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Thread: Article: Our Blackberry KEY2 LE Review

  1. #1
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    Our Blackberry Key 2 LE Review

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    It doesn’t seem that long ago that you’d need a crowbar to pry a Blackberry out of an addicts hands. However, since then, most of us have grown accustomed to on-screen keyboards. Still, for some, there’s no replacement for a physical keyboard. Fortunately, for them Blackberries have managed to stick around and even better, the keyboards are still being refined with each new generation.

    These days BlackBerry OS is long gone so if you want a BlackBerry, it’s going to be running Android. While it says BlackBerry on the phone, it’s actually made by TCL who also makes phones under the Alcatel and Palm brand names.

    If you want the latest, there’s the upper midrange Key 2 and the midrange Key 2 LE which I’m reviewing today.

    Body:

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    The back has a thick coat of soft-touch paint. It really feels like a Blackberry in this respect.

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    I can’t say for sure, but I think the sides are metal with a metal-look paint job. At first I thought it was plastic but when I examined the SIM card slot it looks like it’s not.

    Size-wise it’s quite similar to an iPhone XS/ Pixel 3 so it fits well in your hand.

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    There’s volume, power and a convenience key on the right side. Four buttons is a lot for one side. I often find myself mixing up the convenience and power keys. It also makes one-handed screen shots more difficult.

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    The top has a headphone jack.

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    The keyboard feels pretty amazing. The keys are a tactile delight. When it comes to keyboards, for some, there’s no replacement for the real thing.

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    Despite the small size, each key is easily distinguished from each other.

    The space bar houses a fingerprint reader, it’s a brilliant spot for this. You can also use this to turn the screen on.

    Above the keyboard are capacitive menu buttons. While capacitive buttons looks sleek, they’re prone to accidental presses when you’re typing on the physical keyboard.

    Since they used capacitive buttons, they should have just extended the display all the way to the keyboard or used physical menu buttons. After all, future versions of Android move away from the home button and replace it with a gesture.

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    There’s a USB Type-C connector at the bottom. It supports Quick Charge 3.0 which allows for charging at up to 18 watts vs regular Type-C (no Power delivery support) which charges at 15 watts.

    Screen:

    The screen has a really mid-range quality to it. Maximum brightness isn’t as strong as a flagship but since this is an LCD display it’s bright enough for pretty much all situations. Black levels are also not as deep; the LE’s black bezel makes this more noticable.

    Whites are a bit on the cold side. There isn’t a setting to adjust the colour temperature. That said, to my eye, overall colour is excellent. They’re accurate with no oversaturation.

    The 4.5” LCD display has a resolution of 1680x1050 so it’s plenty sharp. It has an unusual aspect ratio of 4:3 which is a bit “shorter” than most other phones. These days the trend is to shrink the top and bottom bezels so displays are getting longer. This is the opposite of that.

    The shorter display isn’t noticeable when you’re entering text since the LE doesn’t require an on-screen keyboard.

    You feel it more when you don’t need a keyboard. Most Android phones have 16:9 displays which are longer so when you’re gaming the LE’s display can feel a bit cramped. Either you don’t see as much vertically or things can get “zoomed out” so there’s empty space on the sides.

    Sound:

    There’s a single speaker at the bottom used for media playback. While it’s quite powerful, overall quality is quite low. It does a decent job with voice but generates no bass.

    The 4:3 display isn’t ideal for watching video.

    The LE is available with either 32 or 64GB either of which can be expanded with MicroSD cards.

    Camera:

    The back of the LE has a dual camera setup; 13 and 5 megapixel cameras. The 13MP sensor handles picture taking duties and has 1.12um pixels (typical for midrange) and an aperture of f/2.2. The 5MP is used to measure depth which is used to help generate fake bokeh (blurred background).

    Indoors, the LE has decent colour but the small sensor means it lacks a bit of dynamic range so sometimes it blows out brighter areas while simultaneously darker area can lack details.

    While the LE does a decent job of suppressing noise it comes at the cost of some detail.

    Color is quite accurate

    Software:

    They Key 2 LE runs Android 8.0 aka Oreo. It has a very comprehensive Blackberry-ish overlay.

    Instead of the standard Android task switcher, it has something that looks similar to the one you’ll find on BB OS.

    They keys on the keyboard can be configured as shortcuts. You can set them up to make calls, send messages, launch apps, etc. There are 26 letter keys which is a lot of shortcuts to remember. While this is definitely a cool feature, I should point could also use Google assistant to accomplish the same task and more with just your voice.

    There’s the Blackberry hub which consolidates your calendar, messaging, ToDo list, phone book and widgets into one app. It can be brought up from any screen by swiping floating bar.

    Locker is a place you can hide pictures, files and launch Firefox Focus in a password protected app.

    Redactor allows you to hide things from your screen before you take a screenshot.

    Window shade dims the screen. It then places a rectangle on the screen which isn’t dimmed. You can move the rectangle around to view the screen discreetly.

    Performance:

    The LE is powered by a Snapdragon 630. Qualcomm makes 2xx, 4xx, 6xx and 8xx series SoC, the 8xx are usually reserved for higher end phones while the 6xx is commonly found on more mid range offerings. The 2xx and 4xx is usually reserved for entry level devices.

    The LE comes with a 630 while it’s fancier sibling, the Key 2 gets a 660. So among 6xx series Snapdragons the 660 is more for upper mid-range offerings while the 630 is for more modest mid end devices.

    While performance is adequate - most of the time, there’s no mistaking it for a 845 or 835. Apps open a bit slower while switching apps is less responsive to the point that you don’t need to have them side-by-side to know there’s a difference.

    You get 4GB of RAM which is pretty standard and perfectly adequate.

    The 3000mAh battery should last the day for most.

    RF performance is average

    Maximum earpiece volume is quite loud while the speakerphone is merely average.
    Incoming sound quality is good.

    Conclusion:

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    Despite not actually being made by Blackberry, TCL has done an admiral job of continuing the Blackberry experience. If I didn’t know about TCL being licensed to make Blackberry branded devices, I would have never guessed it.

    The Key 2 LE, looks, feels and works just like a Blackberry. It’s not just some random phone with the Blackberry logo.

    For Canadians, it also represents the most affordable way to get your Blackberry fix. The keyboard is excellent and will be instantly familiar to Blackberry fans.

    Price-wise, I see TELUS has it for $480 no term while it’s $500 at Rogers and Bell. So it’s competing with the Huawei P20 Lite, LG Q6 and Samsung Galaxy A5.

    Spec-wise they’re all pretty similar, 4GB of RAM, 32GB storage, 5.something “ Full HD display, 3000ish mAh battery.

    While the Blackberry’s display is almost, Full HD, part of the display is missing to accommodate the physical keyboard. If you’re looking for a Blackberry this isn’t a big sacrifice.

    Overall, the Blackberry Key 2 LE is a well-rounded device with no significant weaknesses. The problem is, aside from being one of the only phones with a real keyboard it doesn’t really excel in any areas. That said the LE is a mid-range phone so perhaps that’s part of the experience.

    As for software, the overlay, is pretty on-key with the Blackberry message of the LE. In that sense, while the overlay is pretty heavy, it’s also relatively focused so it doesn’t feel horribly bloated.

    Pros:
    • Excellent keyboard
    • Overlay is very focused



    Cons:
    • Speaker sounds lousy
    • Too many buttons on the side

  2. #2
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    Thanks, Howard. It's been a while since any BlackBerry ANYTHING has been posted here

    I must admit to liking the LE much more than its more upscale sibling, it just feels right. It still comes across as too expensive if you aren't looking for a device with a PKB, but when you factor that in I think the pricing is quite reasonable. Besides, where else are you going to go for a PKB?

    I found the performance to be perfectly acceptable too. Obviously it's not a flagship or a gaming machine, but if your idea of fun is more along the lines of Monument Valley you'll get along just fine. In the short time I had with it (3 days), I did down load Norton's file cleaner just to keep memory and storage nice and clean just in case.

    Anyhow, I was pretty impressed with it and would buy an LE over its big brother, I didn't even miss the capacitive KB; maybe with a bit longer with it I would have.
    Last edited by Mann Incognito; 12-05-2018 at 08:54 AM. Reason: Grammar, Spelling

  3. #3
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    I liked the look. A non-tech guy who loved using an older version of blackberry would really love this one. It seems like a fusion of keypad and smartphone.

    There are people who are very comfortable in keypad than the touch screen keypad. For them, this would be the best choice.

    I bought one for my dad last month and he is very happy for having it.

  4. #4
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    I like the KEY2. Maybe this is my next phone.

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