BlackBerry's Z30: new flagship reviewed

Can the new phone save the company?
BlackBerry's Z30: new flagship reviewed
By Shane McGinley
Wed 25 Sep 2013 09:25 AM

BlackBerry's new flagship device is out: the Z30 is the latest, biggest and fastest device on offer with a five-inch AMOLED display and 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor. The Canadian manufacturer's investment in the device is obvious from the minute of unboxing as the solid finishing differentiate it from its predecessors. They come at the cost of some extra weight (170g) and a higher price point of AED2,499 ($680).

It is also the first phone to carry the updated BlackBerry OS 10.2 which fixes some glitches in the previous version of the operating system, enhances battery life and adds a few practical features.

An icon is now available for the BlackBerry Hub and the consolidated notification centre can sort your incoming messages according to preset priorities. Within the hub, an icon allows you to browse through all recent attachments in a single place instead of going through your correspondence looking for them.

Communications are further facilitated by a preview at a the top of incoming messages. You can immediately dismiss it or tap it to read the full content and respond. Another feature is automated responses to calls you cannot immediately answer. The system will automatically determine the best way to reply, such as SMS, BBM or email. You can also notify meeting participants that you will be late via a similar option within the calendar alerts.

The device has a non-detachable 2880 mAh battery which performed quite well and lasted one-and-a-half days with heavy usage. The Micro SIM and Micro SD slots are on the side, although they are strangely inaccessible unless the back plate is taken off. Other hardware highlights include a Micro HDMI slot, a mini-USB port, NFC, Wi-Fi, low-energy Bluetooth, a proprietary antenna to boost reception in low signal areas, and three speaker ports on the back of the device.

The handset’s cameras did not receive the same upgrades seen elsewhere, with an underpowered 8 MP for the rear facing and 2 MP for the front-facing. Qualcomm's new 1.7 GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro processor is paired with a Quad Core Adreno 320 GPU and give an optimal user experience when it comes to speed and graphics, and an acceptable one for data-intensive gaming.

Overall, Z30 is a well-polished and well-rounded product with competitive ambitions. Both hardware and software seem more finished than previous generations and certainly place it in the premium segment. While its form factor suggests it is going head-to-head against Samsung's flagship Galaxy series by offering a more premium feel and competitive specs, user response will be very hard to expect and very interesting to observe.

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