28 August 2018

REVIEW: Blackberry Key2

Throwback phone

When last year we reviewed the Blackberry KEYone, we were quite impressed. The old-skool style of a physical keyboard - one that doesn't fold or slide away (unlike the Blackberry PRIV) - was appealing, and made us feel all nostalgic for the great and ground-breaking Blackberry phones of 15 years ago. So, when Blackberry announced the phone's follow up, the logically named Key2, we jumped at the chance to review it. However, our enthusiasm has definitely faltered in a year. Here's what we thought:

Just like the KEYone, the Key2 possesses the same rough dimensions of a standard modern smartphone and holding it in the hand doesn't feel at all strange. But the bottom quarter of the device is taken up not by screen, but by a physical keyboard, giving the remaining screen an odd 3:2 ratio. So, even if you've spent time with the predecessor, the Key2 takes a lot of getting used to.

If you're questioning why Blackberry would make yet another phone that features those same keys, then the Key2 probably won't be for you. We've all fully adjusted, over the past 12 years, to touch screen keyboards, and making the change to physically pressing an immovable key once again is tricky. But (and this is clearly the 'but' Blackberry are aiming for), if you miss those halcyon days of classic Blackberries and dumb-phones, you'll bloody love this.

Anyway, despite that striking difference, the Blackberry Key2 is still very much a modern smartphone, boasting the latest version of Android and a quick Qualcomm processor. There are 6GB of RAM in there, and either 64GB or 128GB of storage, so this thing is contending with the flagship big boys from Apple and Samsung. The dual cameras on the rear are both 12MP, while the selfie shooter is a very respectable and clear 8MP. You can shoot 4K video, and you should be able to do lots on it for more than a day thanks to the 3500mAh battery.

One improvement that Blackberry has made to the Key2 is the overall aesthetics. This new version looks far more comfortable in its own skin, and both top and bottom edges seem to gel - the previous Key looked like two separate phones glued together. We love the rubberised back panel, and the keyboard itself is 20% larger with bigger gaps between rows. All over, it's a far better phone than the KEYone.

Yet, after two weeks of full-time use, we have to say that the novelty of that physical keyboard has more than worn off. To be fair to Blackberry, it only took a couple of days to get used to having to press the ALT key for symbols and numbers, as well as the shift to get caps - other than that, there isn't a huge amount of difference between this and a regular touch screen.

But the real estate it steals from the screen does become evident when you want to watch some Netflix or check out a YouTube video. Here the Blackberry Key2 feels more like a smaller (and therefore, in today's market, a budget) phone. Don't get us wrong, it's great that the keyboard can also be used as a touch track-pad, allowing you to keep your fingers free of the 4.5 inch screen for scrolling through web pages and documents, but screens everywhere are getting larger, and the Key2 feels ancient because of it.

That said, the dual-sensor camera produces rich, clear shots, the 4K video is smooth and vibrant, and the screen itself, diminished as it is, is still an impressive Full HD. It runs quickly, can handle lots of multiple tasks, and comes pre-packaged with Blackberry's ultra secure software. We should bloody love this thing. But we don't.

Still, if you miss the Blackberries of old, and actually do prefer using a physical keyboard, the Key2 should be your next phone. For the rest of us who accept that the future is most probably void of keyboards, look elsewhere.

£539 unlocked

Available from www.amazon.co.uk

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