BlackBerry Z30 Smartphone Review

Daniel Schuster (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 06/03/2014

From 10 to 30 within a year. After the Z10's launch, the Canadian manufacturer takes a shot with its new Z30 model. BlackBerry uses hardware and software from the same source - thus meeting the demands on both is all the more difficult a task.

For the original German review, see here.

We dealt with the long period of development for the current BlackBerry 10 OS operating system in the review of the Z10. It would be wrong to think that something has changed about this a year later. It soon becomes evident that the focus of development has apparently not been set mainly on software but on hardware when turning on the phone and in the system settings.

The main difference compared with the precursor is noticed immediately because the screen has grown from 4.2 to 5-inches. BlackBerry also relies on an SoC from the market leader Qualcomm for its smartphones and uses the dual-core Snapdragon MSM8960T with a clock rate of 1.7 GHz per core in the Z30. At first glance, it seems as if all innovations could be counted on the fingers of one hand. We can only hope that the devil is in the details. The refreshed model from the Z-line would be set up rather weakly with only a new SoC and larger screen.

Case

Smartphone with a high-quality build
Smartphone with a high-quality build

As is known from BlackBerry, the build quality is very satisfying. The device is extremely stiff and can also score with solid looks. Compared with the precursor, not much has changed about the good feel: The back cover is still comprised of plastic that is rubber-coated. The smartphone is nice to hold but gets a bit heavy after a while. The Z10 was not particularly light for a 4.2-inch device with its 145 grams. The 5-inch model achieves a weight of 170 grams. The equally sized Galaxy S4 enters the race with only 130 grams, and the aluminum casing of HTC's One M8 is also lighter (160 grams). The other dimensions are 140.7 x 72 x 9.4 mm. Although LG's G2 sports a 0.2-inch larger screen, it is smaller in all other three dimensions.

Connectivity

A fat minus point is given for linking with a computer. The user is prompted to install "BlackBerry Link" when connected for the first time. Only then is the Z30 recognized as removable media and connected. Why does it have to be so complicated and only possible with additional software? This cannot be called customer-friendly, intuitive use.

Otherwise, the Z30 can score with a micro-SD slot. That enables expanding the storage within seconds for little money. A docking port and volume rocker are on the right. A multi-function button that, for example, activates voice control, is in the rocker's center. The power button is on the upper edge. A micro-USB cord or external monitor can be connected on the device's left via micro-HDMI.

The buttons and ports are on the casing's left, right, and...
The buttons and ports are on the casing's left, right, and...
...upper edge.
...upper edge.
Home screen of BlackBerry 10
Home screen of BlackBerry 10

Software

The BlackBerry operating system is currently still version 10, just like it was in the Z10. The exact software version of our review sample is 10.2.1.2102. This update has also been available for the BlackBerry Z10 since mid-February and is installed via an OTA update.

The main differences to the former software version is, for example, the reworked monitoring for battery activity, detailed features for corporate customers, an offline browser-reading mode, or freely configurable quick settings. All innovations and improvements can be followed in various blogs.

Naturally, the manufacturer installs loads of bloatware. Apps like Twitter, BlackBerry Remember or LinkedIn are pre-loaded, and some unnecessarily reserve storage capacity. Like all BlackBerry devices, the rise and fall of success is partially associated with the offer in the corresponding app store. There were approx. 120,000 apps available in mid-2013, but most of them were unfortunately not free of charge. Google's Play Store had this amount of apps available 2.5 years earlier. Apple or Android users will find it difficult to switch to BlackBerry because unpleasant surprises await users who are used to a generous supply.

Communication & GPS 

Although quite some time has gone by since the review of the precursor, not much has changed in this sector. The Wi-Fi module still transmits in dual-channel mode (2.4 and 5 GHz) and still has a good range. It supports the 802.11 a/b/g/n standards. The Z30 connects to mobile Internet via LTE when there is no wireless LAN available and the corresponding plan has been selected from the provider (quad-band LTE (1800/2600/900/800 MHz); quad-band UMTS/HSPA+ (800/850/900/1900/2100 MHz)). Bluetooth 4.0 LE (low energy) is installed for short-range data transmissions. NFC technology is also available for near field communication.

The a-GPS module had to directly compete with the Garmin Edge 500 outdoor navigation system. The results of both were very close, and the difference was only 40 meters which can be neglected. We noticed a very accurate tracking of the driven route especially in parts with tight curves. It was a bit less accurate in wooded areas, but the Garmin reference device also has problems with these sections.

BlackBerry Z30: total
BlackBerry Z30: total
BlackBerry Z30: bridge
BlackBerry Z30: bridge
BlackBerry Z30: woods
BlackBerry Z30: woods
Garmin Edge 500: total
Garmin Edge 500: total
Garmin Edge 500: bridge
Garmin Edge 500: bridge
Garmin Edge 500: woods
Garmin Edge 500: woods


Telephony and Speech Quality

We praised the Z10's speech and audio quality. We did not find any flaws or shortcomings in the new model either. The sound is loud and clear and can be set to a sufficient volume. The included in-ear headphones can also be used as a headset. We do not have any reason for complaints here because the quality of this accessory is convincing.

Cameras & Multimedia

Two cameras are installed in our review sample. A 2-megapixel camera with a triple digital zoom and image stabilizer is on the front. It enables recording videos in HD quality (720p). The rear-facing camera is more interesting because the lens has a maximum resolution of 8 megapixels and features an LED flash. The lens is light sensitive with a maximum aperture of f2.2 and could theoretically even achieve acceptable results in darker surroundings. Unlike the front-facing camera, the primary camera can record Full HD videos.

Despite the lens' high light sensitivity, the small sensor does not capture enough light to display the object brightly. This is noticed extremely in the screenshot "Surroundings." Other smartphones, such as the Lumia 1020, do a much better job here. We noticed another point of criticism in the fruit bowl shot. The fruits' colors are natural, but not that of the bowl. The bowl looks deep purple on the picture, but that is wrong. The reproduction of details satisfies us as far as an 8 MP camera can.

BlackBerry Z30
BlackBerry Z30
BlackBerry Z30
BlackBerry Z30
BlackBerry Z30
BlackBerry Z30
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Apple iPhone 5
Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1020
Nokia Lumia 1020
Reference: Sony Alpha A57, automatic
Reference: Sony Alpha A57, automatic
Reference: Sony Alpha A57, automatic
Reference: Sony Alpha A57, automatic
Reference: Sony Alpha A57, automatic
Reference: Sony Alpha A57, automatic


Accessories and Warranty

The accessories included for the Z30 are limited to the smartphone itself, i.e. the battery and an in-ear headset. Including a headset is not surprising in this price range, but more appropriate.

Unfortunately, only a manufacturer's warranty of 12 months is included. Buyers who want to cover the pricey smartphone beyond this warranty period will have to look around for third-party cell-phone insurance.

 

 

Input Devices and Controls

The capacitive touchscreen is absolutely impressive because its accuracy is on a very high level and does not leave anything to be desired. Even the smallest hyperlink in the browser is hit accurately, no matter whether it is in the corner or in the center of the 5-inch screen. Of course, the smartphone supports multi-touch gestures. The pinch-to-zoom feature functions impeccably on websites, and the zoomed-in text is available in a razor-sharp quality immediately - without loading delays.

The virtual QWERTY keyboard is used for typing. The keys have a sufficient size to write shorter texts within a relatively short time. The keyboard takes up a lot of space on the screen in landscape mode, but a good compromise of keyboard size and readable content is made when the phone is rotated by 90 degrees.

Landscape mode and...
Landscape mode and...
...portrait mode of the Z30
...portrait mode of the Z30

Display

5-inches and HD resolution
5-inches and HD resolution

As mentioned, the screen has a size of 5-inches. The Z10's screen is 0.8-inches smaller but has a virtually identical resolution. The review sample does not feature an exceptional configuration with 1280x720 pixels. Full HD videos recorded using the primary camera cannot be rendered in the maximum resolution on the internal screen. Furthermore, the screen has a color depth of 24 bits and an aspect ratio of 16:9. The Super AMOLED screen is one of the biggest differences compared with its precursor (LCD screen). The average brightness is 277.9 cd/m²; the Z10 achieved an amazing 655.9 cd/m². The illumination has been improved to a very homogeneous 91%, and the black level is almost 0 cd/m² for construction-related reasons. This results in a non-measurable contrast - a feature of AMOLED technology.

270
cd/m²
274
cd/m²
287
cd/m²
271
cd/m²
275
cd/m²
285
cd/m²
269
cd/m²
275
cd/m²
295
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 295 cd/m²
Average: 277.9 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 91 %
Center on Battery: 275 cd/m²
Black: 0 cd/m²
Contrast: ∞:1

Another feature of the screen's technology is seen when looking at the color reproduction. It is very rich, which is one reason why many buyers avoid AMOLED screens. Three modes can be selected in the grayscale reproduction. The medium setting has a color temperature of 6611 K, which lets all gray hues look a bit warmer than specified in the ideal. We measured a temperature of 9277 K in the cold setting and observed very bluish gray hues.

Color reproduction
Color reproduction
Saturation
Saturation
ColorChecker
ColorChecker
Grayscale reproduction "Cold"
Grayscale reproduction "Cold"
Grayscale reproduction "Medium"
Grayscale reproduction "Medium"
Grayscale reproduction "Warm"
Grayscale reproduction "Warm"

Not only the screen's brightness has an impact on good outdoor legibility. The black level and contrast also contribute significantly to the suitability - and these rates could not be better. Content can be read sufficiently well when the viewing angles are altered a bit and the user takes care not to expose the screen to maximum sunlight.

No matter from which angle the user looks at the screen, the contrast, brightness, and color reproduction are always on an extremely high level. The Super AMOLED screen provides maximum viewing-angle stability.

Viewing angles
Viewing angles
BlackBerry Z30 outdoors
BlackBerry Z30 outdoors

Performance

BlackBerry uses an SoC from Qualcomm for its Z30. The S4 Pro MSM8960T has two cores that clock with 1.7 GHz each. The smartphone is sufficiently designed with a 2 GB working memory, which is noticed when moving through the BlackBerry World. Everything runs smoothly and without lags.

The lack of benchmarks in the BlackBerry World prevents performing many benchmarks. We could only download the Geekbench 3 runtime test and compare the results with other smartphones in our database. The Z30 looks like an old hat compared with premium phones from other manufacturers. Only Google's Nexus 5 scores worse by 18% in the single-core test.

Geekbench 3
32 Bit Single-Core Score (sort by value)
BlackBerry Z30
636 Points ∼18%
Samsung Galaxy S5
941 Points ∼27% +48%
Apple iPhone 5S
1368 Points ∼39% +115%
HTC One M8
957 Points ∼27% +50%
LG G2
819 Points ∼23% +29%
Google Nexus 5
521 Points ∼15% -18%
32 Bit Multi-Core Score (sort by value)
BlackBerry Z30
1233 Points ∼10%
Samsung Galaxy S5
2885 Points ∼22% +134%
Apple iPhone 5S
2449 Points ∼19% +99%
HTC One M8
2785 Points ∼22% +126%
LG G2
2210 Points ∼17% +79%
Google Nexus 5
1613 Points ∼13% +31%

Legend

 
BlackBerry Z30 Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro MSM8960T, Qualcomm Adreno 320, 16 GB iNAND Flash
 
BlackBerry Z10 Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960, Qualcomm Adreno 225, 16 GB iNAND Flash
 
Samsung Galaxy S5 Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AC, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 16 GB eMMC Flash
 
Apple iPhone 5S Apple A7, PowerVR G6430, 16 GB iNAND Flash
 
HTC One M8 Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AB, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 16 GB iNAND Flash
 
LG G2 Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 MSM8974, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 32 GB SSD
 
Google Nexus 5 Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 MSM8974, Qualcomm Adreno 330, 16 GB iNAND Flash

An app is not needed to perform browser-based benchmarks. It can be done easily using the pre-loaded browser. The Peacekeeper benchmark recurrently crashed so that we could not ascertain any scores. The same is true for the SunSpider version 1.0 test. Unfortunately, the results here also speak clearly. All contending products achieve considerably better scores. Nevertheless, we cannot say that the browser is sluggish or that longer waiting times occur subjectively.

Mozilla Kraken 1.0 - Total Score (sort by value)
BlackBerry Z30
24220.3 ms * ∼14%
BlackBerry Z10
41401.5 ms * ∼24% -71%
Apple iPhone 5S
8019.3 ms * ∼5% +67%
LG G2
14333.8 ms * ∼8% +41%
Google Nexus 5
14298.2 ms * ∼8% +41%
Octane V1 - Total Score (sort by value)
BlackBerry Z30
1828 Points ∼9%
BlackBerry Z10
925 Points ∼4% -49%
Apple iPhone 5S
5561 Points ∼26% +204%
LG G2
3014 Points ∼14% +65%
Google Nexus 5
4039 Points ∼19% +121%
Octane V2 - Total Score (sort by value)
BlackBerry Z30
1466 Points ∼6%
Samsung Galaxy S5 (1.6.28)
3875 Points ∼16% +164%
HTC One M8
3131 Points ∼13% +114%
Sunspider - --- (sort by value)
BlackBerry Z30
1250.1 ms * ∼12%
BlackBerry Z10
2446.7 ms * ∼23% -96%
Apple iPhone 5S
406.6 ms * ∼4% +67%
LG G2
873.9 ms * ∼8% +30%
Google Nexus 5
838.7 ms * ∼8% +33%

* ... smaller is better

Games and Videos

Smartphones like to be used as a portable gaming console to kill time in the subway or the lunch break. Games have to be downloaded from the BlackBerry World for this purpose. The selection is not very lush, and a fee is charged for many games. The supply cannot be compared with that of the Play Store or App Store. When an appropriate game has been found, even relatively demanding games runs smoothly. We tested that with Dhoom: 3, a first-person action shooter/racing game.

Users who prefer watching a video will also be satisfied with the Z30 and its 5-inch screen. Full HD videos were rendered impeccably.

Both Full HD videos and 3D games...
Both Full HD videos and 3D games...
...were no challenge for the review sample.
...were no challenge for the review sample.

Emissions

Temperature

BlackBerry has the temperature development under control. We did not measure above average temperatures in the precursor, and the rates in the load and idle scenario have even been improved so that absolutely no unpleasant heat is produced. The temperatures without load remained clearly below 30 °C, and the rates only fluctuated between just 31.7 °C and 32.2 °C even when the SoC was loaded.

Max. Load
 31.9 °C32.8 °C32.5 °C 
 31.0 °C33.1 °C33.1 °C 
 31.0 °C32.5 °C31.9 °C 
Maximum: 33.1 °C
Average: 32.2 °C
31.3 °C32.9 °C31.8 °C
31.6 °C32.8 °C31.3 °C
30.3 °C32.6 °C30.7 °C
Maximum: 32.9 °C
Average: 31.7 °C
Power Supply (max.)  34.0 °C | Room Temperature 23.0 °C | Voltcraft IR-350

Speakers

The speaker is located on the back. It is not completely covered when the smartphone is placed on an even surface because it is exactly on the corner of the rounded edge. The maximum volume is absolutely sufficient but should not be maxed out because the sound is then tinny. External speakers can be connected to the Z30 either via the 3.5 mm jack or wirelessly.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The precursor consumed between 0.3 and 1.7 watts during low load. The Z30 sports a 0.8-inch larger screen, and its performance has also improved. However, the power consumption is almost the same. Although the lowest rate is approximately 0.4 watts, the maximum idle settles to around 1.6 watts.

The load consumption of both devices deviates more strongly. The Z30 consumes between 1.9 and 3.6 watts, and the Z10 needs a bit more with 2.3 to 3.7 watts. We will look at the battery runtimes in the next section, but it is already obvious here which device will be more enduring.

Power Consumption

Idle 0.4 / 1.2 / 1.6 Watt
Load 1.9 / 3.6 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

The 2880 mAh battery of the Z30 is over 1000 mAh stronger than in the Z10. This is noticed immediately in the Z30's runtime. We simulate the minimum runtime using maximum screen brightness, enabled wireless modules, and the highest possible SoC load (Full HD video playback). The phone first had to be recharged after 5 hours and 40 minutes. The Z30's battery also scored in both other test scenarios and clearly surpassed the Z10. Overall, BlackBerry has noticeably improved the battery runtimes. It is possible to easily get through a day without recharging.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
30h 50min
WiFi Surfing
16h 54min
Load (maximum brightness)
5h 40min

Verdict

An amazing piece of hardware with shortcomings in the software.
An amazing piece of hardware with shortcomings in the software.

The Canadian manufacturer does not give up and consistently tries to establish itself on the smartphone market. That is certainly not easy considering the strong competition and their short product cycles. The Z30 has grown by 0.8-inches, its processor has been upgraded to 1.7 GHz, and the working memory has also been expanded to 2 GB. The hardware is compelling because the smartphone features a high-quality build, and the properties of the Super AMOLED screen are satisfactory. However, not much has changed compared with the Z10, and profound innovations are not discovered.

BlackBerry has a twice-as-hard job because it also develops the software. The operating system actually functions perfectly, and its use is intuitive. The problem and the deduction of 1% on our part lie in the fact that not many apps are available in the BlackBerry World. Consequently, users who want an extensive offer of apps should look at another manufacturer. The Z30 is currently available for approximately 430 Euros (~$584) in online shops. The precursor costs about half as much. A comparably priced Android smartphone would, for example, be the Galaxy S4 or Nexus 5 (32 GB).

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BlackBerry Z30. Review sample courtesy of Cyberport.de.
BlackBerry Z30. Review sample courtesy of Cyberport.de.

Specifications

BlackBerry Z30

:: Processor
:: Memory
2048 MB
:: Graphics adapter
:: Display
5.0 inch 16:9, 1280x720 pixel, capacitive, 24 bit color depth, Super-AMOLED-Screen, AMOLED, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
16 GB iNAND Flash, 16 GB , 11.1 GB free
:: Connections
1 USB 2.0, 1 HDMI, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm jack, Card Reader: micro-SD slot, Sensors: accelerometer, magnetometer, proximity sensor, gyroscope, ambient light sensor,
:: Networking
802.11a/b/g/n (a b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth, quad-band with LTE (1800/2600/900/800 MHz); quad-band UMTS/HSPA+ (800/850/900/1900/2100 MHz)
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 9.4 x 140.7 x 72
:: Weight
0.17 kg Power Supply: 0.056 kg
:: Battery
Lithium-Polymer, 2880 mAh, Talk time 3G (according to manufacturer): 18 h, Standby 3G (according to manufacturer): 16 h
:: Price
569 Euro
:: Operating System
Blackberry 10
:: Additional features
Webcam: primary camera: 8 MP; front-facing camera: 2 MP, Speakers: mono speaker, Keyboard: virtual, 12 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
The latest smartphone from the Canadian manufacturer has...
The latest smartphone from the Canadian manufacturer has...
...a size of 5-inches. That is 0.8-inches more than...
...a size of 5-inches. That is 0.8-inches more than...
...its precursor. The resolution is...
...its precursor. The resolution is...
...almost the same (HD).
...almost the same (HD).
The casing features a very high-quality build and is extremely rigid.
The casing features a very high-quality build and is extremely rigid.
However, that affects the weight.
However, that affects the weight.
The smartphone's 170 grams is quite heavy.
The smartphone's 170 grams is quite heavy.
The back cover is removable, but the battery...
The back cover is removable, but the battery...
...cannot be replaced on-the-fly. However,...
...cannot be replaced on-the-fly. However,...
...the internal storage can be expanded via a micro-SD card.
...the internal storage can be expanded via a micro-SD card.
The hardware and software are well-balanced.
The hardware and software are well-balanced.
The operating system needs some getting used to in the beginning,...
The operating system needs some getting used to in the beginning,...
...but its handling is intuitive.
...but its handling is intuitive.
The Device Monitor informs about...
The Device Monitor informs about...
...storage and battery capacity.
...storage and battery capacity.
Multitasking is no problem either.
Multitasking is no problem either.
The Z30 has a few strengths, among them its battery runtime.
The Z30 has a few strengths, among them its battery runtime.
Nevertheless, the poorly filled app store is a drawback.
Nevertheless, the poorly filled app store is a drawback.

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Pro

+Battery runtime
+Performance
+Contrast and black level
+Build quality
 

Cons

-App availability in the "Blackberry World"
-Screen resolution
-Weight

Shortcut

What we like

The screen has very good qualities and can also be read well outdoors. Furthermore, the battery life is incredibly good.

What we'd like to see

The hardware is impressive, but the software affects the overall impression. The limited availability of apps is frustrating.

What surprises us

The smartphone's build and feel are outstanding. Using the device is fun, especially because the operating system is a change from the daily grind with Apple or Google devices.

The competition

Many manufacturers have just recently launched their 2014 flagships on the market. Both the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 are serious competitors for the Z30. Besides that, we are awaiting the iPhone 6 from Apple in the second half of this year, and LG has put a date for the release of its G3 in prospect. Buyers who want to save a bit should look at the 32 GB model of the Nexus 5 or Galaxy S4.

Rating

BlackBerry Z30
05/22/2014 v4
Daniel Schuster

Chassis
91%
Keyboard
71 / 75 → 95%
Pointing Device
94%
Connectivity
54 / 60 → 90%
Weight
91%
Battery
97%
Display
84%
Games Performance
49 / 75 → 65%
Application Performance
28 / 65 → 43%
Temperature
91%
Noise
100%
Audio
64 / 91 → 70%
Camera
65%
Add Points
-1%
Average
70%
84%
Smartphone *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > BlackBerry Z30 Smartphone Review
Author: Daniel Schuster, 2014-06- 3 (Update: 2014-06- 4)