BlackBerry Priv review: BB's first Android smartphone is its best yet

BlackBerry mixes business with pleasure, and gets away with it

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For

  • Top notch security
  • Splendid screen
  • Strong snapper

Against

  • Bulky build
  • High price tag
  • Patchy Performance
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BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv
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BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv
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BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv
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BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv
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BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv
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BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv
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BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv
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BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv
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BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry Priv

BlackBerry. Remember it? We just about do here at T3 Towers, but our memory is a little foggy. It's been a while since the Canadian firm launched a smartphone that really piqued our interest, but with the BlackBerry Priv it's managed to do just that.

There's a certain of air of the last chance saloon around the Priv, BlackBerry's final roll of the dice to see if it stays in the hardware game or steps back and concentrates on its software solutions. No pressure then.

The Priv does have a few aces up its sleeve though - chiefly the stock Android operating system which instantly gives the handset a wider appeal than its BlackBerry 10-toting predecessors.

So can the Priv save BlackBerry's smartphone fortunes? Let's find out.

Design

The BlackBerry Priv certainly looks nice. The expansive 5.4-inch display with its subtle curving edges make for a stylish appearance, and the metal rim running round its circumference adds to the premium demeanour.

Things aren't quite so premium round the back however, with BlackBerry's 'tensile weave' finish feeling like plastic, and also creaking under pressure - it doesn't scream premium like the iPhone 6S or HTC One A9.

The best bit about the Priv's design though is the sliding mechanism which reveals the handset's physical keyboard. There's something rather therapeutic about sliding the Priv up and down, and it helps it stand out from the sea of black slabs currently on the market.

There's a front facing speaker, which directs sound directly into your face, while the rounded corners help the Priv sit a little easier in the hand - but this phone is big and heavy.

One handed operation can be a struggle, and if you're tapping out an email you'll want to grab the Priv with both mitts.

Features

The physical keyboard is one of the main features of the BlackBerry Priv, there's currently no other flagship Android device on the market which can boast this particular spec.

It doesn't just do text input either. You can use the keyboard as a trackpad to scroll lists and swipe between home screens, and each key can be individually programmed as a shortcut to launch an app, call a contact or compose a message.

Thing is, the keyboard feels outdated. The keys are small, accuracy is low and when fully extended the Priv becomes more difficult to hold. On screen keyboards have come on leaps and bounds, and they're now superior to the physical offerings.

The Priv has a great touchscreen keyboard, making the physical board a little redundant.

Moving onto bigger and better things, the QHD screen on the Priv is fantastic. It's bright and clear, and it means we finally have a BlackBerry handset which we can fully enjoy movies and games on.

The 18MP Schneider-Kreuznach camera is also a strong performer. We were able to take solid marco shots, panoramas and even night snaps by reducing the exposure level on the Priv.

It's not the best smartphone camera - the Galaxy S6 still wins here - but the fuss free application, 4K video recording and range of filters means the Priv is a more than capable snapper.

Performance

The BlackBerry Priv comes with a hexa-core processor and 3GB of RAM, which on paper is more than enough for pretty much any smartphone based task.

Unfortunately, things didn't always run as smoothly as we hoped on the Priv. We didn't always experience problems, but relatively frequently an app would take a little longer to close, or the camera would take its sweet time snapping and saving a shot.

At other times though the Priv performed well, and we were able to play intensive games without any hint of lag.

When it came to battery life, we were able to get a full days use from the Priv with a few hours of Spotify streaming, web browsing, a handful of calls, texts and social media messaging and some bursts of gaming.

You won't get more than a day from it, so you'll be plugging it in every night - but it does stand up well to its flagship competition. The Priv does feature fast charging, so plug it in for just 30 minutes for seven hours of use.

Usability

As we've already mentioned, the BlackBerry Priv is the first handset from the Canadian firm running Android. BlackBerry has stuck with Google's stock Android platform too, which means you get a slick, uncluttered interface.

You also have access to the well stocked Play Store, giving you a wealth of apps at your fingertips - something you just don't have access to on the Passport or Classic.

BlackBerry has added a few of its own features in, including the BlackBerry Hub app which channels all your emails, texts, BBMs and social notifications into one easy to access location.

Then there's the BBM app - although few people use this now - and DTEK by BlackBerry. This app allows you to control the security of the Priv.

BlackBerry has added extra security to the hardware and software of the Priv, but DTEK allows you to take privacy even further with useful controls for all your applications.

Finally, the Productivity Tab takes advantage of the curved edge of the screen, with a slender bar you can pull out to get a quick overview of new emails, calendar appointments, tasks and shortcuts to favourite contacts.

A potential stumbling point however is the price. At £559 SIM-free the BlackBerry Priv actually has a price tag which suits its flagship status, the issue is its competition launched several months earlier and are now cheaper.

T3 Verdict

The BlackBerry Priv is a very accomplished Android smartphone, and we're rather fond of it. It's got a great screen, a decent camera and the added security features will put many minds at ease.

It's not all plain sailing though, as the Priv does fall down when it comes to performance, while its physical keyboard feels outdated and is surpassed by the onscreen offering.

This is the best smartphone BlackBerry has made, no question about it, but will it save the firm's handset business? We're not so sure. Perhaps if it arrived at the start of the year we'd be waxing lyrical about the BlackBerry Priv.

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