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BlackBerry Z30 deep-dive review: Upgraded software in a great 5-in. smartphone

Matt Hamblen | Nov. 12, 2013
The Z30 is new and improved for both enterprise and individual use -- but can BlackBerry stick around long enough to make it matter?

With that caveat, it's time to look at what's clearly a great phone in both hardware and software.

Improved hardware
The styling of the Z30 is actually a vast improvement over the Z10, although it's still not an eye-catcher like an iPhone 5S in gold or the iPhone 5C in green.

Still, the Z30's new black body with silver trim and rounded edges fits the mission that was expressed in BlackBerry's preliminary second quarter results "to refocus on enterprise and prosumer markets, offering end-to-end solutions, including hardware, software and services."

On the other hand, some features of the Z30 — such as improved video and photo capture — show some concessions towards consumers. Still, the mostly-black look will keep it a good fit for the staid business world.

Compared to the Z10, it is still quite a change. The Z30 replaces the dull black lower front edge of the Z10 with silver trim, and a fine silver trim line is carried around the entire edge. On the upper edge, the glass front carries to the top edge, replacing another dull black bar on the Z10.

The other subtle styling change is a rounded edge on the back of the case that makes it easier to pick up the device from a desk or table than the Z10, which was squared off on all its edges.

Both the Z30 and Z10 are nearly the same thickness, with the Z30 at .37 in. and the Z10 at .35 in. The Z30 is 5.53 in. long, compared to the Z10 at 5.1, while the Z30 is 2.8 in. wide, compared to the Z10 at 2.5. The Z30 weighs 6 oz., a full 1.2 oz heavier than the Z10, but that's not out of line when compared to some other 5-in. smartphones on the market. It feels comfy to use and fit easily in my shirt pocket (and, I confess, my rear jeans pocket).

Both devices have the same ports. There are volume up/down and mute or voice command buttons on the right edge. A power/stand by button is centered on the top edge next to a 3.5mm headset jack (which is capable of stereo in the Z30). On the left edge, both devices have a micro HDMI-out port for output to HDTVs and monitors, and a micro USB port for charging and data transfer. A notification LED is at the top front under the glass.

The back can be pried off to get at the SIM and SD card slots, but I had an unusually tough time doing so on repeated attempts. The Z30 has a powerful battery under the back cover, rated at 2880mAh and advertised as handling up to 25 hours of normal use. I used the Z30 for browsing, talking, the occasional video and keeping it on standby each night, and I didn't have to recharge it for four days. I figure I got about 32 actual hours of use, about 25% more than the amount advertised.

 

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