BlackBerry Z30 announced: 5” 720p display, 2GB RAM and Snapdragon S4 Pro

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BlackBerry Z30: unleashed

The BlackBerry Z30 was announced a few hours ago during a rather mysterious event in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia. That was sort of expected, given that we’ve been seeing Z30-related leaks growing both in intensity and plausibility during the last few months, which signaled that the phone that some of you know as the Aristo was approaching. Well, the wait is now officially over and here’s what BlackBerry has in store for us.

Hardware

As was the case with most of the latest high-roller smartphones, the leaks and rumors were pretty spot on. This includes the 5-inch 720p (295 ppi) AMOLED display, the largest of any BB phone, and also the now aging aged Snapdragon S4 Pro with the four CPUs running at 1.7GHz. Blackberry is yet to shed light on whether we’re talking about a dual-core or quad-core, though the less potent version seems likely. In terms of memory, you’ll find 2GB RAM, with just 16GB of internal storage, though you can expand that via a microSD card. BlackBerry claims that the battery on the Z30, at 2880mAh, coupled with software optimizations, offers 50% more battery life than its current competitors, though manufactures have a pretty shady track record when it comes to this particular bit of hardware, and its actual capabilities.

Turning to the camera on the Z30, an increasingly relevant component of the entire package a smartphone offers lately, we’re welcomed by a 8MP rear camera with Auto Focus, 5x digital zoom and a an LED flash. The large five element lens with an aperture of f/2.2 mean that the unit will capture a lot of light, resulting in great shots. The snapper, as is to be expected, is capable of 1080p video capture, and comes with what BB chose to call “Time Shift” – a feature that basically allows you to choose and adjust faces from several snaps, so say goodbye to ill-timed shots.

In terms of connectivity and extras, the Z30 is anything but lacking – you get GPS, 4G LTE connectivity and Wi-Fi, of course, but also Bluetooth 4.0 LE (low energy), NFC, and the rather nice perk that is a microHDMI port.

BlackBerry 10.2 OS

Hardware is only one facet of the smartphone experience, with software increasingly becoming the much more important other half. To that end, the Z30 will ship running BlackBerry 10.2, the OS’ latest iteration. Among the new features that BB 10.2 brings to the table are the BlackBerry Priority Hub – your one stop place for all your personal communications and notifcations across a plethora of services. The now refined BBM brings system-wide chat notifications, and will let users preview and respond to incoming communication without having to fire the app itself. Another seemingly interesting feature is what BlackBerry is calling ‘Natural Sound’. Basically, BB boasts that its trio of speakers, along with some BlackBerry proprietary tech, will allow for more natural-sounding conversations over BBM Video and BBM Voice, by capturing nuances and variations in the talking person’s tone.

Release date and availability

Release dates for the BlackBerry Z30 will vary by region, though the company will be making their new flagship phone available in Hong Kong and Malaysia starting on October 5th for roughly $620. As for the rest of the world, the Z30 will be available from select carriers and retailers, beginning with those in the UK and the Middle East (where BB is still popular), and reportedly other undisclosed regions before the holiday season is upon us.

Our take

We usually reserve our right to a final verdict for after we get to play with a phone one-on-one, and we’re not about to derail that rule. That being said, our initial impression of the BlackBerry Z30 is pretty positive. Sure, as is the current climate, two primary internal components are bound to lead to a discussion – the 1280×720 screen and the now aging chipset. So, lets go through these in order.

Firstly, a 720p resolution on a 5-inch screened smartphone will definitely upset a few specs junkies, who may have a few things to say, which may result in a rather cold reception akin to that of Motorola’s new line of DROIDs, and, indeed, the Moto X. Having said that, a 720p screen also has its pros – its less of a power hog, both in terms of efficiency and performance. Moreover, the oft-mentioned argument that the differences between a 720p and a 1080p screen are near-impossible to perceive with a naked eye still stands.

And as far as the chipset is concerned – not every OS needs the very latest, most expensive silicon to run fluidly, as exemplified by many an iOS/WP phones. We will, of course, first have to see how the Z30 manages itself under a few real life situations before making any grand conclusions, but at this point we have no reason to believe that it will drop the ball as far as responsiveness and performance are concerned.

Said more broadly, at a first glance, the BlackBerry Z30 appears to be a pretty decent high-end device. It remains to be seen, however, whether BlackBerry’s brand cache hasn’t been thoroughly depleted, so much so that it’s gotten to a point where getting back into the game will require a small miracle on the part of the company formerly known as RIM.

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