The BlackBerry Passport is an interesting new concept device. It is designed to be an effective business tool and get jobs done efficiently in that space, whilst offering a unique and eye catching profile.
Here we take a look at what the Passport does well, along with some areas for improvement. Also check out the end of the post for our 60 second quick review.
There’s no two ways around it, the Passport is a big phone. Large screens and two-handed use are the norm for the top-end devices these days, however the Passport really does take some getting used to as the profile makes it much wider than anyone would really be used to, plus at almost 200 grams it is also quite weighty.
The overall effect is similar to the kinds of portable computer or PDAs of years gone by, albeit much slimmer. This will be a sticking point for some; if you have small hands then you might struggle. To double check go and find your actual passport. The dimensions should be almost identical, so if you can imagine it being heavier, this is the kind of size you would be dealing with on a daily basis.
The BlackBerry 10 OS is very functional, far more so than it was a year or so ago, although it still seems to lack a certain fluidity in use. It is quite reliant on you using particular gestures to speed up navigation, however there still seem to be some counter-intuitive design decisions. The page for open applications / multitasking for instance seems clunky if you regularly use the running apps button on Android.
The app ecosystem remains limited for some. Most of the communication basics and popularised apps are covered, although support and update rates are low. The introduction of Android apps is welcome but as they are not native introduces a mild performance hit. If you are coming to BlackBerry from another system, this remains something to thoroughly research as you may find something you find very useful to be unavailable.
The keyboard is useful however it lacks a physical numerical row (which is displayed on the touchscreen). This was clearly a decision made in the design stages. You get used to it after a while but it never stops being a little bit jarring when you have to use numbers or symbols and get thrown from keys to touch. Additionally, 2 stage key functions.
The screen is of excellent quality however the unique 1:1 ratio is not really attuned for video playback or gaming. Unless apps are coded to support the ratio (most won’t be), you’ll find the dual bane of media lovers: black bars or stretched content.
On paper the Passport has a really great list of specifications. The Snapdragon 800 processor is close to top of the range, 3 GB of RAM allow for intensive multitasking, there is global 4G LTE support and the screen is capable of full HD, albeit in an interesting ratio. BlackBerry have come under fire before for not providing devices with cutting-edge hardware, this cannot be said of the Passport.
Connectivity is well catered for across the BlackBerry range and the Passport doesn’t shy away from this tradition. 4G LTE is available on global networks, and high speed WiFi connections are also supported. Miracast and HDMI out via Slimport are nice to see, many Android phones miss out on these and one wonders if Apple will ever catch this train or continue with their own branded wireless ecosystem. As a quality extra for the more techy out there, there are even network diagnostic tools in the connectivity settings.
Sound quality is well above passable. There are front-mounted stereo speakers for a more immersive sound than rear-mounted units, plus the volume can go well above what many would need without distortion. From our testing we have also had some excellent audio recording results.
Camera quality is a contentious issue on many phones. Megapixels don’t mean everything and with high pixel & sensor size, good processing and a quality photographer, you can get a lot more out of 8 megapixels than 20. With a 13 MP sensor and f/2.0 lens, the Passport is capable of some quality results. BlackBerry have also spent a lot of time developing the camera application on their whole range. There’s a huge number of features and post-processing techniques to rival the best of mobile photography from other manufacturers.
The large keyboard is very intuitive to use. It’s designed for two-handed use and when you get to grips with it makes for some very nippy typing. The innovative integrated touch panel is also excellently implemented. Once you learn its sensitivity, you can zip your cursor around documents or lengthy emails with ease, perfect for some quick editing. Using it to select menu options as also simple – BlackBerry certainly understand user input as well as any.
Getting past the odd screen ratio might be a learning curve, however you can’t deny the actual screen quality. Everything is sharp, vivid and bright from videos and games to simple articles and shopping sites.
The battery life of the Passport is one of its standout features. The 3,450 mAh cell is huge and with some impressive power management going on behind the scenes, even somewhat heavy users can eke out 2 full days.