BlackBerry Q5 review: The apprentice
Unboxing the BlackBerry Q5
The BlackBerry Q5 ships in a relatively compact box that contains all the essential accessories. There's a USB cable that you use for PC tethering or charging with one of the two AC adapters. It's really nice of BlackBerry to have users covered for both the continental and UK power supply standards.
There's also a cheapish looking headset and some leaflets in the package. A microSD card is missing but the 8GB of internal memory should be enough as a start.
BlackBerry Q5 360-degree spin
The BlackBerry Q5 is virtually identical to the BlackBerry Q10 at 120 x 66 x 10.8 mm, compared to 119.6 x 66.8 x 10.4 mm.
The BlackBerry Q5 is lighter though, at 120g, than its premium sibling.
Design, build quality and handling
The smartphone certainly lacks the sophistication of the Q10 and even though the plastic used is of decent quality, it's nowhere near as solid or good looking as on the Q10. Cost-cutting was obviously not limited to the internals - the build and finish were affected too.
Like all things BlackBerry, the styling of the Q5 is respectful of tradition. The spaced-out QWERTY keyboard takes after the Curves, as opposed to the tightly-packed, molded keys of the Bold series - and the Q10. It's a cleaner, simpler design but not as good looking. Quite unexpected for a BlackBerry handset, the back gives slightly in when pressed harder, producing mild squeaks mostly around the shared SIM/microSD slot. The flap covering the slot feels a bit flimsy itself.
Then again, it would be unfair to the BlackBerry Q5 to only compare it to a clearly premium device like the Q10, which is also one of the handsomest smartphones around. In more general terms, the Q5 is average looking at the very least and certainly not a smartphone you'd be embarrassed to be seen with.
The phone's back is nicely curved for comfortable handling. The finish is as good as immune against fingerprints and provides for a great, secure grip. It is a well-built device overall, except for the card slot flap.
The BlackBerry Q5 QWERTY keyboard uses the same four-row layout as the one on the BlackBerry Q10, but has the typical Curve styling, with slightly smaller but better spaced keys.
The keys themselves aren't as pleasant to press on the BlackBerry Q5. They're sitting a little too low and have a rather short stroke. They're almost flat too, compared to the sculpted buttons on the Q10, which takes away some of the tactility and, in turn, the speed and/or accuracy of typing. The company has chosen to stick with the traditional numpad layout at one of the sides of the keyboard.
The Q5 has more screen bezel at the bottom - the BlackBerry logo is between the keyboard and the display, rather than on top near the earpiece. That's one thing that works better than on the Q10. When swiping up from the bottom of the screen, the Q10 doesn't provide a comfortable starting point, while the Q5 does.
The best thing about the BlackBerry Q5 keyboard is that, just like on the Q10, it works with the touchscreen, rather than being at odds with it. With plenty of shortcuts available, most of which should be familiar to experienced BlackBerry users, the keyboard can seriously speed up getting around the interface.
Instant Actions makes the right kind of difference too, letting you launch apps and perform tasks using search as you type interface. But we'll look at that in more detail in the software part of this review - for now we'll just say that the Q5 is a fine texting device, even if slightly worse than the Q10.