Introduction

The BlackBerry Classic is a quintessential BlackBerry, any way you slice it. With a hardware QWERTY keyboard and navigation buttons, a strictly business appearance and the best enterprise chops in the industry, the newcomer is reminiscent of the Blackberries of old when the mobile world was not all about big touchscreens.

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BlackBerry Classic official photos

At a quick glance, the Classic appears to be a direct successor of the BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900. Seriously overdue for an update, the Bold Touch made its debut in the distant 2011 and it still enjoys a solid following in the corporate world.

The BlackBerry Classic harks back to the glory days of the Canadian company not only in terms of appearance, but also hardware specs. The device's Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 chipset dates back to the year its predecessor launched. The BlackBerry Classic is clearly not a smartphone you will buy for its cutting edge hardware specs.

See a detailed look of its key features below.

Key features

  • Square 3.5" 720p LCD display; 294dpi; Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • 1.5GHz dual-core CPU; Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 chipset; 2GB of RAM
  • 8MP camera with auto-focus; digital image stabilization; LED flash; 2MP front-facing camera
  • 1080p video capture @ 30fps; 720p video capture for the secondary camera
  • 16GB of built-in storage; microSD card slot; Dropbox and Box integration
  • BlackBerry 10.3 OS with Virtual Assistant
  • Ability to run Android applications (via Amazon Appstore or sideloading)
  • The best hardware QWERTY keyboard in the business with customizable shortcuts
  • Cat. 4 LTE (150/50Mbps); Wi-Fi a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0; NFC; GPS; microUSB (SlimPort)
  • Active noise cancellation with a dedicated mic
  • 2,515mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • Seriously dated hardware platform
  • Non-removable battery
  • Rather thick at 10.2mm and also heavy at 177g
  • Considerable off-contract price tag
  • Limited carrier support in the US (for the time being)

The hardware QWERTY keyboard and its shortcuts, coupled with the solid productivity and security chops of BlackBerry OS 10.3.1, are bound to appeal to users in the corporate world.

During the smartphone's media presentation, BlackBerry's CEO specifically pointed that the Classic is not aiming to be a mass-market device. The handset is made for prosumers and corporate professionals - a considerable crowd with BlackBerry 9900 Bold devices due for an upgrade.

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BlackBerry Classic live photos

Can the BlackBerry Classic cut it as the only smartphone in your life? Is it the ultimate second handset? Read on to find out! We have our thumbs ready and will kick the review off with unboxing, followed by a close look at the hardware.

Editorial: You may notice that this review is shorter than usual and doesn't include some of our proprietary tests. The reason is it has been prepared and written away from our test labs. Still, we think we've captured the essence of the device in the same precise, informative and detailed way that's become our trademark. Enjoy the good read!

Unboxing

The retail box of the BlackBerry Classic looks as serious as the intentions of the smartphone. Its contents include a wall charger, a microUSB cable, a stereo headset (a rarity in the US), a tool for removing the SIM and the microSD card, and a couple of booklets.

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The retail package of BlackBerry Classic.

It is nice to see bundled headphones in the box of the Classic. BlackBerry also offers a number of well-made, keenly-priced accessories for the handset. They include a leather pocket and holster, a soft shell, and a screen protector.

Design, build quality, handling

The design of the BlackBerry Classic falls right in line with its name. The smartphone looks like a slightly stretched version of BlackBerry Bold 9900 - the model it is bound to replace.

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BlackBerry Classic in the flesh

As you can see in the images above, the Classic looks decidedly old school and unmistakably BlackBerry. This should hardly catch anyone by surprise - it is the effect the company was seeking when it designed the device.

For the time being, the BlackBerry Classic is available only in black color scheme. Recent leaks suggest that a white version is also on the way, though we are yet to hear about it officially.

Build quality of the BlackBerry Classic is outstanding. The handset features an outer frame machined out of a solid block of stainless steel. The rest of the materials used in the device include high-quality polycarbonate. Corning's Gorilla Glass is protecting the display.

The BlackBerry Classic aims at professionals and has the build quality to show for it. It is as tough as it is business minded.

The steel frame of the BlackBerry results in the rather considerable weight of 177 grams. Physical measures of the smartphone are 131 x 72.4 x 10.2 mm. The considerable by modern day standards thickness takes off some of the device sleekness.

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BlackBerry Classic sized up next to iPhone 6

The plastic back of the BlackBerry Classic features nice texture, which allows comfortable handling. One handed-operation is also possible most tasks, so long as they don't rapid text typing.

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BlackBerry Classic is easy to handle

The presence of hardware navigation buttons is key for easily operating the device with one hand. The trackpad allows you to reach the areas of the display that your thumbs don't.

Display

BlackBerry Classic packs a perfectly square 3.5" LCD display with a resolution of 720 x 720 pixels. The pixel density of the unit is 294ppi.

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A 3.5" 1:1 display

The square shape of the display takes a little getting used to. However, we reckon that it works quite well on the BlackBerry Classic.

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A closer look at the screen of BlackBerry Classic

The LCD unit of the smartphone combines truly impressive brightness and sunlight legibility with accurate colors. Our only gripe with the display has to do with its viewing angles - they are far from stellar due to its non-IPS nature.

To sum it up, the screen of BlackBerry Classic is very good, so long as you don't expect it to be your primary source for gobbling up multimedia. As far as doing work and occasionally peaking online and in social network goes however, it will surely keep you happy.

Keyboard

The BlackBerry Classic features the best hardware QWERTY available on the market today. The 35-key backlit keyboard features the same design, layout, and tactility (BlackBerry execs call it "clickiness") as the company's most successful models - and it is a pleasure to use.

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The keyboard is a joy to use

The available customizable shortcuts are another old BlackBerry trick, which will appeal to power users. The hardware navigation keys on the other hand, are made for older BlackBerry users who still refuse to convert to on-screen navigation.

Controls

Above the display is where the earpiece, the ambient light and proximity sensors, and the front-facing 2MP camera can be found.

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A look above the display

Save for the QWERTY we told you about, there is nothing else below the screen of the BlackBerry Classic.

The nano-SIM and the microSD card tray slots are located on the left side of the phone. Each requires a tool to open and is conveniently labeled.

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The left side of the device

The right side of the BlackBerry Classic is home of the volume rocker and the key for activating BlackBerry assistant. The latter is tucked between the volume buttons.

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A trio of keys on the right

A power/lock key sits on top of the smartphone, joined by the 3.5mm audio jack. A duo of microphone pinholes are also part of the setup.

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The top of BlackBerry Classic

On the bottom of the smartphone is where the microUSB port sits. It is flanked by two speaker grilles, but don't be fooled - BlackBerry Classic packs a single mono speaker. The other hides the main mic, which is used in calls.

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The bottom of the smartphone

The back of BlackBerry Classic is a familiar affair. The smartphone's 8MP camera and its LED flash sit on the top left corner, flanked by a Classic sign on the right.

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The back of BlackBerry Classic

Battery life

The BlackBerry Classic features 2,515mAh battery, which is quoted as capable of providing up to 17 hours of 3G talk time and almost 14 hours of video playback. Standby is quoted at 15 days over 3G.

We put the BlackBerry Classic through the rigors of our battery test. The handset achieved the stellar endurance rating score of 62. This means that it will easily make it through almost three full days if you use it for an hour each of telephony, web browsing, and video playback daily.

Our routine also includes a standby battery draw test, which is not featured in our battery endurance scorecard but is calculated in the total rating.

Our battery testing procedure is described in detail in case you want to learn more about it.

Connectivity

BlackBerry designed the Classic to be a world-wide business phone, so it is full of telephony options. It features quad-band 2G and quad-band 3G connectivity, alongside a load of 4G options including support for up to 7 LTE bands.

Local connectivity is fully featured as well. Wi-Fi a/b/g/n handles local Internet connections, while Bluetooth 4.0 handles short-range wireless connectivity. There's also a microUSB 2.0 port for data connectivity.

NFC is also on board, allowing easy exchange of data. You can use the dedicated app to create tags (e.g. a tag with contact info), which you can store to NFC tags or other NFC-enabled phones. The app also handles reading tags and storing the data for when you're on the receiving end.

You don't need NFC to transfer tags either - the Classic can create a QR code and read QR codes too, which is great for communicating with phones that don't have NFC.

You can also share the screen of the device with an HDTV using Miracast. Wi-Fi Direct is also on board.

While we're at it, we have to go over BlackBerry Link - the PC Suite for the smartphone. The _phone_ has the install file for your computer, just plug it in and install the program. Once Link is on your PC, the Classic will appear as a drive on your computer. You don't even need a USB cable to transfer files - as it will appear as a network drive if it's on the same Wi-Fi network as your computer.

Link can schedule _phone_ backups and automatic sync of content (both docs and multimedia). That's great with the Wi-Fi option - it will automatically sync your docs at work and then your music at home.

A similar yet more robust feature is BlackBerry Blend, which is also available on the BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry P'9983, because they run OS 10.3. Blend allows you to use your device for sending and receiving messages, checking your calendar or accessing all its files without ever touching the it. Instead, you use your computer or tablet (iOS or Android) and do everything from there.

Both Link and Blend require a BlackBerry ID account.

BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 out of the box

BlackBerry 10 has been around for quite some time now, having debuted on the Z10 and Q10 early last year. With the latest 10.3 update, the company has further sharpened its design strategy. It features more colorful menus and minimalist icons.

The latest version of the OS introduces, among other things, a digital personal assistant, the BlackBerry Assistant. The visual changes that stand out are very few, if any. The 1:1 aspect ratio is hardly a novelty if you've seen the Q line of messengers.

Anyway, the swipe-driven navigation makes the BB10 OS a unique experience, creatively borrowing from WebOS and Meego, and quite different from Android where a Home button gives it a completely different twist. That being said, BlackBerry 10.3 does have support for Android applications, which is a plus. Unfortunately, there is no Google Play Store access so you'd have to rely on the Amazon AppStore or manual side-loading instead. Even in these cases, not all of the apps work.

We've prepared a quick user interface video showing all the BlackBerry 10.3 highlights:

The Classic greets you with a standard swipe-to-unlock lockscreen. New messages and notifications will show up here, and you can expand them to see what they say directly on the homescreen.

There is a shortcut to the camera in the bottom right, and you can pull down a bedside clock from the top. This latter feature will also disable notification alerts, and is useful for when you don't want to be disturbed.

You can use the Power/Lock button to unlock the device. A swipe up from the bottom of the screen will unlock the phone even if the screen is off.

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The lockscreen • notification previews • bedside clock

On to the BlackBerry 10.3 homescreens, which haven't changed from previous iterations of the OS. There are multiple panes, two of which have a special purpose (more on that in a bit).

The app drawer takes up most of the homescreen panes - it's a paged grid of icons for all installed apps. A long press on an icon starts edit mode, which lets you rearrange icons and uninstall apps with a single tap.

The built-in search feature is pretty awesome and will look through your apps, messages, contacts, music, pictures and even offer Extended search, which continues the search in a selected app (e.g. Google Maps, Bing, etc.). Simply start typing using the keypad to activate the search feature.

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The App drawer • organizing shortcuts and folder support • robust search feature

To the left of your app drawer panes, there's a special "active frames" homescreen that shows thumbnails of all your open apps. To minimize an app, simply drag up from the bottom of the screen.

Not all active frames are a downsized screenshot of the app, some switch to something more informative. For example, the phone app switches to a list of recent calls, which is big enough to read comfortably.

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The active frames show the currently running apps

Frames are arranged chronologically and have a small X button to exit when you don't need them any longer.

One more homescreen to the left and you're taken to BlackBerry Hub. Hub is where you see all of your notifications and messages. Whether it be BBM, text message, or email, you'll find it here. Here you'll also see notifications from applications, calendar alerts, and anything else the Classic has to tell you.

You can also access the Hub from anywhere by simply swiping up from the bottom (like you would to minimize an app), and to the right.

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BlackBerry Hub

You can quickly go back and forth between homescreens by swiping across the small indicator icons below the homescreens.

BlackBerry has added an Android-like swipe-from-the-top gesture that'll let you access a variety of quick toggles. You can tap to toggle settings like WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode and many more. Holding down on a toggle will take you to the relevant settings option. Unlike Android, however, there are no notifications to be found in this menu - they're all on the Hub.

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Quick toggles on the homescreen • app-specific options

If you're inside an app, however, a swipe-from-the-top gesture will bring out app options instead. To access the toggles menu, use a two finger swipe instead.

BlackBerry has many such gestures that aren't particularly intuitive. However, the OS does a good job of popping up small tutorial dialogues that give you hints when you need them.

BlackBerry Assistant with voice support

Voice commands are all the rage these days, and BlackBerry is on the bandwagon, too. It's not a character like Siri or smart like Google Voice Search, but the new Assistant app on the BlackBerry Classic offers much of the same functionality.

You can ask it to call someone, send them and email or text or BBM, schedule an appointment or leave yourself a note. Other options include searching the phone or the Internet and you can update your social networking accounts too - tweet, post a new Facebook status or LinkedIn status.

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BlackBerry's Virtual Assistant

Synthetic benchmarks

BlackBerry Classic features Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960 chipset with 1.5GHz dual-core Scorpion CPU, Adreno 225 GPU, and 2GB of RAM. As you have probably guessed by now, the hardware configuration of the smartphone is decidedly old. Qualcomm took the wraps off the MSM8960 in the distant 2011 - the year BlackBerry Bold 9900 launched.

We put the BlackBerry Classic through the paces of several hardware benchmarks. Unsurprisingly, the results came out pedestrian by today's standards. See for yourself below.

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • BlackBerry Passport
    35173
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    21533
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    19912
  • BlackBerry Classic
    18851

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • BlackBerry Passport
    628
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    564
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    495
  • Nokia Lumia 830
    478
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    394
  • BlackBerry Classic
    168

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • BlackBerry Passport
    2061
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1435
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    1313
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    1192
  • BlackBerry Classic
    1160

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • BlackBerry Passport
    9916
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    5283
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    5012
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    4875
  • BlackBerry Classic
    2526

Web browsing benchmarks test JavaScript and HTML5 performance. The scores of BlackBerry Classic were once again far from impressive.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    12470
  • BlackBerry Passport
    14624
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    15988
  • Samsung Galaxy Core Prime
    18353
  • Nokia Lumia 830
    26542
  • BlackBerry Classic
    28732

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    1085
  • BlackBerry Passport
    1030
  • BlackBerry Classic
    634
  • Nokia Lumia 830
    599

As you can see above, BlackBerry Classic is hardly a device to smash through benchmarks with. Thankfully, its real-life performance paints a different picture - the QNX-based BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 is smooth and responsive even on such old hardware.

It's worth pointing out that the smartphone slows down when running some of today's popular Android apps. We tried popular titles such as Crossy Road and Spotify and noticed a bit of lag on both occasions.

Telephony and phonebook

The dialer has three tabs - Calls, Contacts and Dial pad. We were a little disappointed to find out that you can't swipe between those three (after all, you can swipe between almost anything else).

The Call log features three shortcuts on top - Voice Mail plus three contact numbers. You can add more quick-dial numbers here, but the more you add, the further down the actual call log gets pushed. The call log itself can display either all calls or missed calls only (there's a toggle).

The Phonebook looks a lot like the Contacts tab of the phone app, it also has a search field and it is also automatically activates when you start typing with the keyboard.

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A look at the dialer and the phonebook

The Classic's single mono speaker provides stellar quality sound at high levels. It doesn't quite match the performance of the BlackBerry Passport and its stereo speakers, but it surely won't leave you disappointed either.

BlackBerry Hub is a messaging power house

BlackBerry phones were the gold standard for business users and the robust messaging support has carried over to BlackBerry 10. BlackBerry Hub is about as comprehensive a messaging platform as you'll find on a smartphone.

The Hub is simple - a list of messages with an icon that indicates the service (SMS, BBM, email, Twitter or Facebook, but also calls and voicemails) and also flags messages read or unread (color icons are for unread messages, monochrome icons are for read messages). Messages are indexed by date.

If the list of messages is too much of a mess, there's Search or you can swipe right to reveal a list of all services that feed messages into the Hub. You can then filter messages by service.

You can swipe down (not from the top) to show your agenda, and sort the Hub via the left contextual menu. The right contextual menu gives you more options, including a settings menu.

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BlackBerry Hub is superb

Replying to a message is easy, and you don't have to use multiple apps for multiple messaging types. Simply start replying or composing and the Hub will take care of the rest, be it SMS, email, social networking platforms, or others.

You can also select multiple messages and there are handy quick actions that let you do a wide variety of things.

The message management skills of the Hub don't end there - a long press on a message brings out a long list of options on the right. You can "drag" a message to one of these options in the same gesture or lift your finger and tap the option you like, whatever seems easier.

Texting and BBM

SMS and MMS messaging is handled by the BlackBerry Hub. The Text Messages shortcut in the app drawer just leads to them.

Composing a message is no different than on other OSes. Multimedia and other data (contact info, appointment even generic files) can be attached to the message, turning it into MMS. There's an option to attach a location (either your current location or point on a map) to the message, which is great for giving directions. More than one item can be attached.

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Typing up a text message

BlackBerry Messenger is one of the hottest features on BB phones. At the base level, BBM can do text and voice chats (over your mobile data connection or Wi-Fi). BBM is now free as well, and also supports users on iOS and Android.

There's also BBM Video - video calling with a twist. Instead of being able to show footage only from the front-facing camera, the phone lets you screen-share. This way the other party sees just what you see - a great way to show someone how to do something, walk them through a document or anything else you can think of.

The Channels feature lets you browse through a wide range of channels to find other BBM users that share similar interests. As of the BlackBerry 10.3 update, there's also support for custom sticker purchases in BBM.

Email accounts are accessed through the BlackBerry Hub. You can add as many as you like, and emails received to each account will show up in the Hub.

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Email is part of BlackBerry Hub

Text input

The hardware QWERTY is the only main input option on the BlackBerry Classic. It will also be among the main reasons why you will opt for the smartphone.

Like Android and iOS, the BlackBerry OS supports voice dictation to input text.

Simple image gallery

The image gallery, dubbed Pictures, has a simple interface. You can sort by date or albums, and images will appear in a non-zoomable thumbnail interface. Using the slider on the right will pop up a small image preview in the center.

Multiple images can be selected for mass delete and mass share. There are also options to edit the image, start a slideshow or use DLNA to push images to a compatible TV.

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The image gallery

Viewing individual images gives you the same options. You can move between images by swiping the current image past the edge, or by using QWERTY shortcuts ('p' for previous and 'n' for next image).

The Edit option in the gallery app is pretty powerful. The Transform tab in the editor can rotate and flip the image and there's a free transform tool as well if you want to crop out a specific part of the image. Then there's Enhance with the standard image tweaking options available (brightness, contrast, sharpness, noise reduction and so on), as well as a selection of filters.

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Viewing and editing an image

Video player

The video player has a very similar interface to that of the image gallery. It can sort by date, library, or favorites, and can display items either as a list or in a grid. You can search for a video, mass delete videos, share them or push them through DLNA to a compatible player.

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Browsing videos

The video player handled all the popular file formats easily, with the usual exception of videos with AC3 audio. Certain XviD files refused to play, and there was even support for MOV files.

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Watching a video

Another thing that impressed us was the Edit option - it took a 1080p video and offered to trim its start and end points, rotate and crop the video, adjust its brightness, contrast color and sound too.

It is unlikely that BlackBerry Classic owners will use the device as a dedicated player often. Unlike the flagship Passport that can do the trick, the Classic is rather limited by its screen size and resolution.

The Story Maker app lets you pick multiple movies and photos and puts together a video slideshow with a soundtrack of your choice. There are several different preset styles, which add an effect over the entire video (vintage, bleach pass, etc.).

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Story maker

You can go back and add/remove items, rearrange them and put them through the image or video editor if they need to be tweaked.

By default, Story Maker saves the resulting videos in 720p resolution. You can switch to 1080p if you like.

Standard music player

The music player's UI is pretty similar to the image gallery and video player in how it handles files. The music library can sorted by Artist, Album or Genre and a dedicated tab displays all the playlists.

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Going through the music collection

The Now playing interface is pretty simple with prominent album art in the middle, surrounded by playback controls (including shuffle and repeat buttons). If you tap on the album art (or drag it down) you get the current playlist so you can easily jump between songs (swiping left and right to skip tracks doesn't work).

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The now playing UI

There are no playback controls on the lockscreen or the shade on top of the screen, so you'll have to use the volume keys instead. The volume up and down buttons change the volume for short presses or act as skip buttons when long-pressed. The middle button is play/pause.

The music player is DLNA-enabled, just like the gallery and video players. There is also equalizer support. But you'll have to use one of the available presets as there's no custom equalizer option available.

Solid audio quality

The BlackBerry Classic may look all business, but it also delivers in the audio quality department. Sure, it’s not the most talented performer around, but it will please even some pretty demanding users.

When hooked to an active external amplifier the Classic showed flawlessly clean output, posting great scores top to bottom. Volume levels were very impressive, too, rounding up a great performance.

Plug in a pair of headphones and you get a moderate amount of extra stereo crosstalk, but the other readings remain just as good. Volume levels drop significantly to below average levels, though, suggesting that the Classic won’t be able to handle very powerful headphones. Still, it’s a decent overall showing that will be good enough for everyone that doesn’t require such headphones.

And here go the results so you can see for yourselves.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
BlackBerry Classic +0.16, -0.26 -91.4 91.4 0.0081 0.013 -90.8
BlackBerry Classic (headphones attached) +0.16, -0.25 -90.2 88.9 0.019 0.032 -60.7
BlackBerry Passport +0.02, -0.08 -91.5 91.0 0.0056 0.012 -92.5
BlackBerry Passport (headphones attached) +0.06, -0.03 -91.2 90.1 0.046 0.043 -70.0
Apple iPhone 6 +0.06, -0.02 -94.0 93.9 0.0012 0.0065 -73.4
Apple iPhone 6 (headphones attached) +0.11, -0.06 -93.8 93.8 0.0022 0.099 -65.1
Samsung Galaxy Alpha +0.01, -0.04 -96.6 92.8 0.0058 0.0091 -97.1
Samsung Galaxy Alpha (headphones attached) +0.04, -0.01 -95.7 92.7 0.013 0.033 -65.6
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact +0.02, -0.08 -85.2 85.2 0.013 0.022 -85.3
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact (headphones attached) +0.10, -0.01 -85.4 85.4 0.020 0.045 -45.1

BlackBerry Classic frequency response

BlackBerry Classic frequency response

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

Good 8MP snapper

BlackBerry Classic packs an 8MP camera with single-LED flash. The interface is straightforward and doesn't have an overabundance options, but all the important stuff is there. There's a handful of scene modes and four shooting modes: normal, Time Shift, Burst, and Panorama.

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The camera UI

By default, the Classic shoots 1:1 square images at 2448 x 2448 pixels. This is essentially a cropped variant of its 4:3 shooting mode, which brings the image resolution up to 3264 x 2448 pixels. There's also a 16:9 mode that is cropped in the other direction, so it's recommended that you shoot in 4:3 if you want to use the full range of the sensor.

There's touch focus on board, and a digital zoom is available through pinch zooming. A nifty trick is swiping the gallery thumbnail in the lower left, which brings up a quick preview of your last shot taken.

The BlackBerry Classic camera has accurate contrast and exposure, resulting in well-exposed images. Resolved detail is on a very good level for 8MP camera.

Color rendering is balanced and not oversaturated as with the BlackBerry Passport. Noise is kept well within reasonable limits and there are no traces of excessive noise suppression.

Overall, we are very pleased with the image processing and find it quite mature.

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BlackBerry Classic camera samples

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BlackBerry Classic low light camera samples

HDR photos on the BlackBerry Classic work out great in various conditions. It's one of the best stock HDR implementations we've seen on a smartphone. The HDR photos have the information in both the highlights and shadows recovered in a nice and balanced way. Using the HDR mode often makes a lot of sense as it overcomes quite successfully the limited dynamic range that's inherent to smaller camera sensors.

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HDR camera samples: Off • On

Good camcorder

The video camera has the same user interface as the still one. The video capture button is located on the right side of the one for still images.

BlackBerry Classic can record 1080p videos @30fps or 720p clips @60 fps. You can also capture 720p videos at 30fps as well. All video are captured with stereo sound.

The 1080p video clips from the device have 16Mbps bitrate, smooth and nice detail, and 192Kbps audio bitrate. The colors are not as oversaturated as on the Passport.

Video stabilization is also on board. Overall, the camcorder of the BlackBerry Classic turned out to be better performer than we expected.

You can also directly download a 1080p@30fps sample (0:15s, 30MB) and a 720p@60fps sample (0:15s, 22MB).

Web browser

BlackBerry Classic has a WebKit-based browser that is easy to operate thanks to the square screen and hardware buttons.

The interface is straightforward. The first thing you see is the New tab interface, which shows thumbnails of recently visited sites. You can remove any visited sites from this interface or from your history, of course. There is also an incognito mode, named Private browsing.

Entering URLs is quick thanks to the autocomplete feature, which managed to guess correctly what we're trying to type most of the time.

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The web browser

Despite the poor browsing benchmarks results, the browser is fast and elaborate - web sites are rendered without a hitch. Pinch zooming is smooth and there's double-tap to zoom too, but no text reflow. From the Menu button you get access to several more options, including Find on page and Share.

A cool option has the browser remember which tabs were open, so the tabs will still be there even if you close the browser and open it again later (similar to recent desktop browsers).

Another interesting option is Reader - it strips out the site's interface and leaves only the content, making it much easier to read on a phone's screen. It doesn't work very well with multi-page articles though.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic

Browser options

Overall, the web browsing experience on the BlackBerry Classic is limited only by the size and the resolution of the display. The device is clearly not made for users to waste time in long internet surfing sessions.

Other pre-installed apps

The BlackBerry Classic comes with a full-blown Office document editor. It's called DocsToGo and can both view and create Word and Excel documents.

PowerPoint presentations can be edited too, but only for small tweaks - you can't create new presentations from scratch or even add new slides. The Present option is pretty sweet though - it displays the slide through HDMI to the TV/projector, while showing you the notes for the slide on the phone's screen.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic

Docs To Go

The Word editor has all the text formatting features you'll need - everything from the standard bold, italic, underline through text justification, text and background color, font and text size, super and sub scripts, to list and paragraph styling.

The Excel editor works with multiple sheets, cell formatting and formulas, though we would have appreciated a formula wizard of some sort. We're no Excel experts so typing out the formulas by hand from memory was a challenge.

The File Manager is here for more advanced file handling. It shows the internal and external storage as either a grid or list of files and folders. You can sort them by name, date, type and size in either ascending or descending order and if you still can't find what you need, there's the search feature.

Files and folders can be moved, copied and deleted in bulk, renamed or even zipped up into a single file and then unzipped.

The app is cloud-enabled too - you can add Box and Dropbox accounts. They are treated almost the same way as a microSD card, so copying files between phone and cloud storage is seamless. There's no search option here (but you can still sort folders).

The Calendar has an updated interface with daily, monthly, and weekly views. There's also an agenda view for viewing all your appointments in one place.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic

The calendar app

Multiple calendars are supported and they are color coded, so you can easily tell where which event comes from (e.g. your personal Gmail account or the work calendar).

The Clock app features the same clock as the Bedside mode on the lockscreen. You can switch to a digital watch face if you prefer. You also get alarm functionality, a world clock, stopwatch, and a timer.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic

A look at the clock

There's also a standard Calculator app with expandable advanced functions, as well as a very nifty tip calculating tool and a converter for all sorts of measurements. There's also an animated Compass that can tell you your exact coordinates via GPS.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic

The calculator and the compass

The Weather app pulls info from AccuWeather and shows the forecast for today and the next four days. You can add multiple locations and see an hourly forecast too. The app switches between a bright blue and black background depending on whether it's day or night in the selected city.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic

Functional weather app

BlackBerry 10 comes with its own Maps application which only features regular mapping - no satellite images or street view. It can show traffic information, but there's no public transport or pedestrian navigation support. The POI database isn't nearly as rich as that of Google Maps, but at least maps now load quicker than they did on previous BB 10 phones.

You can add favorite places (Home and Work get special treatment) to find your way faster. If a contact from your address book has location info, you can quickly navigate to them too.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic

BlackBerry Maps

The Maps application has voice-guided navigation for in-car use. It's online-only (that is you need an Internet connection for it to work). You can tweak the route finding algorithm by telling it to look for the Fastest, Simplest or Shortest routes and to avoid highways, toll roads, carpool lanes or ferries. Night mode can be enabled, disabled or set to activate automatically.

BlackBerry World is the place to get new apps for your BlackBerry Classic. While not as many apps as Android and iOS have (or even Windows Phone), many of the major names are available.

The BB World is not too different from the Google Play Store. It shows featured apps on top of the screen, then vertical categories including utilities, trending apps, top grossing apps, and more. Before an app installs, you'll be prompted to allow the app's required permissions. It's a bit annoying that you only get to see those after the app has been downloaded (but before it's installed).

Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic

BlackBerry world

We already mentioned that in the beginning of the year the BlackBerry World opened business with a respectable number of apps for a new app store, but a good 40% of those apps are Android ports (BlackBerry handed $100 to developers who ported their Android app to World).

Luckily, as of BlackBerry OS 10.2, there's runtime support for Android 4.2.2 apps. This enables hardware acceleration, which in theory at least, boosts performance of ported Android apps.

Not all apps work as advertised, however. We've tried side-loading a few Android apps and we also downloaded a few from the Amazon Appstore, which was preinstalled on the device. Not all of the apps started and the ones we sideloaded didn't match the device's square screen. The ones we downloaded from the Amazon Appstore were all fine visually, but we have a feeling the Classic didn't access the full catalogue of apps, which is available on Android smartphones.

Anyway, just like Google Play, BlackBerry World offers more than just apps - you can buy music, movies and TV shows from here.

Amazon Appstore is where you can access compatible Android apps for the device. There is a paid app available for free every day.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic

Amazon Appstore

Final words

Passing final judgment on the BlackBerry Classic depends on one's perspective about what a smartphone should do. The handset is an excellent business device, but a long way behind the latest iOS and Android smartphones in terms of features that will appeal to regular users.

With the above in mind, we must concur that BlackBerry has done a good job with the Classic. The device is targeting the corporate crowd and will tick the right boxes for its members. It is superbly built, comfortable to use, seriously looking, and full of productivity features, wrapped into a responsive, highly secure OS environment.

Key review findings

  • The hardware QWERTY of the device is the best in the business
  • This phone is built for work, not for wasting time in games and media gobbling
  • Build quality and one-hand ergonomics are top notch
  • The display is bright and boasts impressive colors, but subpar viewing angles
  • The camera is a solid performer
  • The chipset of the device is already seriously dated
  • BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 is fast, fluid, and secure; the available Android apps add an extra layer of appeal
  • Audio quality is good
  • Battery life is stellar
  • The price is high for the hardware on offer

The hardware QWERTY keyboard and navigation keys of the Classic are superb to use. As good as virtual keyboards have become, we reckon that nothing beats the subtle clicks of a BlackBerry keyboard when it comes to precision, speed, and tactility. This particular feature alone should help the Canadian manufacturer move quite a few units.

Build quality and one-hand ergonomics of the smartphone are also top notch and in line with BlackBerry's best tradition. The Classic is an easy phone to work with quickly and efficiently.

With 294ppi, the 1:1 display of the smartphone won't wow you with millions of pixels. However, with good brightness and accurate colors, the screen is a quality unit despite its modest resolution. Its viewing angles could have been better, though, let's be honest, this is not a phone made to show photos and videos on.

Speaking of photos and videos, we were pleasantly surprised by the results produced by the device's 8MP camera. Both the stills and the videos captured by it came out better than we hoped for.

Our biggest gripe with its smartphone has to do with it chipset. Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 was cutting edge when the predecessor of the Classic, BlackBerry Bold 9900 hit the shelves. By the time the newcomer is up for an upgrade, its SoC will be all but forgotten.

A user-replaceable battery would have been a welcome sight as well. A traditional staple of the brand, the feature is oddly missing in its latest creation.

Finally, we wish that BlackBerry had priced the Classic a tad keener, especially considering its modest hardware. At $449 with no carrier commitment, the newcomer feels expensive for the internals it has on board.

For the time being, BlackBerry Classic is available to purchase directly from the company's online store in the United States and Canada. US carriers will offer the device down the line as well.

BlackBerry Classic is a peculiar handset, which doesn't have alternatives outside of the company's own stable. Here are a couple of other BlackBerry offerings worth considering.

BlackBerry Passport is the company's flagship at the moment. it is equipped with top-notch specs by today's standards, though its design takes some getting used to.

BlackBerry Passport

BlackBerry Passport

The Passport is available on Amazon in the US for $549.99 unlocked - only $100 more than the Classic. We highly recommend that you consider it, as, despite its quirks, the Passport is more capable device throughout.

Like the hardwareQWERTY, but don't care about the navigation keys of the Classic? Look no further than the BlackBerry Q10. Available for half the price of the Classic, the Q10 offers the same internals, sharper AMOLED display, and lighter body.

BlackBerry Q10

BlackBerry Q10

As characterful and productive as it is flawed, the BlackBerry Classic is tough to recommend as the only smartphone in your life. However, as a work device paid for by your employer and used alongside a "regular" smartphone, the handset begins to make a lot of sense.

BlackBerry hasn't tried to rediscover the wheel with the Classic. Instead, the Canadian company focused on bringing a product that carries its core strengths to its most important customers. Like the device or not, it is a success in this regard.

Unboxing

The retail box of the BlackBerry Classic looks as serious as the intentions of the smartphone. Its contents include a wall charger, a microUSB cable, a stereo headset (a rarity in the US), a tool for removing the SIM and the microSD card, and a couple of booklets.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic

The retail package of BlackBerry Classic.

It is nice to see bundled headphones in the box of the Classic. BlackBerry also offers a number of well-made, keenly-priced accessories for the handset. They include a leather pocket and holster, a soft shell, and a screen protector.

Design, build quality, handling

The design of the BlackBerry Classic falls right in line with its name. The smartphone looks like a slightly stretched version of BlackBerry Bold 9900 - the model it is bound to replace.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic

BlackBerry Classic in the flesh

As you can see in the images above, the Classic looks decidedly old school and unmistakably BlackBerry. This should hardly catch anyone by surprise - it is the effect the company was seeking when it designed the device.

For the time being, the BlackBerry Classic is available only in black color scheme. Recent leaks suggest that a white version is also on the way, though we are yet to hear about it officially.

Build quality of the BlackBerry Classic is outstanding. The handset features an outer frame machined out of a solid block of stainless steel. The rest of the materials used in the device include high-quality polycarbonate. Corning's Gorilla Glass is protecting the display.

The BlackBerry Classic aims at professionals and has the build quality to show for it. It is as tough as it is business minded.

The steel frame of the BlackBerry results in the rather considerable weight of 177 grams. Physical measures of the smartphone are 131 x 72.4 x 10.2 mm. The considerable by modern day standards thickness takes off some of the device sleekness.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic

BlackBerry Classic sized up next to iPhone 6

The plastic back of the BlackBerry Classic features nice texture, which allows comfortable handling. One handed-operation is also possible most tasks, so long as they don't rapid text typing.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic

BlackBerry Classic is easy to handle

The presence of hardware navigation buttons is key for easily operating the device with one hand. The trackpad allows you to reach the areas of the display that your thumbs don't.

Display

BlackBerry Classic packs a perfectly square 3.5" LCD display with a resolution of 720 x 720 pixels. The pixel density of the unit is 294ppi.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic
Bb Classic

A 3.5" 1:1 display

The square shape of the display takes a little getting used to. However, we reckon that it works quite well on the BlackBerry Classic.

Bb Classic
Bb Classic

A closer look at the screen of BlackBerry Classic

The LCD unit of the smartphone combines truly impressive brightness and sunlight legibility with accurate colors. Our only gripe with the display has to do with its viewing angles - they are far from stellar due to its non-IPS nature.

To sum it up, the screen of BlackBerry Classic is very good, so long as you don't expect it to be your primary source for gobbling up multimedia. As far as doing work and occasionally peaking online and in social network goes however, it will surely keep you happy.

post from sitemap