about the screen apart from the fact that it does tend to lose visibility under direct sunlight.
The BlackBerry Z3 runs on BlackBerry 10.2.1 OS and is powered by a 1.2GHz dual-core Snapdragon 400 processor, an Adreno 305 GPU and 1.5GB of RAM. All of this operates on a 2,500mAh battery.
BB10 has been around for a while and if you’ve already made up your mind about it, then this won’t really change your mind (To get a more comprehensive look at how BB10 works and what we think of it, read our BlackBerry Z30 review). BB10, on the Z3, remains a mobile OS that focuses primarily on communication, be it through emails, messages, on Facebook or Twitter or phone call. As a result, the phone is geared towards letting you access all of the aforementioned quickly from anywhere in the phone, even if you’re inside an app. This ‘Hub’, as BlackBerry calls it, can be accessed by swiping to the right on the homescreen and upwards and to the right inside any app.
The Hub (left) & on screen notifications (right)
The new version of BB10 on the Z3 does come with some new features including actionable notifications on the lockscreen and notifications that pop up at the top of the screen.
You’ll have to rely on either the BlackBerry World app store or a third party Android app store for your apps. In the case of the former, you will get plenty of apps (BlackBerry claims over 100,000) but you may come across some big missing names. In the case of the latter, you will be able to install almost any Android app but you can’t be 100% sure if the app works. For instance, we installed Dead Trigger 2 (from the 1Mobile Market app store) but the game just wouldn’t run. Be aware of this if you’re thinking of getting the Z3 for its ability to run Android apps.
The Performance and Usability
The Z3 never made it apparent that it was running on a dual-core processor. The phone’s performance is smooth and lag-free even when switching to and between apps. One issue that crops up is that because of its large size, swipe gestures that require you to swipe from the edge of the screen become difficult unless you have particularly large hands. In that way, the Z3 requires two-handed operation more times than not.
The Z3’s 5MP camera continues BlackBerry’s tradition of packing in unimpressive shooters in their phones. On the plus side, the camera launches quickly and takes little time to shoot multiple photos. There are also built-in filters and editing options to ‘improve’ captured photos including a Time Shift mode that lets you pick the best from a series of shots taken every time you take a photo. There’s also the Story Maker feature that lets you stitch together photos and videos to create one single good looking video.
Below are some photos we clicked with the Z3. Click on an image to enlarge it in a new window.
The Z3 impresses with its battery life and we saw the phone last for nearly a day and a half of use which consisted of a few calls, time on Facebook, about 20 mins of gaming and camera use. Another thing that impressed us was the Z3’s keyboard which remains one of the best touchscreen keyboards in the business. Not only is the keyboard really accurate and fast, but Blackberry has also added support for commonly used Hinglish words to the phone’ dictionary.
The Z3’s speaker was surprisingly soft during calls but worked fine when it came to music. Overall, the Z3 is a good phone for music especially since it makes it easy to buy music straight from the BlackBerry World store.
The BlackBerry Z3 makes a strong case for the Canadian phone maker in the mid-range segment. It steps away from BlackBerry’s usual modus operandi of pricing its phones too high and as a result it is worth recommending as a phone worth buying for Rs. 15,990, if you want a large screen, although a lower price would have made it a much better deal. At about Rs. 16,500, the Blackberry Z10 is a significantly better buy if you’re okay with its 4.2-in screen. Moving away from Blackberry, you can also consider the Motorola Moto G and the Nokia Lumia 720.