• Operating System: Android 8.1 Oreo
  • System on Chip: Qualcomm Snapdragon 660
  • Memory: 6GB
  • Storage: 64GB, expandable with microSD
  • Display: 4.5-inch 1080 x 1620 IPS
  • Camera: 12+12MP (dual rear), 8MP (front)
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0 + A2DP + LE + EDR, 802.11ac (dual-band), Wi-Fi Direct
  • Dimensions: 151.4 x 71.8 x 8.5 mm
  • Weight: 168g
  • Pros:
  • Keyboard
  • Shortcuts
  • Cons:
  • Performance

Key Dominance

How long has it been since we’ve seen physical keys on a phone? The wait is now over for CHIP Malaysia, as we’ve gotten our hands on the BlackBerry Key2 for review this month.

Those who are looking for something different would appreciate the BlackBerry Key2 looking more or less unique to the brand. The slim body of the device is completely black in colour, with tapered edges and rounded bottom corners. At the back is a nice textured surface that not only makes it perfect for griping and ensures that it doesn’t slide on smooth surfaces.

As you you expect, the BlackBerry Key2 comes with a physical QWERTY keyboard that is located at the bottom of the front. Above the keyboard is a 4.5-inch IPS display that’s set in a 3:2 aspect ratio, which means that some sites or apps will have the bottom and top cropped off when you try to view them. The left side holds the dual-SIM tray (one of which can also be used for a microSD card), while the right side has the power button, volume buttons, and a ‘Convenience Key’. You’ll also find a dual-lens camera at the back, a first for a BlackBerry device.

In terms of performance, the Snapdragon 660 may not be the most powerful but it does well enough. What’s more important is the keyboard’s usefulness for productivity. Here, the keys have decent key travel and have good tactile feedback to them, though the entire keyboard still feels very cramp due to the size of the phone limiting space. The spacebar key here also doubles as a fingerprint sensor, which is unfortunately not very accurate at times. Another issue we noted was that the virtual keyboard is not disabled on certain apps, which can hamper typing when it pops up.

Besides typing, the keyboard also acts as a joystick, allowing you to scroll through your documents or browse the web easily. We also loved the multiple shortcuts you can make with this phone, either by short press or long press while holding the ‘Speed’ key located at the bottom right.

As mentioned, this is the first BlackBerry device that has a dual camera at the back. Details are okay on it and the colours are only a bit oversaturated, but there’s a bit of noise and the dynamic range (particularly when using HDR) isn’t good. The white balance can also be a bit inconsistent, despite taking from the same position and angle.

CHIP CONCLUDE: If you want to have tonnes of shortcuts just with key presses, or complete emails/documents faster, then this device could be the one for you.

(previously published in issue September 2018)