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BlackBerry Classic review: A killer smartphone for keyboard lovers

Al Sacco | Dec. 19, 2014
The BlackBerry Classic is the best smartphone the company has ever released, according to CIO.com's Al Sacco. However, it's not going to lure away many iPhone or Android users, or significantly increase BlackBerry's market share. And that's just fine with BlackBerry. Here's why.

By design, the keyboard is nearly identical to the keypad on the BlackBerry Bold 9900, but its keys are just slightly larger. Those buttons are still "sculpted," as Moniz-Bennett describes it, meaning a section of each key is slightly raised and shaped so that you can slide a finger across the keypad and tell where one button ends and the next begins without looking. The biggest difference between the Bold 9900 keypad and the Classic's keyboard is the straight "frets," or thin bars between each row of keys -- the 9900 keyboard was curved, with curved frets.

The BlackBerry Q10, the first BlackBerry 10 smartphone with a physical QWERTY keypad, also had straight frets, and according to Moniz-Bennett, the company got rid of the curved frets because extensive testing showed a higher typing accuracy rate with the straight frets. I'm not sure if that claim is true or not, but I love the Classic keyboard so I'm not complaining about the change.

As soon as you pick up the BlackBerry Classic for the first time, it's clear that it's a well-built, sturdy device. It feels solid, and the brushed steel bezel that surrounds the device looks good and adds durability. The bezel is just slightly uplifted from the display, which is made from the now industry-standard Corning Gorilla Glass, so it should help reduce damage from drops.

The size of the Classic is just right. Its display is small by today's standards, at 3.5 inches, but it's significantly bigger than the Bold 9900's 2.8-inch screen and the 3.1-inch display on the BlackBerry Q10. The device is weighted so that it doesn't feel top heavy while you type.

A notable design departure from its QWERTY BlackBerry predecessors is the presence of two brushed steel card slots in a side panel of the Classic, one for a micro SD card (with support for memory cards up to 128GB) and another for a nano SIM. Past BlackBerrys had slots located inside their battery doors, but the Classic has a fixed battery and the door is not removable. You pop the small trays out with a safety pin or other similar tool, and they're relatively easy to remove and replace -- though I did have to rejigger one of them a few times to get it seated properly in the bezel. I appreciate the memory card support as well.

The Classic has two large speaker ports on the bottom section of its bezel, for audio and speakerphone calls. The speakers sound tinny when playing music, but that's typical of most smartphones today. The speakers can be turned up quite high, which can be important when making speakerphone calls.

 

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