BlackBerry Q5 review: The apprentice

GSMArena team, 26 July 2013.

Tags: BlackBerry

Easy to use image gallery with powerful options

The image gallery app has a simple three-tab interface. The first is Recent and it displays recently added and recently viewed images (each list gets half of the screen, but you can tap the down arrow to expand them). The second tab is for photos shot with the BlackBerry Q5 and the third is for albums, which shows all folders with images on the device.

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The image gallery

Multiple images can be selected at once 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.

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

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Viewing a single 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), each with a slider for adjustments. There's a simple Auto-enhance option if you don't want to waste time.

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The image editor is quite capable

The final two tabs are Artistic and Styles, which pretty much do the same thing - add Instagram-like effects to the image (everyone's favorite Lomo, Sepia and Aged photo effects). There's a cool animation that shows the effect sliding up on the image, giving you a second to preview the current and the new look side by side.

The video player is quite capable, the screen is not fit for video playback

The BlackBerry Q5 comes with a surprisingly capable video player. Its interface is very similar to that of the image gallery. It has three tabs - Recent, Camera and Library (which shows all video files stored on the phone) - and can display items either as a list or a grid.

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Picking a video to watch

You can search for a video, mass delete videos, share them or push them over DLNA to a compatible player. The Q5 doesn't have an HDMI port like the Q10, so you have to make do with DLNA.

The video handled all the popular file formats but MKV and 1080p videos easily. Video Codec support is pretty great too - DivX, XviD and h.264 are ready to go - but audio codec support is limited: DTS, DD or AC3 audio failed.

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Watching a video clip

Some competing smartphones don't support much else than MP4 videos with MP3/AAC audio, so this is good showing by the business phone. We do wish there was subtitle support though.

The BlackBerry Q5 video player cannot edit video like it could on the Q10, but the Story Maker app is still here. It lets you pick multiple videos and photos and puts together a slideshow with a soundtrack of your choice. There are several different preset styles, which add an effect over the whole video (vintage, bleach pass, etc.).

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Story Maker creates video slideshows in a matter of minutes

You can go back and add/remove items, rearrange them and run them through the image or video editor if they need to be tweaked. By default, Story Maker saves the final videos in 720p resolution (the 1080p option has been removed).

The BlackBerry Q5 might be a powerful video tool, but its square and small screen is not suitable for enjoying video watching. You can surely use the fit to screen options, but you'll lose 1/3 of a 16:9 video. Still, the BlackBerry Q5 wasn't made for entertainment, so we can't consider this a major drawback.

Snappy music player with no equalizers

The UI of the BlackBerry Q5 music player is pretty similar to the image gallery and video player. It has three tabs, the first of which displays recently added and recently played music. The second organizes the music library by Artist, Album or Genre and the third one displays all the playlists.

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Browsing the music collection

The Now playing interface is pretty simple with big 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 between songs doesn't work). After a while, the playback controls fade and leave the whole screen to the album art.

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The Now playing interface

There are no playback controls on the lockscreen or the toggle dropdown a la Android, but the middle button of the hardware volume controls acts as play/pause.

By the way, when changing the volume while there's a track playing, the little window with the volume level indicator does have playback controls and track info and album art. It's an odd place to put them and you have to hit a volume key each time you want to use them - we much prefer using the hardware keys for the job.

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Playback controls in the volume change window

The music player is DLNA-enabled, just like the gallery and video players. There's no equalizer though, it is the one major feature we missed.

Nicely smooth audio output

Despite its lower standing in the pecking order the BlackBerry Q5 easily matched and even slightly surpassed the audio output of its Q10 premium sibling.

When you use the smartphone with an active external amplifier you get excellent scores all over the place. The frequency response was spot-on and there was no detectable distortion. The signal to noise ratio and the dynamic range are great too and the only thing not perfect is the only average volume level.

There is a moderate increase in stereo crosstalk when you plug in a pair of headphones, but the good news is none of the other readings are affected. Volume levels remain average, but the overall performance is perfectly solid.

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

TestFrequency responseNoise levelDynamic rangeTHDIMD + NoiseStereo crosstalk
BlackBerry Q5+0.16, -0.27-91.790.80.0130.019-90.7
BlackBerry Q5 (headphones attached)+0.34, -0.09-91.890.90.0170.029-70.6
BlackBerry Q10+0.09, -0.35-89.689.50.00950.017-82.7
BlackBerry Q10 (headphones attached)+0.17, -0.27-88.988.80.0150.036-44.6
BlackBerry Z10+0.16, -0.29-82.882.60.0100.022-80.5
BlackBerry Z10 (headphones attached)+0.18, -0.28-82.782.70.0140.059-45.3

BlackBerry Q5 frequency response
BlackBerry Q5 frequency response

You can learn more about the whole testing process here.

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