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BlackBerry Q5: an entry level BlackBerry 10 handset (hands-on)

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BlackBerry Q5
BlackBerry Q5

The only hardware announcement made during this morning's BlackBerry Live keynote address was for the Q5, a low-end QWERTY smartphone destined for emerging markets. The Q5 takes the place of the old Curve — it gives BlackBerry an entry-level device that can be sold at a lower price point than its premium line.

The Q5 looks very similar to the Q10, its bigger brother on the BlackBerry food chain, as it has a full QWERTY keyboard and square display. The display is the same 720 x 720 pixel resolution as the Q10, but instead of an AMOLED panel, it uses an LCD unit. In our brief time with it, we didn't notice any problems with the LCD, though it's certain that it has a lower cost than the AMOLED version.

The major difference between the Q10 and Q5 is in their keyboards: the Q5 utilizes a segmented key layout that hearkens back to the Curves of yesterday. The keys are noticeably flatter than those on the Q10, and the feel of the keyboard is not nearly as nice as the more expensive model. Additionally, while we praised the Q10 for its build quality, the Q5 is made of shiny, glossy plastic that doesn't feel nearly as premium. It's almost as if BlackBerry's design team had a few drinks with Samsung's team and this is what came out.

Other differences include a slightly slower, 1.2GHz dual-core processor and only 8GB of internal storage compared to the Q10's 16GB. The Q5 also has a 5-megapixel camera in place of the Q10's 8-megapixel unit. The Q5's battery is not removable, though it does offer a microSD card slot for storage expansion. The Q5 didn't feel noticeably slower than the Q10 in our brief tests, but we could imagine that it won't handle 3D games and other intensive applications quite as well.

The Q5 will be available in four colors (white, red, black, and pink) in select markets later this year, but we don't yet know how much it will cost or exactly when it will hit shelves. BlackBerry built its massive user base on the success of lower end models such as the Curve, so the Q5 is certainly an important device for the company. But will it be able to replicate such success when Android handsets are cheaper by the day and customers even have the option for a low-cost iPhone these days? We'll just have to wait and see if that's the case.