Introduction

Canadian manufacturer BlackBerry looks to bring its no-nonsense smartphone approach in a form factor that is...unusual, to say the least. It's a company that's no stranger lately to being in the red for quarters on end and the Passport is yet another attempt by BlackBerry to regain its identity (and market share) in a cutthroat industry that's dominated by Android.

Even from a distance, it's apparent that the Passport is a device that's different for a reason. First, the company failed to market a "traditional" smartphone with the otherwise solid BlackBerry Z30. The BlackBerry Q5 QWERTY messenger wasn't any more successful as a return to the bread-and-butter. Now, the Passport hopes to strike gold with a formula that's the best of both worlds while being bound to neither.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

BlackBerry Passport official pictures

The Passport certainly carries a spec sheet to put performance buffs at ease. With a Quad-core 2.26GHz Snapdragon 801 chip and 3GB of RAM, it's easily the most robust BlackBerry smartphone to date. The 4.5-inch square display is also of an impressive 1440 x 1440px, which results in an excellent 453ppi. Here's what else it brings to the table:

Key features

  • 4.5" 16M-color IPS LCD capacitive touchscreen of 1440 x 1440px
  • Quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400, 3GB RAM, Adreno 330
  • 13 megapixel auto-focus camera with face detection and Time Shift, HDR, LED flash, 2MP front facing camera
  • FullHD (1080p) video recording at 60fps; 720p recording with front-facing camera
  • 32GB storage, microSD card slot up to 128GB; built-in Dropbox and Box integration
  • Unique touch-enabled 3-row QWERTY keyboard with hardware keys
  • Stereo speakers
  • Ability to side-load and run Android-compatible apps
  • BlackBerry 10.3 OS (sideloading select Android apps possible)
  • BBM with video chat and screen sharing
  • 3,450mAh battery

Main disadvantages

  • Awkward design, in which an otherwise compact touchscreen takes some really large hands to use single-handedly and typing is certainly a two-hand job
  • No 2160p video recording (for such an expensive device)
  • Non user-replaceable battery
  • Three-row QWERTY has no numpad, multi-language support potentially problematic

From its odd form factor to BlackBerry OS 10's business ethos, the Passport is undoubtedly targeted at professionals. With BBOS 10 iterations prior to version 10.3, BlackBerry tried desperately to catch up to Android and iOS. After ultimately failing to match the competition, the latest BBOS 10.3 update has refocused the OS towards doing what the company does best: business.

Its capable office suite along with the rich and secure email and messaging capabilities make it a very compelling offer in a corporate scenario. By playing to its strengths, BlackBerry is giving you a reason to consider it above Android.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

BlackBerry Passport studio shots

But the Passport certainly doesn't come without its share of drawbacks. The odd form factor takes a lot of getting used to, particularly if you're coming from a conventional smartphone. Up next we'll take a closer look at the design, controls, and handling of the BlackBerry Passport.

Unique retail package

The retail package of the BlackBerry Passport is as unique as the device itself. It features a user manual that looks like an actual passport, a region-specific A/C adapter, microUSB cable, and a quality headset with extra earbuds.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

BlackBerry Passport retail package

360-degree view of the BlackBerry Passport

The BlackBerry Passport comes in at 128 x 90.3 x 9.3mm, with a 4.5-inch square screen in the middle. Its width of just over 90mm is significant - by comparison, the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a width of 78.6mm. The QWERTY keyboard takes up three rows below the display, and features just the alphabet alongside space, enter, and delete buttons. Additional symbols and numbers show up on the display.

The Passport is obviously designed for two-handed operation, just like most QWERTY messengers. That being said, a reduction of even 10mm in terms of width would have done wonders to the one-handed usability of the device. In terms of weight (196g) the Passport doesn't feel overly heavy, although it does come in 20g heavier than the aforementioned Galaxy Note 4 phablet.

Design, build quality and handling

The Passport is designed around a sturdy metal frame that the company is not making a big deal of, but it really should. It adds a fair amount of heft to the device, but also makes it feel of higher quality. The rounded frame ends complement the rounded edges of the rear panel and the front glass. The square corners give it that signature passport-like look.

The back panel is made out of polycarbonate that is pleasantly matted to resist smudges. It feels good to the touch as well, although it does tend to attract a fair amount of dust - likely not a problem if you're sporting the white color option. There's an ever-so-slight camera bump (0.3mm to be exact), that could potentially get scuffed after prolonged usage.

The QWERTY keys themselves have good resistance when pressed, and are also backlit for easier typing in the dark.

The entire keypad itself is touch enabled, meaning that you can perform scroll and swipe actions just by dragging your fingers across the keys without actually pressing them.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

BlackBerry Passport

The high quality build certainly makes handling the Passport more pleasurable, but its wide footprint makes it far from easy to live with. The large screen does not let your thumb reach all the way across, and the same goes for the keyboard. One-handed operation will really only go as far as basic at-a-glance usage. For everything else - typing, browsing, and most applications - you'll need to use two hands.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Handing the BlackBerry Passport

Using two hands goes without saying in the messenger form factor, but if you're coming from a more compact touchscreen device it'll take some getting used to.

Controls

Looking above the square display you'll find a 2MP front-facing camera capable of 720p video recording next to the earpiece. The hidden proximity and ambient light sensors are also here.

Blackberry Passport

A peek above the display

Below the display lies the Passport's key feature - the QWERTY keyboard. Each button is pleasantly shaped and provides ample resistance when pressed and tactile feedback.

As we mentioned earlier, the entire keypad is touch-enabled and has gesture support - you just need to run your fingers across the buttons without pressing them. The gestures come in handy for managing word suggestions, as well as for scrolling webpages and menus.

You'll notice that there are no special keys/symbols beyond space, delete, and enter. Numbers, punctuation, and special characters appear at the bottom edge of the screen when needed. Check out the messaging and text input chapter for more information.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The QWERTY keyboard is also capacitive

The Passport's right side features a three-piece volume rocker (play/pause button in the middle), while the left side is bare. The edges composed of a metal frame, while the buttons themselves are plastic.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The left and right sides feature a metal frame

The top of the device is where you'll find the power/lock button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a small crevice for removing a portion of the back panel.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The top has the audio jack and the Power key

The bottom of the Passport houses the microUSB port and microphone pinhole, flanked by two speakers.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The bottom of the BlackBerry Passport

Flipping the device over, you'll spot the 13MP camera lens and single LED flash on a small camera hump. The centrally-placed BlackBerry logo has a carved-out look that contributes to the premium aesthetic.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The back is pleasantly matted

The back panel features a removable portion, under which you'll find the microSD and nano-SIM card slots. The 3,450mAh battery, however, is non user-accessible.

Blackberry Passport

The rear panel features a removable section

Display

The BlackBerry Passport sports a 4.5-inch square display of 1440 x 1440px. It's quite an unconventional resolution, but it's certainly not the first BlackBerry to have a square display. It is the densest, however, as the resulting pixel density is around 453ppi.

Here's a look at the pixel arrangement under our dedicated microscope.

Blackberry Passport

Taking a look at the display in more detail, we found that it has some great contrast thanks to some deep blacks and not bad whites either. We were only able to measure at 100% display brightness as there is no way to stop the ambient light sensor from adjusting the brightness automatically, which ruined the 50% brightness test. Still, the contrast of the Passport's 4.5-inch display is comparable to the Apple iPhone 6 Plus, and beats out the units found on the LG G3 and the Sony Xperia Z3.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
HTC One (M8) 0.2 245 1219 0.46 577 1256
Samsung Galaxy S5 274 529
LG G3 0.14 109 763 0.72 570 789
Oppo Find 7 0.22 248 1135 0.4 448 1123
OnePlus One 0.39 317 805 0.75 598 799
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact - - - 0.77 725 942
Xiaomi Redmi 1S 0.08 158 1437 0.45 615 1370
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 0.17 208 1197 0.52 705 1361
BlackBerry Passport - - - 0.46 617 1341


Outdoor legibility is also good with a sunlight contrast ratio of almost 2.6, which places it well within the upper half of our charts. You should have no difficulty seeing what's on the screen in all but the brightest environments. Viewing angles also showed no contrast or color shift.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • BlackBerry Passport
    2.595
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Xiaomi Redmi Note
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • HTC Butterfly 2
    1.905
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Windows _phone_ 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

Battery life

The BlackBerry Passport sports a hefty 3,450mAh battery that should be able to post excellent numbers considering the hardware specs. The 4.5-inch is a square 1440 x 1440px display, which is the same amount of pixels as a standard FullHD display, so expect a similar battery draw to a 4.5-inch 1080p device.

As expected, the two most battery-intensive tasks in our tests were video playback and web browsing. At just over 10 hours each, the two results are above average for its class. This comes alongside over 25 hours of 3G calling.

All three combined with the battery draw in standby, resulted in a very respectable 73 hours of endurance rating. 73 hours of endurance means that the BlackBerry Passport will be able to last just over 3 days on a full charge if you perform 1 hour each of watching videos, 3G calls, and web browsing per day.

Blackberry Passport

Considering the high display fidelity of 453ppi, this is a great result.

Connectivity

BlackBerry designed the Passport to be a world-wide business _phone_ and it's chock-full of telephony options. It features quad-band 2G and penta-band 3G connectivity, alongside a boatload of 4G options including support for up to 10 LTE bands depending on your market.

Local connectivity is fully featured as well. Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac handles local Internet connections and Bluetooth 4.0 handles accessories. There's also a microUSB 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 send to another NFC-enabled phone. 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 Passport 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 Passport 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 Passport. The phone has the install file for your computer, just plug it in and install the program. Once Link is on your PC, the Passport 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 currently only available on the BlackBerry Passport and BlackBerry P'9983. Blend features all of the wireless transferring capabilities found in Link, as well desktop BBM/SMS integration, calendar synchronization, corporate intranet access, and more. You can also access files on any device connected to Blend.

Both Link and Blend are connected through a BlackBerry ID account.

BlackBerry OS 10.3 is with QWERTY gestures

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, BlackBerry 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 button-less 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 (many applications have to be side-loaded as there is no Google Play Store access, and not all of them work).

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

The Passport 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 Passport. A swipe up from the bottom of the screen will unlock the phone even if the screen is off.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The lockscreen • notification previews • "bedside clock" option

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.

At the bottom, there's a bar holding two shortcuts: Dialer and Camera.

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

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 Passport 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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Swiping up • then right • takes you to the leftmost BlackBerry Hub homescreen

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

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 Passport 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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

BlackBerry's new Assistant app

Synthetic benchmarks

The BlackBerry Passport runs on a Snapdragon 801 chipset with a quad-core 2.26 GHz Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330 GPU. BlackBerry has thrown in a hefty 3GB of RAM, which all told make the Passport the most robust BlackBerry to date.

The screen resolution is an unconventional 1440 x 1440px, which is an identical amount of pixels as 1080p. This means that in terms of graphics, the 4.5-inch display on the Passport has a comparable workload to a standard 4.5" FullHD display.

As the BlackBerry OS is capable of running Android APKs, we were able to side-load the benchmarks we use when testing Android devices. Not all of them ran, however, as BlackBerry 10.3 is not Android, so all of these benchmarks results and comparisons should be looked at with that important caveat in mind.

We get things underway with our compound benchmarks, which take into account not only raw processing power, but other aspects like RAM and GPU. As Geekbench 3 refused to run, we had to rely on AnTuTu 5 and Basemark OS 2 for our results here.

Numbers under AnTuTu proved to be underwhelming, similarly for overall and single-core Basemark results. Multi-core results are slightly higher, beating out some flagship 'droids.

AnTuTu 5

Higher is better

  • HTC One (E8)
    46857
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    46824
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    43676
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    43164
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    40393
  • LG G3 - EU version
    39905
  • BlackBerry Passport
    35173
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    18245

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    1181
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    1176
  • HTC One (E8)
    1146
  • LG G3 - EU version
    1126
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    1109
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    1082
  • BlackBerry Passport
    628
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    526

Basemark OS II (single-core)

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    2588
  • HTC One (E8)
    2579
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    2415
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    2409
  • LG G3 - EU version
    2213
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2114
  • BlackBerry Passport
    2061
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    1123

Basemark OS II (multi-core)

Higher is better

  • HTC One (E8)
    10219
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    10063
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    9948
  • BlackBerry Passport
    9916
  • LG G3 - EU version
    9611
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    9446
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    8792
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    5001

Basemark X was the only Android graphics benchmark we could get to run on the Passport. It posted comparable results to the current crop of flagships. Keep in mind that most games will be either cropped or stretched on the Passport's square screen.

Basemark X

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    18684
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12637
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    11855
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    11744
  • LG G3 - EU version
    11552
  • BlackBerry Passport
    10682
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    3142
  • HTC One (E8)
    3063

Finally, our web browsing benchmarks test JavaScript and HTML5 performance. Both Kraken and BrowserMark run in-browser, meaning that they are not OS-specific. This means that Android compatibility doesn't factor into the abysmal performance provided by the BlackBerry Passport when it comes to browsing benchmarks.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    4650
  • Apple iPhone 6
    4710
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    5351
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    6043
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    6209
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    6355
  • HTC One (E8)
    6460
  • LG G3 - EU version
    6987
  • BlackBerry Passport
    14624
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    15988

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3389
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3153
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    2208
  • Motorola Moto X (2014)
    1600
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    1533
  • LG G3 - EU version
    1474
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 (S801)
    1398
  • HTC One (E8)
    1362
  • Motorola Moto G (2014)
    1085
  • BlackBerry Passport
    1030

The performance numbers are not the best, but we can't forget the important asterisk that's paired with most of them: these are benchmarks designed for Android and not BlackBerry. With that important distinction, the Passport isn't able to match the flagship competition in most areas.

The low web browsing numbers are also a bit of a surprise. The BlackBerry 10 OS is younger than its iOS and Android counterparts, however, so future OS and browser updates could improve the scores we saw here.

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The dialer is very basic and has smart dial • The phonebook is also straightforward

The Passport includes dual stereo speakers that provide excellent quality sound at high levels. In our dedicated loudspeaker test, they were able to score a result of Very Good.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
HTC Butterfly 2 64.5 64.7 68.6 Below Average
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 67.3 65.7 66.5 Below Average
Sony Xperia Z3 69.7 66.6 67.2 Average
HTC One (M8) 66.3 66.3 75.7 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 66.9 66.6 75.7 Good
LG G3 70.2 66.6 80.2 Good
BlackBerry Passport 76.6 71.9 76 Very Good
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 74.7 73.5 81.6 Excellent
Motorola Moto G 4G 77.1 76 83.3 Excellent


You can find more on how we test loudspeaker performance here.

BlackBerry Hub is a messaging power house

BlackBerry's 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 pretty 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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The BlackBerry 10 Hub has menus on both sides and numerous sorting options

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Viewing, replying, composing is all done from here, no matter what the platform

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Writing 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

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

BBM is also supported on Android and iOS

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Email is part of the BlackBerry Hub

Text input

Hardware QWERTYs have always been a defining feature for the brand and the Passport is a move back towards what put them on the map. While it is a full QWERTY pad, it only has delete, enter, and space keys in addition, so all of your special symbols and numbers while typing are located on the bottom edge of the screen.

More importantly, the great word suggestion feature first introduced in BlackBerry 10 is still here. Word suggestions will appear above the keypad, and to use any of them you simply have to swipe over the keys below the relevant suggestion. This works because the QWERTY keypad is also capacitive, and recognizes gestures you make (without pressing any keys).

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Use word suggestions by simply swiping across the capacitive QWERTY keypad

The keyboard can scan your messages from the past week to learn more on your writing style (similar to Android's popular SwiftKey).

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The Pictures app

Viewing individual images gives you the same options. You can move between images by swiping the current image past the edge, left or right.

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Viewing and editing an image

Capable video player and video editing options

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Browsing your 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.

Blackberry Passport

Watching a video clip

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Trimming, cropping and adjusting a video with the editor

This isn't the only video editor on board the BlackBerry Passport either. 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.).

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Story Maker creates video slideshows in a matter of minutes

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 but you can switch to 1080p if you like.

Standard music player

The BlackBerry Passport's music player 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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Browsing 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).

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The Now playing interface

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.

Very solid audio quality

The BlackBerry Passport may not be the first name that springs to mind when you are thinking portable music players, but given its premium placement we'd still expect excellent audio performance.

When hooked to an active external amplifier the Passport showed flawlessly clean output, posting great scores top to bottom. Volume levels weren't particularly impressive, but they weren't too low either, so great performance here.

Plugging in a pair of headphones only adds a dash of extra stereo crosstalk as we've come to expect, but the overall performance is still excellent. Once again though the volume levels are only average so we can't really give full marks. Still, an A- in Music isn't bad for a math geek, right?

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

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
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
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 +0.01, -0.04 -96.6 93.4 0.0015 0.0086 -94.2
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (headphones attached) +0.03, -0.02 -96.8 93.5 0.011 0.035 -55.2
Apple iPhone 6 Plus +0.04, -0.04 -94.0 94.0 0.0013 0.0064 -72.0
Apple iPhone 6 Plus (headphones attached) +0.10, -0.04 -94.0 93.9 0.0016 0.087 -64.1
HTC One Max +0.14, -0.14 -93.8 93.8 0.0009 0.015 -94.1
HTC One Max (headphones attached) +0.26, -0.02 -93.6 93.6 0.026 0.080 -80.4
LG G Pro 2 +0.02, -0.23 -93.8 94.2 0.0040 0.029 -93.3
LG G Pro 2 (headphones attached) +0.07, -0.02 -93.7 93.4 0.050 0.039 -73.5

BlackBerry Passport frequency response

BlackBerry Passport frequency response

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

A decent 13MP camera with OIS

The BlackBerry Passport comes with a 13MP main camera and LED flash alongside a secondary 2MP camera. The primary shooter is capable of 1080p video recording at 60fps, while the front-facer records at 720p. There's also optical image stabilization.

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The camera interface

By default, the Passport shoots 1:1 square images at 3120 x 3120px. This is essentially a cropped variant of its 4:3 shooting mode, which pops out 4160 x 3120px images. 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 Passport's camera has very accurate contrast and exposure, resulting in well-exposed images that have good dynamic range as well. Like in previous BlackBerries, however, the company has resorted to oversaturating its colors to provide a "punchier" look. While this does result in a livelier scene, it introduces excess noise into the image. The sensor tries to compensate for this in post-processing with a de-noise filter, but ultimately ends up smearing finer details for an oil-painting look.

Close-up images tend to look better, but still display the odd noisy-yet-smeared combo when looked at in full resolution. On the upside, there's no geometric distortion or corner softness.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

BlackBerry Passport camera samples

HDR photos tend to be inconsistent, with the Passport unable to always combine exposure and contrast just right. When it does get it, the resulting image reveals more detail - particularly in the shadows - but also more noise as well. The non-HDR shots generally have good enough dynamic range to not require this mode.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

HDR off/on

There's also a panorama shooting mode that produces similar results to normal mode, with no visible problems in stitching or combining the images. Again, you'll want to shoot in 4:3 mode for the maximum resulting here.

Blackberry Passport

BlackBerry Passport panorama sample

You can see how the camera stacks up to other 13MP shooters we've tested using out dedicated Photo Compare tool.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

BlackBerry Passport in our Photo quality comparison tool

Video camera with 1080p@60fps recording

Recording video is done from the same interface as the still camera. Video recording defaults to 1080p@30fps, though you can enable 60fps mode at the same bitrate. This results in slightly less detail per frame, but you get a much smoother video.

During recording, you can move the focus point around (again by dragging not tapping) and you can toggle the video light on and off. There's no way to capture stills while video recording though.

1080p videos (both 30fps and 60fps) are stored in MP4 files with 15.5Mbps total bitrate. The sound is recorded in stereo and better still using a 192Kbps bitrate and 48kHz sampling rate.

In terms of image quality, you get largely the same quality as on the still images. There's accurate contrast and exposure, but largely overblown colors. As the videos are of lower resolution, the amount of noise is not as readily visible like when pixel-peeping the still images.

Overall, if you can get past the oversaturated colors, the Passport's videos are more than acceptable, albeit hardly comparable to the quality provided by 2160p shooters.

We've uploaded both 30fps (0:15s, 29.1MB) and 60fps (0:11s, 21.9MB) samples directly from the device.

You can see how the BlackBerry Passport's shooter compares to other 13MP cameras we've tested using our dedicated Video Compare tool.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

BlackBerry Passport in our Video quality comparison tool

Web looks good on the square screen

The BlackBerry Passport has a WebKit-based browser that is easy to browse with the square screen.

The interface is pretty 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, but there is no incognito mode.

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

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The BlackBerry 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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Options • Reader mode

Other pre-installed apps

The BlackBerry Passport 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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Word document editor • Excel document editor

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).

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The File Manager

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Daily view of the calendar has three modes

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The Clock app has alarm, world clock, stopwatch, and timer functions

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The calculator includes tip calculations and a unit converter • the compass is in 3D

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

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.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The BlackBerry Maps application is improved

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 Passport. 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).

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Browsing the apps on 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 devs 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 (installing an app via a PC) a few Android apps and failed on a couple of occasions. It's definitely possible and when it works, it does so quite well. The process itself however, is cumbersome and isn't meant for everyone. There are plenty of tutorials online, but you shouldn't count any of the apps to run as well as on an Android phone and that's without mentioning the stretching which occurs due to the Passport's square screen.

Anyway, just like Google's Play Store, the BlackBerry World offers more than just apps - you can buy music, movies and TV shows from here. Or you can just rent them, though popular US video services such as Netflix or Hulu are still missing.

Final words

Finding a way out of the doldrums has become a do-or-die for BlackBerry, time perhaps to do something different than just do better. Not that the Z-series did anything wrong. But if the mindset back then was all about catching up to Android and iOS, the BlackBerry Passport marks a return to an identity that's authentically Blackberry's. And the Passport is nothing if not different.

The Passport's unconventional dimensions are polarizing from the get-go. It not only looks back at a time when smartphone controls were approached differently, but forces us to question why they were changed to begin with. The QWERTY keyboard throws one-handed operation out the window - a handicap no matter how you look at it - but its clever capacitive gesture support firmly shows there's a place for off-screen controls in today's smartphones.

Blackberry Passport

But that forces the question: is there really a need for QWERTY physical buttons if their greatest benefit is being using for something else? Ultimately, the merits of a QWERTY keyboard are subjective, but one thing that's certain is that having options is always a good thing.

The Passport is surely not the first device to sport a square screen (let alone the first BlackBerry), but it's the first one that has a pixel density as high as 453ppi. Coincidentally, the 1440 x 1440px resolution results in an identical number of pixels as a standard 1080 x 1920px display.

Sharpness aside, the square display does have its share of drawbacks. While it is good for browsing webpages, writing text messages, and editing office documents, it's not so good for watching videos or playing games. Considering the Passport is targeted at business users who will be doing more of the former than the latter, it makes sense.

Then there's the question of size. Unless you're Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it's likely you won't be able to reach all the way across the 4.5-inch diagonal, or the power button for that matter, while holding the phone in one hand. This again brings us to the drawback of forcing you to use two hands to control the Passport, and not just when it comes to typing. Here's what else we found during our review:

Key test findings:

  • Another quality build by BlackBerry, but the odd form factor takes a lot of getting used to
  • One-handed operation is a no-go, but the keypad gestures make typing and navigation a breeze
  • Display shows excellent contrast and solid outdoor visibility
  • Battery life is great, especially considering the high screen density
  • BlackBerry 10.3 has seen some great updates
  • Below average benchmark performance, although we tested with Android benchmarks
  • Excellent speaker loudness
  • Very good audio output quality
  • Camera photos offer great contrast and dynamic range, but are noisy and lack in fine detail
  • Video is fine but 4K should've been an option in this price range

If the large size of the Passport is not your cup of tea but you want to still retain a physical keyboard for typing, BlackBerry has plenty of more compact alternatives available. The BlackBerry Q10, Q5, and Classic all offer smaller screens and narrower frames, all of which don't mandate two-handed operation like the Passport. These devices don't come anywhere near the horsepower that the Passport has, but are much cheaper. The BlackBerry 10.3 update is not available for the Q10 and Q5 either, but it is expected to come to the juniors later this year with version 10.3.1.

BlackBerry Classic
BlackBerry Q10
BlackBerry Q5

BlackBerry Classic • BlackBerry Q10 • BlackBerry Q5

If you don't have your heart set on a QWERTY smartphone, BlackBerry has long since gone down the full-touchscreen road as well. The BlackBerry Z30 released this May was its flagship prior to the Passport, offering a 5-inch screen and a 1.7 GHz dual-core Snapdragon chip. It's got a Super AMOLED display, but the dual-core processor, Adreno 320 GPU, and 720p screen resolution are a step behind what qualifies as flagship grade equipment today. Still, the Z3 is the most capable non-QWERTY BlackBerry smartphone as of this writing, and should be getting the 10.3.1 update later this year as well.

BlackBerry Z30

BlackBerry Z30

The steep price tag of the BlackBerry Passport puts it within shooting range of the new Apple iPhone 6 Plus. It shares the large dimensions of the Passport, and offers a very capable mobile OS alternative in iOS 8. You'll enjoy a much richer app library and a fingerprint authentication sensor, but the iPhone does not offer expandable storage and it becomes increasingly more cost prohibitive the higher up the internal storage ladder you climb.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Finally, Samsung has been playing its BYOD card heavily with its Galaxy Note series, and aims to attract professionals with its latest Galaxy Note 4 phablet. It sports a whopping 5.7-inch QHD display, which is still able to beat out the Passport in terms of pixel density. Performance is also much faster with both quad-core Snapdragon and octa-core Exynos variants, and the 16MP camera is better as well. The S-Pen stylus support and fingerprint sensor team up to make it a very strong competitor to the Passport.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Undoubtedly, BlackBerry faces steep competition, especially in a market that's so full of capable alternatives. The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Apple iPhone 6 Plus both offer more refined UIs with significantly larger app libraries. That being said, BlackBerry 10.3 finally feels like an OS that's coming into its own, and combined with the unusual form factor and physical controls of the Passport, offers something that you simply won't find anywhere else.

From our time with it, we can safely conclude that the Passport will have an easy one drawing the attention of business users back to BlackBerry's camp thanks to all its novelty, high-grade execution and of course, helped by the BlackBerry Internet Services. It's certainly been a while since we've been able to say that about a BlackBerry device. It's good to have you back, BB.

Unique retail package

The retail package of the BlackBerry Passport is as unique as the device itself. It features a user manual that looks like an actual passport, a region-specific A/C adapter, microUSB cable, and a quality headset with extra earbuds.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

BlackBerry Passport retail package

360-degree view of the BlackBerry Passport

The BlackBerry Passport comes in at 128 x 90.3 x 9.3mm, with a 4.5-inch square screen in the middle. Its width of just over 90mm is significant - by comparison, the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 4 has a width of 78.6mm. The QWERTY keyboard takes up three rows below the display, and features just the alphabet alongside space, enter, and delete buttons. Additional symbols and numbers show up on the display.

The Passport is obviously designed for two-handed operation, just like most QWERTY messengers. That being said, a reduction of even 10mm in terms of width would have done wonders to the one-handed usability of the device. In terms of weight (196g) the Passport doesn't feel overly heavy, although it does come in 20g heavier than the aforementioned Galaxy Note 4 phablet.

Design, build quality and handling

The Passport is designed around a sturdy metal frame that the company is not making a big deal of, but it really should. It adds a fair amount of heft to the device, but also makes it feel of higher quality. The rounded frame ends complement the rounded edges of the rear panel and the front glass. The square corners give it that signature passport-like look.

The back panel is made out of polycarbonate that is pleasantly matted to resist smudges. It feels good to the touch as well, although it does tend to attract a fair amount of dust - likely not a problem if you're sporting the white color option. There's an ever-so-slight camera bump (0.3mm to be exact), that could potentially get scuffed after prolonged usage.

The QWERTY keys themselves have good resistance when pressed, and are also backlit for easier typing in the dark.

The entire keypad itself is touch enabled, meaning that you can perform scroll and swipe actions just by dragging your fingers across the keys without actually pressing them.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

BlackBerry Passport

The high quality build certainly makes handling the Passport more pleasurable, but its wide footprint makes it far from easy to live with. The large screen does not let your thumb reach all the way across, and the same goes for the keyboard. One-handed operation will really only go as far as basic at-a-glance usage. For everything else - typing, browsing, and most applications - you'll need to use two hands.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

Handing the BlackBerry Passport

Using two hands goes without saying in the messenger form factor, but if you're coming from a more compact touchscreen device it'll take some getting used to.

Controls

Looking above the square display you'll find a 2MP front-facing camera capable of 720p video recording next to the earpiece. The hidden proximity and ambient light sensors are also here.

Blackberry Passport

A peek above the display

Below the display lies the Passport's key feature - the QWERTY keyboard. Each button is pleasantly shaped and provides ample resistance when pressed and tactile feedback.

As we mentioned earlier, the entire keypad is touch-enabled and has gesture support - you just need to run your fingers across the buttons without pressing them. The gestures come in handy for managing word suggestions, as well as for scrolling webpages and menus.

You'll notice that there are no special keys/symbols beyond space, delete, and enter. Numbers, punctuation, and special characters appear at the bottom edge of the screen when needed. Check out the messaging and text input chapter for more information.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The QWERTY keyboard is also capacitive

The Passport's right side features a three-piece volume rocker (play/pause button in the middle), while the left side is bare. The edges composed of a metal frame, while the buttons themselves are plastic.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The left and right sides feature a metal frame

The top of the device is where you'll find the power/lock button, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a small crevice for removing a portion of the back panel.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The top has the audio jack and the Power key

The bottom of the Passport houses the microUSB port and microphone pinhole, flanked by two speakers.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The bottom of the BlackBerry Passport

Flipping the device over, you'll spot the 13MP camera lens and single LED flash on a small camera hump. The centrally-placed BlackBerry logo has a carved-out look that contributes to the premium aesthetic.

Blackberry Passport
Blackberry Passport

The back is pleasantly matted

The back panel features a removable portion, under which you'll find the microSD and nano-SIM card slots. The 3,450mAh battery, however, is non user-accessible.

Blackberry Passport

The rear panel features a removable section