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We Tested: Privacy-centric BlackBerry Priv

The QWERTY keyboard are one of the top attractions of an iconic Blackberry mobile phone along with the Blackberry OS which has a heightened focus on security and privacy of the user data. This makes the Blackberry phone one of the top choices for business class user who has strong desire in these security features. However, the launch of iOS and Android mobile operating system has created severe impact into the Blackberry business. Facing risk of closing down, Blackberry decided to launch their Android pioneer – Blackberry Priv that comes with several security features on the not-so-secure Android OS.

BlackBerry Priv specifications:

  • Android 6.0 OS
  • 5.4 inches 2K AMOLED curved display(2560 x 1440 resolution)
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 4 scratch resistant glass
  • 1.8GHz Snapdragon 808 octacore processor
  • Adreno 418 GPU
  • 3GB RAM + 32GB ROM(support up to 256GB microSD storage expansion)
  • 18MP Schneider-Kreuznach certified rear camera lens, OIS, F2.2 aperture, PDAF and dual tone flash light
  • 2MP front camera
  • Bluetooth 4.1 and NFC
  • equipped with QWERTY keypad
  • 3410mAh battery that support QuickCharge 2.0
  • 147 x 77.2 x 9.4mm
  • 192g

RRP:RM3559

 

Design

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The combination of black and silver makes the Blackberry Priv an ideal option for business class user. It is highly elegant along with its curved display and the iconic QWERTY keyboard that appeals to consumer from the market today. As it comes with a large display, single handed operation of the Blackberry Priv is still conveniently possible.

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The Blackberry Priv comes with a 5.4 inches display which appears slightly curved on the side surrounded by the silver frame finish. The iconic Blackberry logo is also printed on the top of the display

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While it is said to feature a dual curved display, the black bezel alongside the display remains significant and hence the Galaxy Edge-like curved display doesn’t become the center of the attraction for the Blackberry Priv.

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Sliding up the upper part of the Priv unveils the QWERTY solid keyboard, while the speaker grill remained the bottom.

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While QWERTY keyboard is the common element of the Blackberry smartphone, Blackberry has reduce the size of each button for the keyboard to fit under the display. Nevertheless, this tightly packed button could be prone to mistakes if not cautious.

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Navigation keys are located inside the firmware.

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Apart from the volume up and down button, there is a tiny button located right between it where Blackberry call it as quick access key. It is aimed to toggle the silent mode of the smartphone with the install of third party application.

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The power button is located on the left, and its position is ultimately ideal for left handers.

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The hidden slot on the top are the SIM and microSD slot respectively.

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3.5mm audio jack and microUSB port is located on the bottom.

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The protruded rear camera has catch our attention at the first glance, apart from its metal plated Blackberry logo. There is some added slant texture on the smartphone that is not completely dull.

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The 18MP Schneider Kreuznach certified lens comes within the round camera module while the dual tone LED flash light are surprisingly big.

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With a QWERTY keyboard installed, the device is only as thick as 9.4mm. Impressive!

 

Display

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The 5.4 inches display is rarely seen on the market today, but it is equipped with a 2K crisp and clear display which makes this display fascinating. Priv also equipped with the curved display commonly found on flagship smartphones today. The display is also protected under Corning Gorilla Glass 4 which makes it resistant towards minor accidental scratches.

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Unlike Samsung common AMOLED panel, the AMOLED display panel on the Priv has shown some deep saturation of colours while the colour remains well balanced.

 

Camera

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In short, the camera of Blackberry Priv is satisfactory. Despite it features a 18MP Schneider Kreuznach ceritified camera lens and a f/2.2 aperture, the image quality taken from this device does not live up to our expectation of a high standard flagship camera. With sufficient brightness, the camera on the Priv works well but it suffers in low light environment.

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Priv has retained most of the original camera feature seen on the original Android while it also added some of the new shooting modes such as real time filter and panaroma mode. These modes also works when using the front 2MP selfie camera!

Sample images

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The Blackberry Priv camera does it job well under light environment and most colours and details are remains accurate.

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Much noise have been observed in low-light photos. However if there is enough light source in the environment the camera could take decent photos too (as seen on the third image).

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For food shots it is recommended to use manual mode to manually adjust for white balance and adding on some filters that enhances the details and saturation on the final image.

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In door images

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Macro shots are pretty decent too!

System

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With Priv as an abbreviation of Privacy, Blackberry still put the security and privacy as the top feature of this smartphone despite it runs on Android that has the biggest vulnerability towards malicious application. In this Blackberry version of Android, it is seen that Blackberry has added the iconic Blackberry Hub, BBM Messenger app and DTEK encryption application and so on.

System operation and UI

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Despite it is an Blackberry smartphone, the Blackberry Priv has a whole new and original look of Android with minimal customization and addons laoded from Blackberry themselves.

Priv’s exclusive app

Screenshot_20160622-120151The Blackberry Hub is a very useful application that act as a the center of all information. This is the location where all the application information and notifications will be shown up in here, including applications such as SMS, WeChat, Facebook, Twitter, email and latest YouTube Subscription update.

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The BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) application is also available in the Android version Blackberry Priv.

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The DTEK app act as the center of command and control for all security and privacy features on the Blackberry App. User can review all the related security measures and take action when necessary.

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Blackberry Password Keeper is a security vault that encrypts your stored password and user name with a single user-key password combination.

New Encryption mode: Image unlock

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While most Android smartphones comes with Pattern, PIN and Password for prevent unauthorized use, Priv comes with a new encryption method known as Photos. USer must select a number between 0 to 9 and select a background image to hide the number under any of the corners in the picture.

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It is relatively simple process to unlock the smartphone. When the screen is turned on, user have to slide the images along with preset numbers to the customized position to complete the unlock process. While this method look very simple, it requires great amount of precision and accuracy to unlock the smartphone with the correct code.

Double tap to wake

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One of the favourite smartphone unlock feature in Android, Double tap to wake is also available in Blackberry Priv.

Productivity Tab

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Similarly with Samsung Galaxy Edge, sliding from the edge of display will launch the bookmarked feature that includes today’s event, unread messages, tasks and et cetera.

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The recent menu option can also be customized to 3 different UI that suits the user preference.

Battery

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The Priv comes with a 3410mAH battery that support Qualcomm QC2.0 quickcharge technology. The Snapdragon 808 is also an power efficient flagship processor used in some other smartphones such as LG G4. However we found that the charging speed of the Blackberry Priv is not satisfactory while the battery doesn’t last long either. Worst part is, the overheating issues is rather significant.

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While Priv features LED light, it would not lit when the smartphone was put to charge. The curved display on the AMOLED light up with the battery level indicator that shows the time remaining for full charge.

The BB Priv comes with 5V/1.3A charging adapter which does not shows outstanding charging speed. While the Blackberry Priv support QC2.0, user might have to buy another adapter with 5V/2A input for enhanced charging experience.

In our charging test, only 23 percent of battery is recovered in 20 minutes charge under airplane mode.

Battery consumption test

  • 1/2 hr Google Map & data:8%
  • 1/2 hr FB + data:7%
  • 1/2 hr FB + WiFi:4%
  • 1/2 hr browser + wifi:6%
  • 1/2 hr game + wifi:14%
  • 1/2 hr youtube:6%
  • 1/2 hr whatsapp+wechat+camera+wifi:7%
  • 1/2 hr music:2%
  • 1 hr video playback:6%(1/2 hr headphones)6%(1/2 hr speaker)

Battery left: 34% after 5 hours test.

The battery consumption test shows somewhat satisfactory battery endurance level for this smartphone. However, the battery on the Priv drains rapidly when it comes to surfing Facebook, web browsing and playing casual games. This could likely accounted for the overheating issue which results higher battery drainage.

Battery endurance test

In our 5 hours of standby test with active Social IM application running on the background and active WiFi connection, only 3% of battery is drained.

Performance

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While the Snapdragon 808 is a decent flagship processor with performance slightly lowers than the Snapdragon 810, we encounter severe overheating issues when it comes to processor-intensive program such as games. Apart from standby, playing games, Facebook surfing and web browsing will result in overheating and strongly affects user experience. Due to thermal throttling, the performance of the Priv will be reduced which even frustrate us even more.

In terms of stability, the Priv runs greatly while all software and applications are stable. 3GB RAM makes multitasking another plus for this smartphone.

AnTuTu Benchmark

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Gaming experience

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When it comes to games, overheating issue is significant and severe until the extend that requires the app to shut down. In our game test with Clash Royale, the Blackberry Priv overheating issue has last 12 minutes which eventually requires the application to shutdown to cool down the smartphone, else the application would just force close itself. Blackberry definitely should be looking onto this problem and release fix as soon as possible.

However, the Snapdragon 808 is definitely a beast in computing and rendering graphics in game as all games played smoothly on this smartphone.

Video/ Multimedia experience

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There is no sign of overheat when we play the video thorough the local medias. However, video streaming with YouTube still results in slight heating but that doesn’t affect user experience to a great extend. Nevertheless, the 5.4 inches 2K display did a good job by producing a brilliant and vivid videos and image that we enjoyed most of the time.

QWERTY keyboard

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The QWERTY keyboard on the Blackberry Priv is one of the greatest highlight of itself. Considering for its size, the Priv keyboard comes in 4 rows similar with the Blackberry passport. When pressing the keys, it was discovered that the keypad sunk a little bit and it doesn’t have a great feedback that we expected. Swiping up and down makes it easier to select predictive text while swiping left deletes the previous word.

Things can get complicated when it comes to Chinese input on the keyboard. While Priv does not support Chinese input by default, hence the user must download and install third party Chinese input app that might not work well with the Blackberry keyboard.

Conclusion

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In short, the launch of the Blackberry Priv that runs on Android is a big leap of faith from Blackberry on ditching its own OS. Although the display and hardware of the Priv is pretty decent, it has several rooms for improvement when it comes to its battery consumption and overheating issue that is deemed critical.

With a price tag at RM3559, it is much more pricier than other flagship smartphones such as iPhone 6S and Galaxy S7 Edge. Do you think the Priv worth for what it cost?

作者简介

Alex Wee

Alex Wee

A smartphone addict, IT and InfoSec enthusiast. Contact me at [email protected]