Hands on: BlackBerry Z30 review

Hands on: BlackBerry Z30 review 


  • Fast, slick OS
  • Larger screen


  • Expensive
  • Lacks appeal

BlackBerry goes big with the 5-inch Z30

There's been a lot of negative stuff coming out of BlackBerry recently, but the Canadian firm does have one thing to shout about - its new flagship handset, the BlackBerry Z30.

The main feature on the Z30 is its 5-inch display, putting is squarely up against the big players in the market, with the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, LG G2 and Nokia Lumia 925 keeping it company.
That's quite a line up to be battling against, and with a SIM-free price of £529 (around $850, AU$905) the Z30 is coming out more expensive than all of its closest rivals.

Things aren't quite so bad for the Z30 on contract though, with a free handset available on tariffs starting at £32 per month.
BlackBerry Z30 review
That said BlackBerry is aware it's appealing to a narrower market of mainly business and pro-sumer customers, so headline specs and compelling design take a back seat in favour of messaging and getting things done.

Putting the focus back on the screen though and some may be disappointed to learn that it only sports a 1280 x 720 resolution - we're becoming accustomed to full HD displays now on our high-end smartphones, but the Z30 hasn't followed the rest here.

BlackBerry has, however, implemented the Super AMOLED display technology for the first time on a BlackBerry 10 device, which gives you richer, brighter colours while also being more energy efficient.
BlackBerry Z30 review
Put the Z30 next to the Z10 and there's a clear improvement in screen colours, although line it up against the full HD brigade and you'll notice the clarity isn't anywhere near as strong.

That's not to say the screen is poor though, as everything looks pretty crisp and sharp and you won't have any trouble reading text on the BlackBerry Z30. It's just not as stunning as the competition.

The screen is responsive and during our time with the Z30 we didn't experience any issues with finger-press detection, allowing us to glide through the BlackBerry 10.2 operating system.
BlackBerry Z30 review
We found the Z30 had a quite a high weight (it tips the scales at 170g), but it's mix of plastic frame and glass weave rear means it doesn't look or feel as premium as the HTC One or iPhone 5S.
Some will prefer the finish over the very plastic Galaxy S4 or LG G2, and the Z30 does feel more premium than the Z10.

At 140.7 x 72 x 9.4mm the BlackBerry Z30 is relatively slender and fits pretty well in the palm. We didn't have to over-stretch our hands to fit them round the device, but those with daintier digits will still struggle with one handed use thanks to the larger screen size.
BlackBerry Z30 review
The trio of buttons on right hand side is fast becoming a BlackBerry 10 staple, with volume rocker keys sandwiching a voice command key, while on top you get a centralised power/lock button and a headphone jack.

We found all these buttons were easy to hit when holding the BlackBerry Z30 in one hand, although we did have to shuffle the handset a little then to get to bottom of screen for main swipe up gesture required for exiting any application.

On the left you get microUSB and microHDMI ports, allowing you to hook the Z30 up to your TV or computer with ease, although only the USB cable is bundled in the box.
BlackBerry Z30 review
The glass weave back, which can also be found on the rear of the QWERTY keyboard-toting BlackBerry Q10, can be removed - although we found this to be rather tricky.

We had to exert quite a lot of force to snap the rear off the Z30, and we were concerned about breaking the slender plastic cover. It was so stiff in fact we initially thought the rear couldn't be taken off at all.
The confusion was enhanced as we spotted a break in the plastic frame running round the BlackBerry Z30, which we mistook for a flap covering the microSIM and microSD slots.
BlackBerry Z30 review
Instead this piece of plastic is connected to the glass weave back and comes away from the Z30 when you've finally mustered up the strength to remove it.

The 2880mAh battery isn't removable - giving the Z30 something in common with the BlackBerry Q5 - but you can hot swap microSD cards up to 64GB in size without having to switch off the smartphone.
BlackBerry claims the battery in the Z30 will offer 25 hours of mixed usage, although it's not clear exactly what it means by that, as well as 16 days of standby and 18 hours talk time.
BlackBerry Z30 review
It's unlikely we'll see those battery life figures when it comes to our in-depth Z30 review, but we'll keep you posted.

In terms of the on-screen experience the Z30 is running the latest version of BlackBerry's new operating system - BlackBerry 10.2

Version 10.2 brings a host of new features with it, and with a 1.7GHz dual-core processor and 2GB behind the scenes it runs very smoothly on the Z30.
BlackBerry Z30 review
Notifications have been given a bit of the overhaul on BlackBerry 10.2, with the new alert icons on the lockscreen able to give you previews of messages by tapping on them, without the need to unlock the handset.

Less of an importance is put on the "peek" gesture when it comes to checking out new messages, with a notification bar now appearing at atop any application you're in with a preview of what you've just received.
It's a very similar implementation to the notification bar on Windows Phone 8, and there's added functionality built in here specifically for BBM messages.
BlackBerry Z30 review
If you get a sent a BBM you can reply to the message by hitting the icon in the notification, meaning you don't have to quit the app you're currently viewing and fire up the BBM app or the BlackBerry Hub.

BlackBerry is calling this feature "BBM Now", although we'd have liked to see it rolled out to all forms of communication including text messaging and emails.
We were shown demonstrations of this on other Z30 handsets and it seemed to work very well, but we'll put it to the test in our full Z30 review.
BlackBerry Z30 review
Head to the BlackBerry Hub - a unified inbox for all your communication streams, and one we're rather fond of - and you'll note there's a new option in the Hub menu.

It's called "Priority Hub" and basically involves the Z30 learning which forms of messaging, and which people, are most important to you. It then pulls through what it believes to be the most relevant and interesting new messages to you (be it texts, emails or social updates) into their own area.

The idea of this is you can quickly see all the alerts which you'll care about the most, speeding up the time it takes you to check your various accounts. You can also set up rules manually to tell the Z30 what to put in the Priority Hub.
BlackBerry Z30 review
BlackBerry has managed to stuff not one, not two, but four microphones inside the Z30, which it claims gives you richer, more natural sound, cutting out background noise when you're on a call or using BBM Video or Voice.

Other features which have arrived with the BlackBerry 10.2 update include improved battery life and smart sharing suggestions, where the Z30 will offer up the people and apps you'll most likely want to share you latest snap, video or document with.

The BlackBerry Z30 boasts a new and improved antenna which will work on pretty much every 4G network, and it's claimed it offers the best signal reception of any phone currently on the market.
BlackBerry Z30 review
The 8MP camera round the back of the Z30 is nothing special, but with a single LED flash, auto- and tap-to-focus, image stabilisation and a 5x digital zoom, plus modes such as burst, HDR and Time Shift it is at least capable.

Shutter speed is excellent, but our ongoing gripe with the BlackBerry 10 camera app is the fact the whole screen is a shutter trigger, leading to many unwanted snaps.
Image quality is more than acceptable, but compare results against the likes of the Lumia 925 or iPhone 5S and the Z30 doesn't quite reach the same standards.
BlackBerry Z30 review
You can also record full HD, 1080p video, while the front facing 2MP snapper has a 3x digital zoom and 720p video capabilities.

The BlackBerry Z30 offers up a wealth of connectivity options. We've already mentioned the USB, HDMI and microSD ports, and to add to that you also get Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, NFC and DLNA streaming.
A new feature which doesn't feature on the Z10, Q10 or Q5 is Miracast - allowing for two way streaming between the Z30 and other enabled devices such as tablets or Smart TVs.

Early verdict

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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

I really like to read reviews and see what's new about technology, on D-BLOG I share with you articles/reviews that I find interesting. I also write some reviews in romanian...

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