The BlackBerry Z10 offers arguably the best touch keyboard in the world, but the company knows that there are plenty of BlackBerry fans that demand physical keys. The BlackBerry Q10 does just that, offering a 3.1 inch touchscreen and a unique glass infused back cover that promises to be much stronger than your typical plastic back.
We went hands-on with the Q10 to see how well BlackBerry managed to marry its new touch-based interface with a physical keyboard. Like the Z10, the Q10 doesn’t offer any menu buttons. Instead you use gestures to navigate the BlackBerry 10 interface.
The keyboard looks and feels very roomy and features BlackBerry’s trademark frets, something longtime BlackBerry users will be happy to learn. The right side houses the volume controls and Voice Command button, while the left side has the microUSB and microHDMI port.
Up top are the power button and 3.5mm headphone jack. The bottom portion of the phone sports a thin external speaker. In front, a 2-megapixel camera pulls video chat duty while an 8-megapixel camera holds down the fort around back. As with the Z10, the Q10′s back panel is removable, allowing users to access the phone’s microSD and SIM card slots, as well as replace the battery with a fresh one should it run out.
The Q10′s performance was solid with no noticeable lag. Going from the larger Z10 to the smaller Q10 felt claustrophobic at first, especially when it came to executing gestures, but after a short period of time we adjusted nicely. The Q10′s physical keyboard felt like a familiar friend. Key spacing was good and each button press elicited a satisfying click.
BlackBerry has implemented BlackBerry 10′s predictive text feature in the Q10 by placing suggested words at the bottom of the screen. Unlike the Z10, users don’t have to swipe words up to the text box, but can instead simply tap to use them. One of the things we noticed while using the Q10 was that users have to tap a text box before they can begin typing. We would have preferred it if we could start typing on the keyboard and have the text automatically populate the first on-screen text box. Still, that’s a minor complaint.
According to BlackBerry CEO, Thorsten Heins, the Q10 is expected to hit the U.S. some time in April. Check back with us for a more in-depth review of the phone before then.