John Galea's Blog

My blog on Gadgets and the like

Blackberry Passport mini Review

It’s been a bit since BlackBerry introduced anything new (the Classic wasn’t new enough for me to be even remotely interested). I updated my Q10 to 10.3 so I had seen most of what was new (from a software point of view) that was brought out in the passport. Some of the newer features have yet to officially hit the Q10. A friend of mine, Lance, got a passport and offered to let me play so I jumped at it (yes I have friends! Who knew:)).

There are two things that make this device unique. Size/shape and the keyboard.

Let’s start with Size/Shape. The Passport is the size of, well a passport. Which is big for a phone, but not a whole lot bigger when you compare it to say a Samsung Note (which admittedly is a large phone).
128 x 90.3 x 9.3mm 196g (Passport)
79.2 x 151.2 x 8.3mm 168g (Note 3)
As you can see in the pic the Passport is a little wider than the note 3 but much shorter.

Button/port wise there’s Volume Up/Down, Mute, Lock (for Power On/Off) and a microUSB port. The Power button is on the very top of the device making it quite a reach. Lots of things on a phone this big require two hands and while Samsung have made an effort to allow some one handed on screen keyboards blackberry has not. There is no HDMI port on this one so if that was something you used on the Q/Z be aware of this. The microUSB 2.0 port is for charging as well as USB OTG. I plugged in a keyboard/mouse and USB flash drive (formatted as fat32) all of which worked.

The display 1440 x 1440 resolution 4.5″ diagonal Vs the Note 3 at 1080×1920. As you can see the display is square as it is on the Q10. This does present some challenges for apps that are use to rectangular screens. The display itself is bright, vivid and crisp. As always font size can be easily adjusted to your tastes.

The processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 with 2.2GHz Quad-Core CPUs (MSM8974-AA) which makes everything zippy. Couple this with the well designed real time operating system QNX and you get a smooth instantaneous feel that is unrivalled off of an iPhone.

Memory 3 GB RAM, and 32 GB Flash which can be upgraded via the microUSB slot.

The back of the phone does not come off, and the battery is not removable. Behind a small removable flap is the microSD slot as well as the nanoSIM slot. That’s right nano. So you will likely need a new SIM card if you are not coming from an iPhone. Very few phones use nano.

The battery is 3450mAH integrated non-removable battery with BB claiming up to 14 hours GSM talk time. I didn’t get much of a chance to play with the battery life of the device but it seemed quite good.

The phone sports Bluetooth 4.0 and Android has been updated to include support for it so you can use things like BT4 heart rate monitors and the like. Google Play services is still missing so apps like Google maps etc that are dependent on it will either not work right or flat out crash. Android wear would not run at all meaning using Android Wear smartwatches is not going to happen.

There’s a nice big, visible LED for notifications and Blackberry’s case has been cleverly designed to let the LED shine through. Something Samsung still have not got right.

The main app screen seems to me to have a ton of white space around the icons. While this makes it easy to properly select an app it seems wasteful of precious real estate.

LTE speeds were quite good at up to 102.6 Mb/s down 25.1 Mb/s up. Some of the fastest speeds I’ve seen.

Ah the keyboard … Blackberry have been known for their keyboards, and that is one of the things that would attract someone to this device. But to call this keyboard different would be an understatement. The keys are rectangular in shape rather than square. There are only characters on the physical keyboard with punctuation, numbers etc all showing up on an onscreen keyboard above the physical keyboard.
The space bar seems almost recessed and I found I had to make an effort to get it. The enter is so far down that I found myself really stretching my thumb to get it. The buttons themselves just don’t feel as crisp as the Q10s, which is excellent by the way. The keyboard include a sensor and you can use it to scroll up and down pages. All in all, while I think I could get use to it, it would definitely take some time.

One of the new features in 10.3 is called BlackBerry blend. It gives you remote access to your email, bbm, text messages (the hub basically) as well as your calendar, contacts and files. All through an app you load on your PC or Mac. There is no web portal for it. It can be accessed over the cell, wifi or USB connection. And you can control where you do and do not want it. I like the feature. A number of phone companies are moving in this direction.

Blackberry still have not added the idea of a priority inbox. They have a priority hub but that is only a viewing filter. I wish they would add the ability to notify only on the priority hub. That way you only get notified for the “important” people. Sorry if your not in the category 🙂

The platform has continued to evolve and Android compatibility is excellent. With the recent release adding support for Bluetooth 4.0 a number of my road blocks to using a BlackBerry for me have been removed. The sole remaining one being Android Wear. Play services can not come fast enough. Would I buy this unit myself? I have to say I really found the new keyboard clumsy. I wouldn’t be rushing out. I found the odd dimensions clumsy in the hand, and found myself reaching for the edges of the screen. Even more so than on my Note 3.

March 20, 2015 - Posted by | Blackberry 10

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