BlackBerry Z10 review: Swipe clean

GSMArena team, 15 February 2013.

Wide-ranging connectivity is a little frustrating

The BlackBerry Z10 covers the whole connectivity spectrum with four different versions. All of them have quad-band 2G GSM and 3G GSM (HSPA), but there are some key differences.

The STL100-1 is the basic model - 2G, 3G with 21Mbps HSDPA and 5.76Mbps HSUPA. Then come STL100-2 and STL100-3 models, which add LTE to the mix (100Mbps down, 50Mbps up). The difference between the two are the 3G and 4G bands they support.

Finally, the STL100-4 piles on CDMA with EV-DO Rev. A on top (though it supports fewer HSPA and LTE bands). Anyway, stores will offer the right model for your country and carrier, so you don't need to worry about it too much.

Whichever model you get, you'd be all set for fast global connectivity.

Local connectivity is fully featured as well. Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n handles local Internet connections and Bluetooth 4.0 handles accessories. There's also microUSB port for data connectivity with a computer and a standard microHDMI port for TV-Out.

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.

Blackberry Z10 Preview Blackberry Z10 Preview Blackberry Z10 Preview Blackberry Z10 Preview
NFC tags • filtering tags • creating a new tag • tag options

You don't need NFC to transfer tags either - the BlackBerry Z10 can create a QR code and read QR codes too, which is great for communicating with phones that don't have NFC.

Blackberry Z10 Preview Blackberry Z10 Preview
QR code • scanning a QR code

While we're here, we have to go over BlackBerry Link - the PC Suite for the Z10. The phone has the install file, just plug it in and install the app. Luckily, you don't need it for the USB data connection to work, you can simply enable mass storage mode from the settings and simply drag and drop files on your storage card.

The PC Link has its advantages though - once everything is installed, the phone storage will appear as a drive on your computer. You don't even need the USB cable, the phone will appear as a network drive once it's on the same Wi-Fi network as the computer (you can disable this if you like).

Link can schedule phone backups and automatic sync of content (both docs and multimedia). That's great with the Wi-Fi option - it will seamlessly sync your docs at work and then your music at home, you don't need to do anything.

All that is great, but needing the app to install the right drivers is annoying. They didn't even install properly the first time around and we had to go through the Windows' Device Manager to get them to work.

Link only supports dragging files from one place in the app to another (but you can use the computer's file browser option and save yourself the trouble). So, we added the folder with the documents and dragged them over through Link, but while doing so we noticed how long it took the app to scan a folder with four docs in it. Scanning phone content isn't speedy either.

To top it all off, BlackBerry Link crashed a couple of times. iTunes and Zune are not the most well-liked apps around, and a buggy Link is not what we wanted to see. Okay, we got this off our chest.

So in the end, mass storage is the way even if it only grants access to the microSD card and not the internal storage.. With some polishing Link might prove to be a superior alternative - just not right now.

Browser keeps Flash alive

The BlackBerry Z10 has a WebKit-based browser with full Flash support. The 4.2" WXGA screen isn't as big as most droid flagships at the moment, but it is still bigger and sharper than that of an iPhone 5.

The interface is pretty straightforward. The first thing you see is the New tab interface, which shows thumbnails of recently visited sites. It's a bit annoying that these can't be deleted. There's no Incognito/Private mode either, so be careful what sites you open.

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 Z10 Preview Blackberry Z10 Preview Blackberry Z10 Preview
The New tab interface • entering an URL • picking search service provider

Anyway, the UI that displays websites is pretty Windows Phone-like - the web page takes the whole screen, except for a line at the bottom (it even covers the status bar at the top of the screen). The line at the bottom holds a Tab switcher button, Back button, URL field and a Menu key.

Blackberry Z10 Preview Blackberry Z10 Preview
Browsing GSMArena.com on the BlackBerry Z10

The Tab switcher button brings up a list of currently open tabs, along with Bookmarks, History and a New tab shortcut. The current page you're browsing is pushed to the right to reveal all those. Instead of tapping the Tab switcher button, you can swipe to the right but the gesture needs to begin at the bottom where the Tab button is.

It can be a short swipe - just enough for the option icons to show up and get docked on the left side of the screen. That seems like a handy way to keep those options and tabs always visible, but they hide as soon as you tap anything - a missed opportunity.

Blackberry Z10 Preview Blackberry Z10 Preview
Switching tabs • these options can be docked, but go away quickly

Anyway, the browser is very 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 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 Z10 Preview Blackberry Z10 Preview
Options • Reader mode

The BlackBerry Z10 has full Flash support - it's among the last active platforms that do. The dual-core Krait processor had no problem playing a 1080p YouTube videos.

Blackberry Z10 Preview
BlackBerry Z10 has full Flash support

BlackBerry bragged about how good their browser is, so we ran a few benchmarks on it. At the moment, it's the top scorer at HTML5Test.com (which tests HTML5 compatibility), beating other mobile and even desktop browsers by a good margin.

While pure JavaScript performance is not quite the best as seen from SunSpider, it did outrun the Nexus 4. The compound BrowserMark 2 test gave it a very good score though.

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Samsung Ativ S
    891
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    910
  • Apple iPhone 5
    915
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    972
  • HTC One X+
    1001
  • Motorola RAZR i XT890
    1059
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1192
  • LG Optimus G
    1353
  • BlackBerry Z10
    1741
  • Nexus 4
    1971

BrowserMark 2

Higher is better

  • LG Optimus G
    2555
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2330
  • Nexus 4
    1794
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    1774
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    1760
  • Samsung Omnia W
    1632
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1247
Next Page »