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BlackBerry Passport review

Michael Sawh

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Reviewed:

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BlackBerry Passport
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Summary

Our Score:

6

Pros

  • Solid, well-built design
  • Decent battery life
  • Improved BlackBerry operating system

Cons

  • Heavy and awkward to use in one hand
  • Keyboard setup is very frustrating to use
  • Android app support is buggy

Key Features

  • 4.5-inch 1400 x 1400 screen (453 ppi); QWERTY touchpad; Adreno 330 GPU; 3GB RAM; BlackBerry 10.3; Android app support; 13-mgapixel main camera; 3.7-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Manufacturer: BlackBerry
  • Review Price: £529.00

What is the BlackBerry Passport?

The BlackBerry Passport is a square smartphone aimed at what the Canadian company is calling ‘serious business professionals’. That’s the type of person who spends the majority of the time on their phone churning out emails, jumping into conference calls and loudly arranging power lunches. At least that’s our take on it.

Aside from its most obvious design quirk, the Passport has a physical keyboard to appeal to loyal BlackBerry phone fans, a huge battery to keep you working longer and it runs on the new BlackBerry 10.3, which now includes support for Android apps via the Amazon Appstore. But, sadly, the Passport is a phone of almosts. It almost makes working on the move great, but there are serious flaws you'll find it hard to ignore.

BlackBerry Passport: Design

That quirk we mentioned is that this is an (almost) square phone. Rightfully, it sounds ridiculous but BlackBerry believes there’s method to the madness. The Passport has the same profile as an actual passport, although at 9.3mm thick it’s noticeably chunkier.

The extra width is aimed to give you more room to work on spreadsheets or documents without having to zoom in and out of the page. We can’t say we’ve had great difficulty reading emails and doing some work on the Galaxy S5 or a iPhone 6 (even less on the huge iPhone 6 Plus), but there’s some value in BlackBerry adopting this approach. It doesn’t, however, make up for the fact that a wide phone makes for a supremely cumbersome and awkward phone to use, especially in one hand.

Going for a more angular look over something that curves like the Q5 means it’s a real stretch to hold. Weighing in at 190g, it’s not light either and there’s always the fear you could drop it if you don’t grip it in two hands. The square design means putting it in your trouser pocket or inside suit jacket pocket doesn’t leave room for much else.

The combination of the stainless steel frame and soft touch matte plastic gives it a serious, albeit stuffy look. Nothing looks quick like it. It doesn’t match the HTC One M8 or the iPhone 6 for sleekness, but it’s very much in line with previous BlackBerry phones. It’s not flashy, but it is solid and well made.

The quirks, however, do not end with the square body. While the on/off button, headphone jack and volume buttons all seem reasonably positioned, there’s a button in between the volume controls that would make more sense being used as the standby button. Instead it actually controls activating BlackBerry Assistant and muting music.

If you want to find the microSD card and Nano SIM card slot, these can be found behind a securely fastened compartment at the top of the phone. Completing the layout is a micro USB charging port at the bottom of the phone.

BlackBerry Passport: Keyboard

If there was one thing we thought BlackBerry would get right, it would be the keyboard. This is what has made BlackBerry phones in the past a great place to hammer out emails, BBM messages and texts. With the Passport, BlackBerry has made the odd decision to drop the usual four row physical keyboard layout in favour of just the three rows plus a capacitive row just above. It doesn't work.

The on-screen row can adjust depending on what’s on the screen, displaying numbers, grammar and additional characters. Swiping down on the capacitive row can also quickly adjust layout, but it can be fiddly.

BlackBerry claims you'll make fewer mistakes on this keyboard than rival phone keyboards. While that may well be the case, it’s not going to be quicker. Moving away from a full physical keyboard breaks the fluidity of typing and even after more than a week with it, we’ve struggled to up the pace.

Typing position makes it difficult as well. It’s near impossible not to rest your little finger underneath the bottom edge of the phone when typing in two hands and that can quickly become uncomfortable.

It’s such a shame because the keys have that nice, clicky responsive feel and the touch enabled functionality means you can slide your fingers across the keys to effortlessly scroll through web pages.

We would have happily sacrificed some of the screen space to have another row of physical keys and typing on the Passport would have been so much better as a result.

BlackBerry Passport: Screen

The Passport has a unique 1,400 x 1,400, square screen with an impressive 453ppi pixel density. That means it squeezes in more pixels than the iPhone 6 and as a result web pages and documents are clear and easy to read. It's not the brightest display we've seen, but it works well in bright light. Contrast and colours are strong, too, so photos and videos look rich and lifelike.

There’s some basic display adjustments you can make with colour saturation and white balance, too, the latter of which definitely needs to be played with out of the box because whites are not as good as they can be.

Another positive is that the Passport uses Gorilla Glass, the same protective coating you can find on Android phones like the Moto G and the Samsung Galaxy S5. It's another feature than ensures this is a touch phone that's unlikely to suffer from the occasional drop.

This square aspect works well for work, but as soon as you start thinking about using the screen for more fun things like watching YouTube videos, it becomes a problem. A 16:9 ratio video is clearly not a good fit, which means you have to contend with big black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. You do have a screen rotation option, but that hardly fixes matters. If you stick to work as opposed to play, this is a good screen, but it has obvious limitations.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

Adegbe Ogbeh

October 2, 2014, 4:34 pm

What else did we expect? This is the first site I've seen actually make a DO NOT BUY recommendation for the passport. I honestly wish apple had made this phone in an alternate reality and we'd hear what a world class, groundbreaking device it is.

SoCoJosh

October 2, 2014, 4:56 pm

I completely agree with you. It was either going to be CNET, or here, and I guess TrustedReviews beat them out.

Mike Walker

October 2, 2014, 5:01 pm

What were they thinking....., this is why blackberry is in the situation it finds itself.

Jedibeeftrix

October 3, 2014, 7:12 am

looks like a great device, and just what BB needs.

quirky, yes, and not for everyone, but great nonetheless.

qaaaaaa

October 3, 2014, 9:01 am

very strange review. BB Pass is not for everyone. Especially for those who go by bus and need one hand to hold a handrail during writing a message on the phone. It's for business people who are able to use both hands for effective typing.

andyvan

October 3, 2014, 9:23 am

Yes, and it's not even that good for typing. It's not for everyone, or indeed good enough for its intended market.

pimlicosound

October 3, 2014, 11:26 am

Why do all you commenters assume Trusted Reviews gave the BB Passport a bad review because they're all Apple fanboys/shills, instead of assuming the simplest explanation: that they gave it a bad review because it's a bad smartphone?

danielfrisbee

October 3, 2014, 11:28 am

crazy amount of typos and grammatical errors in the 'should you buy one' bit

andyvan

October 3, 2014, 11:37 am

Sorry, my bad. Copy and pasted from the wrong document. Correct version should appear shortly.

G.I.GIO

October 3, 2014, 2:24 pm

For a device that can replace a tablet or a laptop the Passport is a great alternative. A laptop is heavy, and a tablet cannot be used with one hand and both won't fit in your pockets. Many consumer electronics reviewers keep insisting one handed use is important but It's not. People who are considering purchasing one can see it is wide, know it's for two handed use and won't fit in skinny jeans pockets. The average person can come to this conclusion in a fraction of a second just by looking at it. People will instantly know whether it's too big or not when they see it.

G.I.GIO

October 3, 2014, 2:30 pm

Why do you assume Trusted reviews can be trusted. Anybody that uses "trust me" or trusted... should not be. Do not assume these writers are journalists, they are marketing people.

andyvan

October 3, 2014, 2:36 pm

All of which still ignores the fact the keyboard isn't any good. It's the key selling point and it doesn't work well at all.

If I made a boat that didn't float, it would be a rubbish boat. The same principle applies here.

andyvan

October 3, 2014, 2:37 pm

I think it says more about them than it does us, but thanks for the support. :)

ebenoit77

October 3, 2014, 2:55 pm

no it doesn't, i came to this site for first time and i guess last as well.

clearly you can see in review that you are iphone fanboy and will never change, i have owned iphones, androids, windows phones, blackberry, and iphone was the worth of them all, for me was hassle to type anything on iphone.

pimlicosound

October 3, 2014, 3:14 pm

As a marketing person myself, I'd have to say that Trusted Reviews make for pretty bad Apple marketers.

Sure they gave the iPhone 6 a 9/10 rating, but they also recently gave the same 9/10 rating to the Moto G2, OnePlus One, LG G3, Samsung Galaxy S5, and HTC One M8.

And while they gave the iPad Air 10/10, they hardly snubbed rival tablets with 9/10 scores handed out to the Surface Pro 3, the Galaxy Tab S 10.5 and 8.4, and the Dell Venue Pro.

Though they gave the 2014 edition of the Macbook Air 13 a 9/10 score, they were equally pleased with the Dell XPS 15 and the gaming laptop MSI GT70 2PC Dominator. In fact, if I recall correctly, back in 2008 Trusted Reviews took a stand against the original Macbook Air, saying they would not review it on the grounds that it was not a serious computer.

Even with the much hyped Apple Watch, they are showing some fairly level-headed skepticism: http://www.trustedreviews.com/...

So when Trusted Reviews give a high score to an Apple product, I'm inclined to believe it's because they think it's good, and not because they've been paid to give high scores exclusively to Apple products.

Now you could come back to me and tell me that they've obviously been paid wads of cash by all the big consumer electronics manufacturers, hence the high scores all round, with 6/10s reserved for those who refuse to pay up (like, maybe, BlackBerry!).

But I ask you, which is more likely? That Trusted Reviews, a pokey little British electronics website, is at the centre of a giant cash-for-points conspiracy? Or that BlackBerry, which for years has been on the rocks, has simply made a bit of a duff phone?

Guest

October 3, 2014, 3:27 pm

I am reserving judgement on the keyboard until I see more feedback from users... I am still waiting for mine. Your gripe with the KB is a legitimate argument, even if it is a personal opinion. I don't have a problem with warning readers the typing experience is not the same as on a Q10, or older Bold devices. A co-worker has one and loves it, but says he's still getting accustomed to the KB but is not returning it.

Guest

October 3, 2014, 4:51 pm

Apple and Samsung are bullies. If this site trashed any of their products it would instantly be cut-off. They'd get no free products to review, no more perks, no more invitations to live events and product releases, no more advertising revenue.

Guest

October 3, 2014, 7:07 pm

I'll be back. I will compile all the statements I have issues with and expand on them in a future post.

G.I.GIO

October 3, 2014, 7:36 pm

Here's one of the few 4 star reviews I copied from Amazon, 98% are 5 star and lower ratings are due to it not running on Verizon's CDMA network. This user did have trouble getting accustomed to the new keyboard:

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful

Blackberry fans are going to love the Passport's huge screen and touch-enabled keyboard
By S. Power TOP 500 REVIEWER
VINE VOICE on September 26, 2014

The huge square screen on the Blackberry Passport is great. It has so much real estate that you'll wonder how you did without it on previous BlackBerries. The keyboard takes about two weeks to get used to because of its new three row layout and unbalanced top heavy weighting. The numbers that pop-up on the screen are also weird at first, but again, you'll get used to it.

The addition of the Amazon store is nice, but I wish that Blackberry would get the Apple or Play store to supplement their awful offerings. Amazon's app store isn't much better than what Blackberry itself has to offer.

The overall experience using the Passport has gotten a lot better overall from the older models. At first, I was having so much trouble typing, especially compared to the swipe to type approach on Android phones, that I was going to turn it back in and stick to my Bold, but after some hassle from IT and second thoughts, I decided to stick with the Passport.

Try the Passport for about two weeks before you decide whether or not it is for you. The typing and top heavy design will drive you crazy at first, but once you get used to it, you'll be happy with the large screen and overall functionality.

----

edit: the reviewer appears unaware he can install Snap to access Google's Play store apps or 1Mobile or APKTrain and many others. Not %100 percent of Android apps (1 million+) work perfectly on BB10 but most do. And if an app (from Amazon) doesn't work well you can try installing the same app from one of the other stores (and vice versa) chances are it will.
Other reviewers say Android games run well and posted videos to prove it.

Who do you trust now?

toboev

October 3, 2014, 8:01 pm

what on earth is a "featured" comment? Why is it featured?

It seems a bit ironic to "feature" a comment which essentially is defending TR against a charge of "feature" articles.

Bitekr

October 3, 2014, 11:48 pm

I think Michael Sawh did exceptionally poor job reviewing this phone. he clearly does not understand who the target audience for this phone is. This phone should be reviewed from intended audience point of view = businessmen and professionals. Giving this phone 6/10 mark for poor performance because it does not run well android games is an absurd. It is absurd because professional would never evaluate this phone based on such criteria. If the reviewer is so keen to compare this phone to iphone and samsung then so be it but again review this phone from business point of view. Running movies in loops for hours is not priority of business people. Watching youtube videos is not priority for business people. etc. etc. etc.

This review should be divided into following sections

1. How effective blackberry screen is to run business (read emails, etc.)
2. How effective blackberry keyboard is to run business (typing speed, errors)
3. How long battery lasts when running typical day to day business tasks
4. How good speakers are to run day to day business operations (talking to people)
5. How effective BB10 is to streamline business operations
6. How good security is on BB10
7. How good camera is in running day to day business operations. (say scanning images as pdf)
8. Does App store have good selection of apps that typical business person would find useful

etc. etc. etc.

in summery:

From teenager point of view this phone is indeed 6/10

From busy business person point of view this phone is 10/10

My grade for Michael Sawh for this particular review is unfortunately "C+". Good effort but little professionalism.

Disclaimer: I do own Blackberry z10, ipad mini with retina and lenovo yoga 11s laptop . I use my Z10 daily in my work and I do not have games on it.

Bitekr

October 4, 2014, 12:23 am

So What our are implying it that that a person can type faster with less mistakes on iPhone or android than blackberry passport ?

ebenoit77

October 4, 2014, 4:02 am

indeed

Jason Peters

October 4, 2014, 10:57 am

I have concerns about the articles that TR write about Blackberry, I remember when BB10 was launched and one of the team composed an article about how Blackberry would never succeed and it was born to fail, in a way he was right, it didn't. You have to ask the question is what chance did the OS really have when websites like this wouldn't even give it a chance and it's as TR have had it in for BB since they've changed.

On the other hand, Apple continue to receive favorable reviews on this site with the recent iPhone 6, 6 Plus and iOS articles plastered everywhere. Of course TR would argue that they're a media tech site and keeping with the recent trend of covering one of the market leaders which is indeed Apple and would state that this was it's best selling launch, fair point.....but how is any other player in the market supposed to get a foothold with a bias so skewed towards Apple, I know a recent article about Android OS's and Apple was deleted when the comments pulled the article to pieces which is worrying trend if the website can't accept criticism.

They're could arguments that BB are churning out bad phone and bad phone and the reviewers are doing their job, the concern is I'm seeing a pattern and it's not necessarily positive towards mobiles that aren't happy, I'll continue to keep watching and see what happens, unless they delete this comment as well.

G.I.GIO

October 4, 2014, 6:16 pm

Apple Bans German Computer Bild Over Bendgate Video

http://www.geeky-gadgets.com/a...

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