The BlackBerry Porsche Design P’9981’s keyboard is a surprise success. We were sceptical of its overly styled design, angular keys and straight rows of keys (rather than the curved rows of the 9900) but actually it has proved to be excellent. The sharp angles cut into each key provide excellent purchase, the layout is good and the extra width of the phone (plus the fact the keys go right to the edge) means each key is that bit larger and thus easier to hit. All told, we actually think it’s one of the best phone keyboards we’ve ever used. The only real issue, aside from us not liking the standard BlackBerry location of the number keys, is the subtle key markings mean you sometimes have to search around for a while to find the symbol you’re looking for – this is much less of an issue in dark conditions when the backlight kicks in though.
Finishing up looking at the external features, on the back is a 5-megapixel camera with its LED flash (there’s no forward facing camera). It’s a decent enough snapper in terms of its raw image quality but it lacks extra features like the ability to tap anywhere on the screen to pick your focal point, and both in-shot and post-shot processing/editing are very limited; there’s a selection of scene modes and the ability to rotate your images once taken, but that’s about it, without resorting to 3rd-party apps.
Video can be recorded in up to 720p HD Ready resolution and again the overall results are perfectly okay but there’s nothing to set this phone apart from the crowd.
On the left edge of the phone there’s a headphone jack and microUSB socket. We’re still perplexed at BlackBerry’s insistence on putting the headphone jack on the side, as it’s immensely annoying for when putting your phone in a pocket with headphones attached. At least it’s consistent for those regular BlackBerry users, we suppose.
More to our liking are the two charging points on the bottom edge of the phone. These marry up with the contacts on the included charging dock. Also faced in steel, it’s a simple but stylish dock that will hold the phone at a comfortable viewing angle while charging, and when docked the phone shows an analogue clock display which is a nice touch.
Included in the box are tiny separate chargers for UK, US, European and Asian plugs, meaning you can just grab whichever one you need for wherever it is you’re going. They’re just normal USB chargers too, so can be used with all your other mobile devices, as long as you have the cable. Arguably a universal charger with interchangeable plugs would’ve been even better but this is certainly a better showing than most handsets.
Less impressive is the included headset. It’s stylish enough and includes three different sizes of rubber tips for the ear pieces, giving you a choice of fit (they isolate you from outside noise quite well actually), but the earpieces feel plasticky and they deliver fairly weedy audio. A step up from the most basic bundled sets perhaps, but – let’s just say – they alone certainly don’t make up for this phone’s high price. At least they incorporate a remote for taking calls and controlling your music into the cable.
Finishing off the physical features, under the backplate is a microSD slot, along with a 1,230mAh battery and the SIM slot. The microSD slot lets you add up to an extra 32GB of storage to the 8GB already built into the handset, which is a better storage complement than the majority of handsets. Not only that but you don’t even have to remove the battery to take out the microSD card. A small but welcome touch.