Best Smartphones 2016

The design of the Priv will be familiar. We not only saw the device teased in March at Mobile World Congress 2015, but BlackBerry made the unusual move of releasing pictures and specs for most of the device before launch. For those who have been living in a cave, it’s a slider with a 5.4-inch display, offering both a full touchscreen experience and the BlackBerry keyboard when extended. BlackBerry use familiar design in a number of areas although the curves to the edge of the display will be the main talking point. They lend a seamless quality to the front of the handset and give a lovely feel when you swipe across them. Given that this is a big phone, that makes use a little more comfortable as there’s no sharp front edge.

The display is framed in metal and that frame runs across the back of the visible area of the display too. It’s perhaps a design choice that’s been made for practical reasons, to lend solidity to the structure of this phone. There’s only a tiny degree of movement in some locations when you’re tapping on the display to the bottom, this is much more substantial than BlackBerry’s last touch slider, the BlackBerry Torch. We’d perhaps like the slide mechanism to be a little more precise, perhaps snapping and clicking into place, but we’ve little to complain about. How it will wear after a year of use is anyone’s guess: but after a few weeks, we’ve found it all feels pretty good. The finish to the rear section is all about grip. It’s a plastic shell, finished with a similar carbonfibre weave as we saw on the BB Q10, only here it’s rubberised. That gives a lot of grip, but doesn’t feel that nice. There’s also the odd creak around it, something that seems to be a side-effect of offering that sliding movement, and it feels slightly hollow when you tap it. Although it’s secure in the hand, it lacks the premium feel that you get from metal or glass: this isn’t the quality of the iPhone 6S Plus or the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge. The Priv measures 147 x 77.2 x 9.4mm when closed, extending to a substantial 184mm when open. When closed this is a large device, but once you’ve opened it up to access the keyboard, it’s noticeably long. The Priv weighs 192g which is heavy, although given that you have a slider, that’s perhaps something we can overlook. Overall, there’s a lot we like about the Priv. It’s interesting, it’s different and the curved edges to the display feel lovely. Despite this being a big phone, we’ve had no problems keeping a grip on it, which we can’t say for all other devices of this size.

The curve on the edges of this 5.4-inch display isn’t the same as on the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge devices. Although the edges of the surface curve off a lot in the design, the display itself is only slightly curved towards the very edges and this is part of the same panel as the flattened area. That adds interest, makes this phone a little different and gives a sense of width. BlackBerry has also added some elements in the software that makes use of these extremities, which we’ll talk about later. This is the 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution display, for 543ppi, meaning it’s up there with the highest resolution devices you’ll find on Android (ignoring the Xperia Z5 Premium). It’s a crisp and sharp display, packed full of detail. Some may argue that you can’t see all that detail, but there’s no doubting the potential it offers. It’s a plastic AMOLED panel, topped with Gorilla Glass 4, exhibiting those qualities you expect from this display technology. It offers deep blacks and punchy colours, so there’s plenty of vibrancy to those BlackBerry notification splats that appear against your messaging apps and elsewhere. It offers plenty of brightness and we had no problem viewing this display, although we noticed that you’ll sometimes catch some graininess from it. This was a problem that we used to see a lot in the early days of AMOLED, particular when scrolling against a white background, like a website when the display is dimmed. But that’s a minor complaint against a display that’s otherwise very good. It looks great in handling all your content, and watching Gravity on Play Movies rewarded us with nice inky deep blacks.

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