BlackBerry KEYone Review, Specs and Price

Over the last few months, we've talked several times about the BlackBerry KEYone. This BlackBerry smartphone which is now part of the TCL group is showing itself vigorously in the giant smartphone market. In the opening of the review, we often say that the problem of recent models is the excessive resemblance to each other.

This is not true for BlackBerry KEYone, which in this respect is more interesting than an LG G6 and perhaps even Samsung Galaxy S8. Because of them, it's counterproductive. The big names on the Android market try to get rid of the frames, to make a full-screen phone, to make them look-alike and extremely modern. BlackBerry KEYone is a square smartphone that is better than average.

BlackBerry KEYone is a very beautifully designed phone. Yes, it's thicker and more cumbersome than its direct competitors. It has thick frames and a massive keyboard that may not be pleasing, but the reality is that such a product is perfect for business users even though BlackBerry tells us that it's for everyone. It gives a very positive impact on the view. It is very sturdy (but do not drop it, you never know it) and it has an oversized battery compared to the average that suits the user type of this product.

BlackBerry executives confirmed that this phone is not a business or professional model that you want, but a versatile device for work and leisure. Of course, BlackBerry KEYone does not deny anyone a great video game for leisure time.

Although it has Spotify and Pokemon Go, much of the choices have been made taking into account the needs of the professionals. Starting with the physical keyboard, BlackBerry is capable of making mail, tweets, posts, etc. at a speedy pace. It also has a high-profile, long-lasting, fast-recharging battery after an inevitable run-in period.

The professional look is chosen by the company's designers. Above all the software suite, Hub is an institution for those who want to manage all their activities efficiently. It looks like the one who falls into this definition is one who works with the phone. In the hardware, there is a Snapdragon 625 with 3 GB Ram.

It is a sub-dimensional choice compared to current top-of-the-range standards (with which, alas, BlackBerry shares the price), but it looks more than enough to manage an intense working routine.

Making a judgment on the user experience is extremely complex. Because we are not in the face of the usual Android. After 10 years of virtual keyboards, which over time have become more and more precise and versatile, going back to physically pressing the keys could be a shock. At first, it feels awkward to press "alt" to activate the numeric keypad. Because in the end, it is a matter of habit. You also realize all the advantages of this countercurrent choice, but above all the great speed of typing with both hands.

What is objective, however, is the technical features of this model. The keyboard is solid. The keys are not too small. And most importantly, BlackBerry has a large touchpad to improve the user experience. Sliding your finger with one swipe from side to side scrolls the screen displayed on the screen or the cards you are browsing, all with a truly remarkable sensitivity that reminds us of the most sophisticated notepad touchpads.

More advanced users will then use another feature of the "button" keypad. It has the ability to record more than 50 shortcuts (to open apps, documents, functions etc.) and associate them with individual keys. Another worthy mention is the fingerprint sensor integrated into the space bar. The activation is lightning and is a good ally of security.

If the physical keyboard is intrinsic to subjectivity, other elements of judgment are more objective. Meanwhile, its particular proportions and the presence of the mechanical keyboard make a 4.5 " smartphone look much bigger. There is a keypad, capacitive buttons, cameras and frontal LEDs to occupy part of the body that other manufacturers try to exploit 100% (or almost) with the display.

Against this background, we repeat that the choice of BlackBerry goes undoubtedly against the current. The display is a high-quality IPS with a resolution of 1,620 x 1,080 (3:2 ratio) that is capable of delivering a very bright color rendering and great details. Although not great in terms of brightness, the BlackBerry KEYone display offers very deep blacks and an excellent viewing angle.

Then there's all the talk of proportions. A 3:2 display is unpublished on Android and apps need to adapt to the new context. Like the prediction, everything that has to do with productivity does not affect the physical keyboard stuck in the smartphone and the particular aspect ratio of the display. The same cannot be said about multi-window and multimedia aspects. The videos are almost all in 16:9 so they need black bands. Instagram stories are slightly cut and so on. It is a further demonstration that entertainment is a secondary requirement of the device.

The Snapdragon 625 is not really a SoC at the last cry or even what power users expect from a smartphone. But those looking for the maximum performance which inevitably turns to productivity, entertainment, video, gaming hardly turn their eyes on BlackBerry KEYone, whose role is to handle the work routine carefully and allow even moments of leisure.

The overall performance, however, is not comparable to a top-of-the-line top range despite the price tag. A quick comparison with a OnePlus 3T (Snapdragon 821) highlights the time-gap in Twitter and Facebook loading times. From this point of view, a more powerful hardware endowment would certainly have helped. BlackBerry KEYone is also able to handle the most demanding work situations without difficulty, but given the price, it is legitimate to ask something more.

The BlackBerry Hub dominates

Although BlackBerry KEYone is formally an Android smartphone, the imprint of BlackBerry and its tradition is alive. Indeed, in KEYone we can say that the company has been able to blend the best of its tradition with the versatility offered by the Android system used by millions and millions of people every day. There's the Play Store, Google suite, and all the store apps, but there's also the BlackBerry Hub that for many professionals can be the main reason for buying KEYone.

For those who do not know it, Hub is the integrated system with which BlackBerry brings together all the major messaging and communication systems, bringing them in an orderly and easily manageable way. Mail, BB Messenger, Facebook notifications, Twitter, Linkedin and more are all assembled in one environment. Amongst other things, they are easily configurable and rich in options (for example, notification) to meet your needs. Once you get used to it, it's hard to abandon it.

It is worth mentioning the "custom" button that TCL has placed on the left side of the device. The company calls it the Comfort Button that can be easily assigned to the opening of an app (such as the camera), sending an SMS or a mail, opening the mail and so on, depending on your needs.

It is another feature that will appeal to the professional in perpetual motion. Then there is DTEK, the BlackBerry Home Security Suite. DTEK controls all phone activities in a non-invasive background, from blocking settings to hardware use, to documents, alerting you in the case of potentially harmful activities in terms of security.

Quality Camera and Good Battery

When they designed KEYone, it is difficult for BlackBerry to think of a reference camera. Nevertheless, attention to the photographic side is undeniable and apparent after reading the technical specifications. There is a 12 MP module with 1.55um pixels and phase-based f/2.0 autofocus with 6 elements, all equipped with dual tone flash and an image stabilizer.

The interface offers a consistent mix of simplicity of use and richness of functions, which push up to a completely manual control of the device. By activating the appropriate mode, it is possible to adjust the focus, ISO, setting time, aperture, exposure compensation and white balance. The results in full daylight are remarkable with sharp details and pronounced three-dimensionality. It is great for a professional who does not despise playing with his camera and getting good shots.

In the evening, the limits are inevitable, as always, but KEYone maintains the highest dignity. The noise rises due to increased ISO but the compression remains under control and the level of detail remains within acceptable limits. The 8MP front camera, obviously dedicated to the selfie, instead offers a lower quality level when the brightness drops.

The 3,505 mAh battery is perfect to handle intense working routines. We hardly got to the point of charging with less than 30%. This means that the smartphone is potentially suitable to handle even two days of (moderate) continuous use.

BlackBerry KEYone is a very special Android smartphone. The physical keyboard, the display with the particular aspect ratio and the BlackBerry software try to keep a tradition alive by inserting it into the huge Android ecosystem. The result is a solid smartphone, with excellent design and a keyboard that, if used for a while and exploited in all its potential, can serenely replace classic screen typing.

It has a good battery, good camera, and great BlackBerry software that complete a framework whose only limit is an average level hardware (SoC, RAM, Mono SIM) in a smartphone that has the price of a top of the range. It remains a great idea for a professional in perpetual movement. It is a tool of work that is almost impossible to repent, but those who demand the highest performance should prefer a superior hardware compartment. Probably BlackBerry KEYtwo will be perfect.