BlackBerry KEY2 review

GSMArena team, 10 July 2018.

Display with 3:2 aspect ratio

The KEY2 uses a display identical to the BlackBerry KEOne's - it's 4.5-inches, diagonally. It's got a resolution of 1080 x 1620 px and has a pixel density of about 434 ppi. This display is protected by Gorilla Glass 3 whilst the KEYOne had Gorilla Glass 4. Gorilla Glass 3 offers a different balance between durability and flexibility that also costs less.

The company was set on using a smartphone display with an antiquated aspect ratio. This 3:2 ratio is optimized for viewing documents and reading longer emails. The fact that this display is not of a more standard wide (16:9) aspect ratio makes it natively incompatible with multimedia consumption.

Blackberry KEY2 review

Standard-definition TV has an aspect ratio of 4:3 while today's widescreen TV standard is 16:9. No matter what you're watching, there is a really good chance you'll see it with letterbox bars either above or beside the picture. The camera's native aspect ratio is 4:3 and while you can change it to 3:2, doing so will crop the photo.

While we're still on the topic of aspect ratio, watching Instagram or Snapchat stories on different aspect ratios will simply crop the image. IG stories created on the KEY2 will be stretched tall (for taller phones) and crop some of the sides of the image. On the flip side, watching IG videos created on taller displays will crop the upper and lower ends off, so much so that text or stickers may be cropped or not visible.

Aside from the crop factor, the KEY2's display produces a soft image when watching videos or even reading text. This probably isn't noticeable to the average person, but to our trained eyes, we can really see a noticable softness in pictures and video.

The display brightness on the KEY2 isn't as intense as we saw on the KEYOne, but it's still fairly visible in direct sunlight. 434 nits can be reached with automatic brightness disabled. When enabled, the brightness boost brings the display to 577 nits. Minimum brightness is pretty good at 4.7 nits.

Display test 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
BlackBerry KEYOne Max Auto 0.463 670 1448
BlackBerry KEY2 (Max Auto) 0.367 577 1573
LG G7 ThinQ 0.277 502 1812
BlackBerry KEYOne 0.266 467 1756
BlackBerry KEY2 0.276 434 1572
HTC U12+ (Max Auto) 0.214 389 1818
HTC U12+ 0.2 366 1830
LG G7 ThinQ (outdoor)
Samsung Galaxy Note8 (Max Auto) 0 647
Apple iPhone 8 (Max Auto) 0.468 640 1368
Apple iPhone 8 (Standard) 0.399 566 1419
Apple iPhone 8 (True Tone) 0.397 554 1395
BlackBerry Motion (Max Auto) 0.456 514 1128
OnePlus 6 0 456
Samsung Galaxy Note8 0 412
Oppo R15 Pro 0 410
BlackBerry Motion 0.345 393 1140

There are three color profiles: Natural, Boosted, and Saturated. Color reproduction isn't perfect on the KEY2: we saw an average DeltaE of 4.7 with a max DeltaE of 11.4 at cyan. Otheriwse, all colors have a distinct cold hue so whites look a bit on the blue side. The boosted profile is great if you like that "AMOLED" look.

There is no way to tune the colors to your liking, but the most accurate profile is the default "Natural" one.

The BlackBerry KEY2 managed well enough outdoors, on a bright sunny day, but definitely left more to be desired. The fairly modest Max Auto mode did help legibility a bit. At the end of the day, we'd say this phone's visibility in sunlight is generally average: not great, but not terrible.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Apple iPhone X
    5.013
  • OnePlus 5T
    4.789
  • Samsung Galaxy S8
    4.768
  • Samsung Galaxy S8+
    4.658
  • Samsung Galaxy S9
    4.63
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+
    4.615
  • Samsung Galaxy S9+
    4.537
  • Motorola Moto Z2 Play
    4.459
  • Oppo R11
    4.454
  • Samsung Galaxy S7 edge
    4.439
  • OnePlus 3
    4.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S7
    4.376
  • OnePlus 6
    4.321
  • HTC One A9
    4.274
  • Oppo R15 Pro
    4.251
  • Samsung Galaxy Note7
    4.247
  • Samsung Galaxy A3
    4.241
  • Nokia 8
    4.239
  • Google Pixel 2 XL (pre-update)
    4.234
  • OnePlus 3T
    4.232
  • Google Pixel XL
    4.164
  • ZTE Axon 7
    4.154
  • Samsung Galaxy Note8
    4.148
  • Meizu Pro 7 Plus
    4.147
  • Samsung Galaxy S6 edge
    4.124
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2017)
    4.124
  • Huawei Mate 10 Pro (normal)
    4.096
  • Samsung Galaxy Note5
    4.09
  • Huawei P20 Pro
    4.087
  • Xiaomi Mi 8
    4.086
  • Nokia 6 (2018)
    4.052
  • Google Pixel 2 (pre-update)
    4.023
  • LG V30
    4.022
  • Huawei Nexus 6P
    4.019
  • vivo NEX S
    4.012
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 Pro
    3.998
  • OnePlus X
    3.983
  • Vivo Xplay5 Elite
    3.983
  • LG G7 ThinQ (outdoor)
    3.978
  • Oppo R7s
    3.964
  • Apple iPhone 7
    3.964
  • Apple iPhone 8 (True Tone)
    3.957
  • Huawei P9 Plus
    3.956
  • Meizu Pro 6 Plus
    3.935
  • Lenovo Moto Z
    3.931
  • Samsung Galaxy A7 (2016)
    3.918
  • OnePlus 5
    3.914
  • Samsung Galaxy C5
    3.911
  • Samsung Galaxy C7
    3.896
  • Samsung Galaxy A5
    3.895
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 outdoor
    3.879
  • Samsung Galaxy J2 outdoor
    3.873
  • Motorola Moto G6 Plus
    3.865
  • Samsung Galaxy A8
    3.859
  • Samsung Galaxy A8 (2018)
    3.842
  • Sony Xperia XZs
    3.818
  • Samsung Galaxy A9 (2016)
    3.817
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    3.816
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2017)
    3.812
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2017)
    3.804
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.802
  • Xiaomi Redmi Pro
    3.798
  • LG V20 Max auto
    3.798
  • Sony Xperia XZ
    3.795
  • Samsung Galaxy A5 (2016)
    3.789
  • Apple iPhone 6s
    3.783
  • Meizu Pro 5
    3.781
  • Microsoft Lumia 650
    3.772
  • Xiaomi Mi 6
    3.767
  • Sony Xperia XZ1
    3.765
  • Samsung Galaxy J7 (2016)
    3.756
  • Nokia 8 Sirocco
    3.745
  • Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact
    3.729
  • Apple iPhone 8 Plus (True Tone)
    3.725
  • Oppo F1 Plus
    3.709
  • Vivo X5Pro
    3.706
  • Samsung Galaxy A3 (2017)
    3.688
  • Huawei P20
    3.683
  • Apple iPhone SE
    3.681
  • Huawei Mate 9
    3.68
  • Samsung Galaxy A7
    3.679
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact
    3.675
  • Meizu PRO 6
    3.659
  • BlackBerry Priv
    3.645
  • Sony Xperia XA1 Ultra
    3.597
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
    3.588
  • Sony Xperia XZ2
    3.58
  • LG G6
    3.556
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
    3.53
  • Motorola Moto Z Play
    3.526
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016)
    3.523
  • Samsung Galaxy J3 (2016) outdoor mode
    3.523
  • Acer Jade Primo
    3.521
  • Microsoft Lumia 950
    3.512
  • Oppo R7 Plus
    3.499
  • Nokia 7 plus
    3.479
  • nubia Z11
    3.466
  • Huawei P10 Plus
    3.456
  • HTC U Ultra
    3.453
  • Motorola Moto G6
    3.448
  • Sony Xperia XA2 Ultra
    3.445
  • Samsung Galaxy J7
    3.422
  • Motorola Moto G6 Play
    3.419
  • Meizu MX5
    3.416
  • LG V20
    3.402
  • Samsung Galaxy A6 (2018)
    3.397
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 AI Dual Camera
    3.393
  • LG G7 ThinQ
    3.39
  • Huawei P10
    3.379
  • Samsung Galaxy J5 (2016)
    3.378
  • Oppo R9s
    3.352
  • Honor 8 Pro
    3.341
  • Oppo F7
    3.333
  • Oppo R7
    3.32
  • Lenovo P2
    3.316
  • Archos Diamond Omega
    3.305
  • Honor 9
    3.289
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s
    3.276
  • Nokia 5
    3.261
  • Nokia 6 (Chinese version)
    3.244
  • Nokia 6 (Global version)
    3.238
  • Samsung Galaxy J2
    3.235
  • Sony Xperia X Performance
    3.234
  • Xiaomi Mi Note 2
    3.228
  • Motorola Moto X Play
    3.222
  • Oppo F3 Plus
    3.218
  • BlackBerry KEY2
    3.212
  • Huawei Mate 9 Pro
    3.206
  • Huawei P9
    3.195
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 2
    3.19
  • ZTE Nubia Z17
    3.159
  • Oppo R11s
    3.153
  • Lenovo Vibe Shot
    3.113
  • HTC U11 Life
    3.108
  • Motorola Moto X Force
    3.105
  • LG Nexus 5X
    3.092
  • HTC U11
    3.089
  • HTC U12+
    3.085
  • Xiaomi Redmi S2 (Y2)
    3.077
  • Huawei Mate S
    3.073
  • Microsoft Lumia 640 XL
    3.065
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Asus Zenfone 4 ZE554KL
    3.019
  • Sony Xperia XA1
    3.012
  • Motorola Moto X4
    3.012
  • Sony Xperia L1
    2.994
  • Sony Xperia X
    2.989
  • LG Q6
    2.987
  • Huawei P10 Lite
    2.974
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Huawei P20 Lite
    2.952
  • Xiaomi Redmi 5
    2.951
  • Huawei Mate 8
    2.949
  • Sony Xperia XA2
    2.938
  • Oppo Realme 1
    2.932
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4
    2.92
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3S
    2.913
  • Xiaomi Redmi 5 Plus
    2.913
  • Sony Xperia XA Ultra
    2.906
  • LG G5
    2.905
  • Huawei Honor View 10
    2.896
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3s Prime
    2.893
  • Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus
    2.884
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium (sRGB)
    2.877
  • Sony Xperia XZ Premium
    2.877
  • Sony Xperia Z5
    2.876
  • Nokia 3
    2.871
  • Microsoft Lumia 550
    2.851
  • Lenovo Moto M
    2.813
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3 Pro
    2.803
  • Sony Xperia Z5 compact
    2.784
  • Honor 10 (Vivid)
    2.757
  • Nokia 2
    2.752
  • Meizu MX6
    2.751
  • LG V10
    2.744
  • Huawei Mate 10 (normal)
    2.742
  • Motorola Moto G5S Plus
    2.737
  • Xiaomi Redmi 3
    2.735
  • Huawei Honor 7X
    2.734
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (S625)
    2.714
  • Meizu M5
    2.71
  • Sony Xperia M5
    2.69
  • Xiaomi Mi A1
    2.689
  • Huawei P9 Lite
    2.679
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4 Prime
    2.679
  • vivo V7+
    2.671
  • Vivo V3Max
    2.659
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix
    2.658
  • Huawei Mate 10 Lite
    2.654
  • Oppo F5
    2.653
  • Doogee Mix
    2.642
  • Xiaomi Mi 4i
    2.641
  • Xiaomi Redmi 4a
    2.635
  • Xiaomi Mi 5X (Standard)
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia XA
    2.609
  • Motorola Moto G4 Plus
    2.582
  • Motorola Moto G4 Plus (max auto)
    2.582
  • Meizu M5s
    2.58
  • Xiaomi Mi 4c
    2.574
  • LeEco Le Max 2
    2.567
  • Microsoft Lumia 640
    2.563
  • Asus Zenfone 3 ZE552KL
    2.563
  • Huawei P Smart
    2.563
  • Xiaomi Mi Max 2
    2.561
  • HTC U11+
    2.556
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 5A (Y1)
    2.556
  • Lenovo Moto G4
    2.544
  • Lenovo K6 Note
    2.544
  • Oppo F1
    2.528
  • Sony Xperia Z5 Premium
    2.525
  • Huawei Honor 7 Lite / Honor 5c
    2.506
  • Sony Xperia M4 Aqua
    2.503
  • BlackBerry Motion
    2.494
  • Oppo F1s
    2.481
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Lenovo Vibe K5 Plus
    2.473
  • Huawei G8
    2.471
  • Huawei nova
    2.467
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Lenovo Vibe K5
    2.459
  • Meizu m3 max
    2.447
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Xiaomi Mi 5X (Auto)
    2.417
  • HTC 10 evo
    2.407
  • Huawei Honor 7
    2.406
  • Vivo V7
    2.404
  • Sony Xperia E5
    2.386
  • ZUK Z1 by Lenovo
    2.382
  • HTC 10
    2.378
  • Oppo F3
    2.376
  • vivo V5 Plus
    2.371
  • Meizu m1 note
    2.362
  • Huawei nova plus
    2.329
  • Razer Phone
    2.328
  • HTC One E9+
    2.305
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Sony Xperia L2
    2.266
  • Lenovo Vibe K4 Note
    2.254
  • Sony Xperia C5 Ultra
    2.253
  • HTC U11+ (EU)
    2.253
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 (MediaTek)
    2.249
  • Sony Xperia C4 Dual
    2.235
  • Xiaomi Mi Note
    2.234
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    2.233
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Huawei P8
    2.196
  • Meizu M5 Note
    2.189
  • Huawei Honor 6
    2.169
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 2
    2.166
  • OnePlus Two
    2.165
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • LG Aka
    2.145
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note 4 (X20)
    2.145
  • Archos 50 Diamond
    2.134
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Xiaomi Mi 4S
    2.095
  • Acer Liquid X2
    2.084
  • Huawei P8lite
    2.078
  • vivo V5
    2.059
  • Moto G 3rd gen max manual
    2.026

If you like to wear polarized sunglasses, viewing the display in the standard portrait orientation is no problem. When turning the phone to landscape mode to take a photo or watch a video, the screen goes completely dark when viewing through polarized lenses, so do keep that in mind.


Battery life

The KEY2 has an identically sized battery to the KEYOne's, it's a 3,500 mAh battery. The choice of using an efficient Snapdragon 660 on the 14nm process paired with a relatively low-resolution display was a great recipe for battery life. The BlackBerry KEYOne already had exceptional battery endurance and we can say the same thing about the KEY2.

The KEY2 scored 86 hours overall in our endurance scores. We saw the best improvement in call time, which was about 50% improved with a call time of 30:58h. The browser test scored less than an hour better than the KEYOne - 11:48h.

Finally, video playback saw about the same endurance time at 12:33h. With the KEY2, a full battery should last you at least one full day of heavy usage. Lighter usage could easily take you into the next day.

Blackberry KEY2 review

Our endurance rating denotes how long a single battery charge will last you if you use the BlackBerry KEY2 for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily. We've established this usage pattern so our battery results are comparable across devices in the most common day-to-day tasks. The battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you're interested in the nitty-gritties. You can also check out our complete battery test table, where you can see how all of the smartphones we've tested will compare under your own typical use.

The BlackBerry KEY2 supports Quick Charge 3.0 and offers a few power-management features baked into the UI. The first one you'll notice is Boost charging. Upon plugging the BlackBerry in, you're asked if you'd like to charge normally or with Boost mode. Boost mode is basically a "power save mode" that activates while the phone is charging so that it can charge quicker.

Boost Mode when plugging in - Blackberry KEY2 review Settings - Blackberry KEY2 review
Boost Mode when plugging in Settings

New to the KEY2 is a smart power management feature that will learn your normal charging routine and will occasionally warn you if it estimates you will drop below 20% before making it to your regular charging window.

Power Center notification - Blackberry KEY2 review
Power Center notification

Like the KEYOne before it, the KEY2 is prone to becoming quite warm while Quick Charging. We attribute this to the phone's textured backplate, which insulates the heat behind the back cover. Just make sure you leave it somewhere well ventilated for optimal charging. We saw the BlackBerry KEY2 make it from a dead battery to 47 percent in half an hour.

Loudspeaker

There's a single bottom-firing loudspeaker to the right of the USB-C charging port. It's got plenty of volume and produces a sound that's loud and clear. Like many other smartphones, bass and lower tones are barely existent.

Speakerphone testVoice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Samsung Galaxy Note8 67.8 69.5 71.5 Good
BlackBerry KEYOne 67.5 68.9 72.5 Good
Samsung Galaxy S8 66.2 70.5 72.5 Good
BlackBerry Motion 66.1 69.6 77.1 Good
OnePlus 6 70.2 74.7 70.0 Good
BlackBerry KEY2 66.5 72.0 79.8 Good
Motorola Moto X4 67.2 71.1 80.7 Good
Oppo R15 Pro 69.7 73.5 76.6 Very Good
Apple iPhone 8 71.7 77.8 80.3 Excellent
LG G7 ThinQ 78.3 76.4 82.3 Excellent
HTC U12+ (Music) 76.0 73.6 88.5 Excellent
HTC U12+ (Theatre) 77.0 73.8 91.1 Excellent
Motorola Moto G6 Plus 82.2 76.1 86.8 Excellent

The sound is clean all the way into the maximum volumes with no distortion. This is a clear and loud speaker. If you hold the phone in landscape, be sure to hold it with the keyboard to the right. If you hold it with the keyboard left, chances are high that you'll block the loudspeaker with your palm.

Audio quality

The BlackBerry KEY2 did well when working with an active external amplifier. The clarity of its output was as great as we've come to expect from smartphones these days, while the loudness levels were just above average.

Headphones dropped the volume to below average and caused more than the usual stereo crosstalk. Plus they added a tiny bit of intermodulation distortion, so it's a pretty mediocre performance in this second part of the test.

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
BlackBerry KEY2+0.03, -0.02-90.790.70.00180.014-94.2
BlackBerry KEY2 (headphones)+0.42, -0.06-93.292.90.00130.237-48.8
HTC U12++0.02, -0.15-94.394.30.00210.0069-94.3
HTC U12+ (headphones)+0.18, -0.13-93.793.60.00240.104-52.7
Nokia 8 Sirocco+0.44, -0.12-90.190.20.00560.016-88.7
Nokia 8 Sirocco (headphones)+0.51, -0.12-89.889.90.00970.043-39.9
Samsung Galaxy S9++0.01, -0.03-92.692.50.00120.0076-93.4
Samsung Galaxy S9+ (headphones)+0.03, -0.03-92.292.20.00170.042-76.3

BlackBerry KEY2 frequency response
BlackBerry KEY2 frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

Reader comments

  • Anonymous

Honestly, I prefer physical keyboard handphone, touchscreen my fingers feels like burning at times

I purchased this phone in 2019 , my previous phone was a iPhone 7plus , and honestly I was not impressed with typing long emails ,and or trying to type in a moving vehicle (not when I'm driving) also I never got use to typing on a glass screen I just...

I disliked this model.As soon as I learnt it was Android 😟👎