• My Blackberry Passport review: Finally, something different


    A lot of people are intimidated when they see the Passport. Its square display gives it a unique look which people arenít used to.

    I posted a quick article about the Passportís size here. Really, itís the width that gets people. While itís exceptionally wide, itís about the same height as a regular smartphone.

    The story goes that Blackberry named this phone the Passport because itís the about the same size as a passport. A typical menuís bill fold wallet is also about the same width.

    Since the Passport isnít too tall it actually makes it a fairly pocket-friendly phone. When people have troubles fitting a phone in their pocket it's usually because the phone is too tall - Iím looking at you, iPhone 6 Plus.

    The Passport has a nicely appointed body; Blackberry says that thereís a steel i-beam that runs the length of the device. You can see the flanges (I looked that up) which are exposed on the sides. This makes the Passport feel very rigid - I didnít try it myself but my guess is the Passport would require a lot more force to bend compared to a skinnier device.

    Many of the finishes are from other Blackberries which kind of gives it a bit of familiarity. Part of me was disappointed that the back only has a rubberized finish instead of carbon fiber or leatherette.

    No QWERTY Blackberry review would be complete without talking about the keyboard and what a keyboard the Passport has!

    First off, the keyboard is capacitive. This doesnít mean that all you have to do is touch the keyboard to type on it. You still need to press a key all the way in to get it to register. Instead, the capacitive keyboard acts as a giant trackpad which you can use to scroll webpages. If you double tap it, you can use it to select text. Swiping from right to left deletes a whole words.

    I like how Blackberry didnít over do the the capacitive aspect of the keyboard. They didnít try to add too many functions to it like Samsung would if they made a phone with a capacitive keyboard. Itís simple, intuitive and works great.

    Even though the Passport is the biggest Blackberry phone ever, its keyboard actually has less rows than itís predecessors. Correct me if Iím wrong but I think the Passport is the first QWERTY Blackberry ever that only comes with 3 rows of keys. The old 950 pager sort of had 3 rows of keys but the spacebar was located on a 4th (sorry, no pictures, I canít find my 950).

    Blackberry dropped the bottom row (the shift, number and symbol keys), moved the spacebar up and got rid of the alt and ď$Ē.

    Youíll also notice that the keys themselves are much easier to look at now. Thatís because each just has a letter on it now instead of a letter and an alternate function.

    To compensate, the Passport adds a few more virtual rows of keys to the bottom part of the display. The number of rows varies depending on what youíre trying to do.

    I got used to the new keyboard immediately. The only change I donít like is that the shift keys are now on the screen. It took me a day or two to get used to this.

    Compared to other Blackberries, thereís very little space at the bottom to hold Passport but the thing is, since the Passport is so wide, you actually hold it from the sides rather than the bottom.

    Speaking of wide, the Passport is obviously a two handed device. If you do try to operate it with one hand, your thumb can probably reach as far as maybe the 3 column of keys on the side.

    Speaking of holding the Passport, unlike other Blackberries, the Passport has fairly pointed edges. Some may find this to be un-ergonomic - especially since youíll be reaching with your fingers a lot more.

    Hereís something interesting. After using the Passport, any other phone will feel smaller because there are no phones that are wider than it. I got a Note 4 right after I got my Passport and boy, does it ever feels small now.

    Stereo speakers on the bottom:

    Volume and special button on the right side:

    Nothing to see on the left:

    Power button, headphone jack on top:

    Camera and flash on back:

    Nano SIM and MicroSD are hidden behind a cover on the back.


    You get a 4.5Ē display which doesnít sound very large considering many other phones have 5Ē+ displays. However, the Passport display is square shaped which maximizes the size of the screen. Pretty much all other phones have 16:9 ratio displays. That means a regular phone needs a 6Ē display to match the Passportís 4.5Ē screenís surface area.

    Resolution is 1440x1440 which yields a density of 453ppi. Thatís a really high ppi which means text should always be sharp - even when you use really small text and look closely. This is especially important with Blackberries since you can set the text size to be super small.

    Compared with other high-end phone displays like the iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, the Passportís holds its own. Viewing angles are excellent with minimal contrast and colour shift. The only complaint I have is that the black levels are pretty mediocre.

    Outdoors the Passport display works great.

    I already talked about it earlier but itís worth mentioning again. The width of the Passport means itís display is more similar to a desktop computerís screen. Itís can fit more characters per line which means you donít need to scroll sideways as much.

    The QWERTY keyboard means you can use more of the screen to look at what youíre working on rather having to use half of it to display an on-screen keyboard. It also means the display jumps around less because youíre not constantly hiding and displaying the keyboard.


    On the back is a 13 megapixel, optically image stabilized camera with auto-focus and a LED flash.

    The specs are competitive with other flagships; actually optical image stabilization is only found on about half of the flagships out there; off the top of my head, the LG G3, iPhone 6 Plus, Galaxy Note 4 all have it while the GS5, Sony Xperia Z3, iPhone 6 and HTC One donít.

    As far as image quality goes, itís easily the best Blackberry I have tested but unfortunately, thatís not saying much.

    In absolute terms, itís not a bad camera but the sensitivity is about 1 or 2 steps behind the iPhone 6 Plus or even the Note 4.

    The optical image stabilization helps indoors but sometimes it struggles with focusing. You might have to tap to focus a few times. Speaking of focusing, considering the price of the Passport I found it a tad slow. It has a really annoying habit of pumping the focus (moving the lens from macro to infinity in an attempt to find focus) EVERYTIME youíre indoors when itís not day time.

    There is a burst mode but if you use the default mode the shot-to-shot speeds are kind of slow for my taste.

    Video quality isnít very good and the microphone picks up handling noise. Recorded audio also sounds a bit Ďboxyí.

    While most phones have a raised ring around the camera lens, I found that the Passportís ring is flush. This means the Passportís lens gets oily very easily. Itís either that or Blackberry didnít apply a good oleo-phobic coating.

    If you get a Passport, remember to wipe the lens off each time you use and and to not apply to much pressure when you do so.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: My Blackberry Passport review: Finally, something different started by howard View original post
    Comments 14 Comments
    1. sabesh's Avatar
      sabesh -
      Excellent review! Thx.
    1. GaDgEtMoN's Avatar
      GaDgEtMoN -
      Great review Howard..hopefully Ray can do follow up review about the OS..
    1. dragon2knight's Avatar
      dragon2knight -
      I love it...and I hate BB, lol. I never got into their ecosystem but know many who still love it, especially folks who work in offices. This is different but well designed...looks like there's some life in the old girl yet
    1. Mann Incognito's Avatar
      Mann Incognito -
      I was bound and determined to skip the Passport and wait for the Z30 replacement, the Z50, next year. But since my wife ordered one I've been reading up on it more and more and am starting to think of the possibility of a return to a physical keyboard. We'll see, my wife's Passport seems to be on permanent back order so who knows when I'll be able to try it out properly.

      Thanks for the review, Howard, it's given me yet more to think about!
    1. ozkarDflx's Avatar
      ozkarDflx -
      I would like to try this phone.. Looks kinda oddly shaped, but never had a blackberry before..
    1. crocket's Avatar
      crocket -
      Sent from my Z30 using HowardForums
      I like it, a pity I bought a Z30 a couple of weeks ago. I guess I will wait till next year for the Z50!!
    1. Mann Incognito's Avatar
      Mann Incognito -
      Quote Originally Posted by crocket View Post
      Sent from my Z30 using HowardForums
      I like it, a pity I bought a Z30 a couple of weeks ago. I guess I will wait till next year for the Z50!!
      The Z30 is a great device, one of my favourites to date. I wouldn't be too upset

      Sent from my Z30 using HowardForums
    1. Jonavin's Avatar
      Jonavin -
      I switched over from the Z10. Love the battery life. I've been using this regularly since yesterday morning and I still have over 40% left.

      Other than Google Play apps, the other Android apps that don't work are ones that use wifi direct like the Fujifilm Remote app. All my other Android apps that I use works fine like DogCatcher, ezPDF, SiriusXM app, etc...
    1. crocket's Avatar
      crocket -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mann Incognito View Post
      The Z30 is a great device, one of my favourites to date. I wouldn't be too upset

      Sent from my Z30 using HowardForums
      I'm not really upset, I had a Z10 before the Z30. I find the bigger screen on the Z30 so much nicer to navigate and the battery life is superb! I guess I'm like a lot of members here as I like to have the latest greatest devices!!
    1. Jonavin's Avatar
      Jonavin -
      Two issues I've been having, I wonder if anyone else has the same problem.

      1. back light would stop working and require a reboot before it comes back. Happened twice already
      2. set alerts to Phone Call Only, does not even ring when call comes in. Again, requires reboot to fix.
    1. Mann Incognito's Avatar
      Mann Incognito -
      Quote Originally Posted by Jonavin View Post
      Two issues I've been having, I wonder if anyone else has the same problem.

      1. back light would stop working and require a reboot before it comes back. Happened twice already
      2. set alerts to Phone Call Only, does not even ring when call comes in. Again, requires reboot to fix.
      I read something about the backlight somewhere else, someone fixed it through "Settings", don't ask me how, I don't have a passport in front of me and it was a few days ago that I read it!

      If you use Sachesi or an autoloader then there's an update to the OS that's just been released. It's for Rogers Passports but it's perfectly good for all versions. I would imagine this would fix any issues you're having.

    1. Wirelezz's Avatar
      Wirelezz -
      Great Review , had to get one my self !
      also found the hard shell case for it .
      I made small video how well it fits !
    1. Supa_Fly's Avatar
      Supa_Fly -
      Great Review Howard.

      A correction:
      The BlackBerry Passport uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC Processor, not an 800.

      Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AA cpu
      KRAIT 400 2200Mhz, 4-Cores
      Source: http://www.devicespecifications.com/...l-cpu/89602d89

      Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor
      Source: https://www.qualcomm.com/products/sn...berry-passport

      * Qualcommģ VIVE™ 1-stream 802.11n/ac = this core chip is the proof when going through so many of the threads arguments on the internet.

      Also you ARE correct about the original BlackBerry 850, not the 950 - that was a rendition yet still holds true - had only 3 rows of keys for keyboard and the spacebar only on it's own row.

      RIM 850/950

      Excellent review! Solid, in-depth and thorough ... something we've always come to expect with HoFo. I so badly want one ... even though I'd prefer the rumored Z50.
    1. Plazmic Flame's Avatar
      Plazmic Flame -
      Passport looks like a boss device when you see it in person. Personally, I'll be getting the Classic.
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