BlackBerry KEYone Review

Featured on the MWC 2017 in Barcelona, ​​the KEYone is the latest BlackBerry smartphone. It is the first of the new hardware generation BlackBerrys produced by TCL (we expect a second model later this year). But do we really need a smartphone with hardware keyboard in 2017? Is there still a customer circle for such a smartphone? You can find the answer in our test of the BlackBerry KEYone.

BlackBerry KEYone: Price and Availability

Already at the CES in Las Vegas one could take a quick glance at the Mercury, on the MWC 2017 was the smartphone but then as a BlackBerry KEYone quite officially presented. The Blackberry KEYone should first be available globally from April 2017, but then left a little longer. The official sales start in Germany was May 16th. The keyboard smartphone from BlackBerry costs 599 euros without contract. The BlackBerry KEYone is thus priced a little below the luxury class.

BlackBerry KEYone: design and processing

The KEYone is aimed primarily at the true BlackBerry fans. The newer smartphones of the manufacturer, such as the DTEK50, have rather disappointed these clientele, not so the KEYone, which is manufactured by TCL. This company is certainly not a newcomer in the mobile phone market, since they have already produced Alcatel phones.

The orientation of the KEYone leaves no room for doubt: It is clearly aimed at customers who are looking for a smartphone with a very good hardware keyboard. This BlackBerry, which is completely ignored by other manufacturers, wants to continue to occupy BlackBerry. Still, customers are looking for a smartphone with hardware keyboard. According to the manufacturer, these are mainly based on productivity.

The KEYone is therefore more suited to business customers. The haptic feedback of a physical keyboard can not emulate an OnScreen keyboard, and some users do not want to do without it.

The keypad of the KEYone is mainly for a specific customer group.

Regarding design, BlackBerry finds itself back to its roots and says goodbye to the slide-up format of the Priv. The KEYone is a monoblock smartphone consisting of screen and QWERTY keyboard. Despite the keyboard, the smartphone is surprisingly compact and remains overall smaller than most 5.5-inch smartphones (Google Pixel XL, iPhone 7 Plus, OnePlus 3T, etc.).

A bit less weight (180 grams) and less thickness would certainly have been a profit, but overall, BlackBerry delivers a good job here. The smartphone looks professional and modern thanks to the gray shades of the case and the black of the front. Thanks to the good ergonomics, it is also very easy to use with one hand.

The housing is made of metal, the keys of the keyboard are made of plastic. The back is not made of metal but made of a non-slip and soft plastic. The fingerprint sensor of the KEYone is integrated into the keyboard’s empty key. A real smart idea, which guarantees a practical operation in everyday life.

The fingerprint sensor is located in the empty key.

Under the screen are the Android-typical controls. However, these are not integrated into the screen and remain permanently visible even when the display is switched off.

The rest is known. On the left is the power button, on the right we find the slide for the SIM and MicroSD card. In addition, BlackBerry has accommodated the volume buttons and the comfort button (I will come back later). Probably the biggest mistake in my opinion, BlackBerry, by giving the KEYone no dual SIM ability. The smartphone focuses on business users, but it is disappointing if such a functionality is missing.

At the bottom of the smartphone is the USB Type C connector and the speaker (there are two grilles, only one speaker behind the right). Good news: BlackBerry has retained the 3.5mm jack connector.

The KEYone is unfortunately no dual SIM smartphone.

Finally, we must praise the processing quality of the KEYone. The gap dimensions are very good and the smartphone is simply very well processed. The decision for a slip-proof back allows the KEYone to stick out of the mass of smartphones.

BlackBerry KEYone: Display

The BlackBerry KEYone has a 4.5-inch IPS LCD screen with the rather unusual resolution of 1,680 x 1,080 pixels. Unlike other top smartphones such as the Galaxy S8 or LG G6 , which offer an aspect ratio of 18: 9 or 18.5: 9, BlackBerry sets a ratio of 3: 2. This can sometimes lead to problems in games or videos, and black bars appear at the top and bottom.

The KEYone sets a ratio of 3: 2.

Under normal lighting conditions the screen of the KEYone makes a good impression. All the details are accurately reproduced and the colors are vivid. Of course it does not come at an AMOLED and the black values ​​are not as good, as with a Galaxy S8. Overall, the performance is good.

In the screen settings, the brightness and color temperatures can be adapted to the user’s own settings. Unfortunately, we miss a Blaulicht filter.

The KEYone allows you to customize certain aspects of the display.

The BlackBerry KEYone also comes with an Ambient display function, which will wake the display when a notification arrives and also double-tap-to-wake is on board.

According to reports, that the display was almost loosely attached to the case, the manufacturer TCL has now rejected. According to this, only a small number of customers reported a defect, which caused the display to fall off. The developer team investigate ways to fix the problem. If you have a sloping display, you should contact the customer service department to exchange the device within the warranty, TCL says in a statement .

BlackBerry KEYone: Features – The physical keyboard

Of course the special feature of the BlackBerry KEYone is the keyboard. For users who are accustomed to such a keyboard will find their way directly. Others, like me, have to learn how to write with such a keyboard and be patient. The keyboard is quite narrow in the first moment, but can be operated with two hands very pleasantly. Whether you like them or not, you have to admit that the keypad of the KEYone is typical of BlackBerry.

What would a BlackBerry without a keyboard?

The keyboard includes, as already known from the BlackBerry Priv, a touchpad. So you can control a cursor, or scroll through long messages and web pages.

In addition, all buttons can also be linked with quick start functions. An example? Very simple: You could, for example, place the AndroidPIT page on the letter “A” and start printing.

The BlackBerry keyboard brings many other features, which only come to light during use. So I noticed by chance that I can take pictures by pressing the empty button, when I accidentally came to it. If you do not like the hardware keyboard, you can still let the virtual show.

The keypad of the KEYone contains some additional features.

The comfort button

The KEYone also offers a so-called comfort button on the right side of the case. These are already known from several Alcatel smartphones. So it is not surprising to find it here as TCL is building the smartphone. This additional key can be used with various functions. This allows a specific app or shortcut to be opened when printing. Even if it is sometimes unusual, it proves to be very practicable.

The Comfort button can be used with various functions.

BlackBerry KEYone: Software

The BlackBerry KEYone is delivered with Android 7.1 nougat with the security patch from April. BlackBerry assures that it will be continuously updated with security updates. So the monthly updates from Google should quickly find the way to the smartphone. Security continues to play a big role for BlackBerry, and the KEYone is already encrypted at the hardware level.

If you are already using an Android smartphone from BlackBerry, you will not be surprised. The interface is very close to stock android. BlackBerry adds some features and apps to the smartphone that focus on productivity, organization, and security.

The BlackBerry Launcher brings you a few features to help you get started with your daily tasks. So you can wipe up or down on some app icons to create a widget. This may seem unimportant, but the idea makes sense. The app drawer is divided into three tabs: apps, widgets, and shortcuts. In addition, the KEYone, like any BlackBerry smartphone, has an additional Homescreen, the productivity tab, which can be accessed via a wipe to the left. This includes various shortcuts (calendar, contacts, settings, etc.)

The launcher makes a lot different, the settings and notifications are just like Stock Android.

BlackBerry’s own apps Messenger, the BlackBerry Hub and DTEK are, of course, also on board. As the name suggests, the BlackBerry Hub is a central location that displays all notifications, emails, SMS, messages from different social networks, and even reminders and appointments. This is superior, but the app can quickly overload when you receive lots of messages and notifications.

Remember, DTEK takes care of your privacy and privacy. The app allows you to restrict access to the microphone, camera, location and personal data. Also the Google Assistant, Google’s virtual assistant is usable with the KEYone.

The BlackBerry Hub and DTEK are available exclusively on BlackBerry smartphones.

BlackBerry KEYone: Performance

Underneath the hood of the KEYone is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625. Be it the drum, the eight-core Snapdragon 625 is anything but slow and will mainly due to the modern 14 nm production for good performance with low power requirements.

The performance of the KEYone is convincing with the 3 GB RAM and the graphics processor of the type Adreno 506 installed here. Multitasking is no problem with the device. In terms of productivity, KEYone meets the expectations of business users. In the end, only games and other powerful apps force the KEYone to the knees. This is where his weaknesses are shown.

This behavior is not unusual for a smartphone with a medium-class processor, but we have expected a device for 599 euros a little more. A LG G6 is now available at similar prices and delivers in this regard clearly more (Snapdragon 821 with 4 GB of RAM).

BlackBerry KEYone in benchmark comparison

 
BLACKBERRY KEYONE SAMSUNG GALAXY S8 + HTC U11 XPERIA XZ PREMIUM
3DMARK SLINGSHOT ES 3.1 426 3132 3599 3245
3DMARK SLINGSHOT ES 3.0 720 3336 4129 3697
3DMARK ICE STORM UNLIMITED 12790 28742 40034 40286
GEEKBENCH SINGLE CORE 2014 1905 1898
GEEKBENCH MULTICORE 6479 6454 6294
PCMARK WORKPERFORMANCE 4949 5094 6787 6338
PCMARK STORAGE 3435 4772 4989
GOOGLE OCTANE 2.0 4358 10440 11928 11086

BlackBerry KEYone: Audio

The KEYone features a mono speaker that provides enough video and music performance. However, nobody should expect above-average sound. Again, the typical distortions of the smartphone occur at high volumes. The sound over headphones is average. Fans of high-quality headphones will be rather disappointed.

The quality of calls is very good, even if you use the hands-free function.

The jack is still there!

BlackBerry KEYone: Camera

The BlackBerry KEYone shoots images with a 12-megapixel camera (sensor: Sony IMX378) with an f / 2.0 aperture. Unfortunately, no optical image stabilization is present. The front camera offers a resolution of 8 megapixels. The smartphone can record 4K video at 30 frames per second and full HD video at 60 frames per second.

Paper values ​​are nice and good: the BlackBerry KEYone shows, however, that not only is a good sensor for good pictures crucial. Even if this smartphone is equipped with the same Sony sensor as the Google Pixel, the quality of the pictures is very different. This starts with the fact that the KEYone sometimes has problems with the focus, especially with portraits.

In addition, the white balance and color reproduction fall behind current flagships. Auto-HDR mode can not match that of the pixel, resulting in under-exposed and over-exposed areas in high-contrast images. Even if this is a typical problem with smartphones and devices with small sensors, the KEYone can not keep up with the Google Pixel.

The KEYone offers good image quality and is close to current flagship smartphones

The reproduction of details is good in good light conditions and correspondingly low ISO values. In the case of poorer ratios and higher ISO values, KEYone produces noise. Compared to other manufacturers, BlackBerry optimizes shutter speeds to keep the ISO value as low as possible. The on the one hand to better results, on the other hand you must have very quiet hands for it. This can provide some blurred images, if you do not always keep still.

The color reproduction is good, with the white balance the KEYone but sometimes. In darker light conditions, however, the noise sometimes confuses the color reproduction, which sometimes leads to quite smooth images. This is also quite typical for smartphones.

All in all, the KEYone offers a good picture quality and is close to current flagships. Even if we had even expected more, is a big step forward for BlackBerry, which have been rather disappointed in this respect so far. Expected but not as good a performance as a pixel, since Google has more control over the camera software.

The BlackBerry KEYone is a good camera smartphone.

BlackBerry KEYone: Battery

The battery life is clearly one of the key strengths of KEYone. The smartphone is equipped with a 3.505 mAh battery, which guarantees a very good running time. Besides the large battery, the KEYone still benefits from the energy-saving processor and the 4.5 inch screen.

In practice, 1.5 days of running time is not a problem for the KEYone, or even more if your smartphone is not quite so often used. I came across almost 6 hours of display-on time. In the PCMark Battery Test, the smartphone made a whopping 9 hours and 25 minutes.

And further good news: The KEYone needs only 50 minutes to recharge the batteries, thanks to QuickCharge 3.0, just 36 minutes. For this the smartphone brings a small special feature. When you connect it to the charging cable, you have the choice between two modes: Normal Charge Mode or Boost Mode. In the latter case, the KEYone deactivates some functions (especially notifications) to maximize the loading speed. So you can even charge the smartphone even faster.

The KEYone offers a very good recharge time.

BlackBerry KEYone: Specifications

DIMENSIONS: 149.3 x 72.5 x 9.4 mm
MASS: 180 g
BATTERY CAPACITY: 3505 mAh
DISPLAY SIZE: 4.5 inches
SCREEN: 1680 x 1080 pixels (433 ppi)
CAMERA FRONT: 8 megapixels
CAMERA REAR: 12 Megapixels
LIGHTNING: Dual-LED
ANDROID: 7.1 – Nougat
R.A.M: 3 GB
INTERNAL MEMORY: 32 GB
REMOVABLE STORAGE: microSD
CHIPSET: Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
NUMBER OF CORES: 8th
MAX. CLOCKING: 2 GHz
CONNECTIVITY: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2

Rating

Good

  • Physical keyboard
  • Processing quality
  • Battery life (and very fast charging)
  • Apps and useful extensions

Cons

  • Average performance
  • No dual SIM
  • price

Conclusion

No, BlackBerry is not dead. The KEYone is the clear proof, also thanks to the cooperation with TCL, which produces the KEYone under license. True to the motto “Distinctly Different”, the KEYone stands out clearly from the crowd, mainly thanks to the now rare hardware keyboard.

The KEYone is a solid smartphone with the appropriate performance that appeals to the potential buyers looking for a smartphone with a keyboard and appealing design. The software is thought out, the image quality is good and the battery life is outstanding.

The KEYone is however not without weakness. The least will be able to write with it faster than with another smartphone, it does not make you even more productive. If the keyboard is not important for you, the current market offers better smartphones for this price than it is the KEYone. Even cheaper smartphones can beat the BlackBerry KEYone at times.

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