So you’re still a BlackBerry user, bravo! I applaud your resilience. That said, how best to determine which QWERTY weapon fits your arsenal? Are you Passport bred or Classically inspired? Hopefully this article makes your decision that much harder. I’ll be juxtaposing the devices within these categories – portability, camera, keyboard, appeal and design quality.
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Let’s begin with the factors of form – which is to say, which of these clicky, carpal tunnel inducing handsets fits best in the hand? Portability and mobility go *cough* hand in hand. Having used both of these devices for a long period of time, the winner is understandably the BlackBerry Classic. Both have considerable heft due to the large integrated batteries within, but the Classic just feels marvelous to hold. Those with extra limber thumbs will find they can still fire away one-handed messages with the Classic, where with Passport this is possible… but very sketchy, especially if you’re on the move. Classic also has a dimpled back with great in-hand traction over the soft touch, ‘porcelain feel’ of the Passport.
We all like taking photos right? When we pit the shooters of the BlackBerry Passport and Classic against one another, the winner goes to the larger module. Passport sports a 13MP lens with Optical Image Stabilization, whereas the Classic sports the same standard 8MP module we saw on the Z10. This is not to say that the Classic is poor at taking photos, but Passport with 5 higher MP count really does mean better photo quality overall. Many factors add to this—Passport is a higher spec’d device and has more power within to process and crunch those photos. BB10 software supports photos at 16:9, 4:3 and 1:1. The Passport spits out 1:1 images at a ridiculous 3120×3120 pixels (huge 4.0mb shots). Here’s a shot from the Passport scaled down – hopefully it illustrates how much you can fit in-frame on this beast.
How ’bout them physical keyboards? Classic hosts the tried-and-true four row keyboard and, above, a five button tool belt which, really, I consider an extension of the overall keyboard and input experience. (We can argue that in the comments.) Anyway, the Classic has keys for alt, shift and symbols which gives the keyboard a duality beyond the basic letters. These static buttons make for better muscle memory between the keyboard layers, allowing for a more transparent user experience. For me, this makes the keyboard feel more integrated and seamless to use. There’s a very satisfying tactile feedback on the Classic, but the keys still feel light and bouncy. As JT from N4BB said in his Classic review, “It’s like typing on pillows.”
I agree with this – yet when compared to the Passport’s innovative touch-enabled keyboard, I find it hard to justify the legacy keyboard layout. Passport utilizes touch gestures to invoke a fourth digital row of keys that respond to the context for which the user is typing. This maximizes your screen real estate without hindering your ability to have flexible input options. The keys on Passport are bigger and, overall, the keyboard is a derivative design with as little obfuscating the layout as possible. The keys are a bit more rigid but they do break in over time. That being said, from a straightforward typing experience, I would say the Classic is the winner in the keyboard showdown. But, if you’re a user looking for a fun mix of on-screen and physical keys, then Passport is literally the ONLY option ever developed. That innovation cannot be overlooked. You can flick-type on Passport and use the keyboard to scroll; these small additions level up the Passport experience. I’ll admit, however, that the Passport keyboard sometimes has me longing for a four-row, touch enabled keyboard. Classic 2?
I have to be honest. The Classic is not designed for a hip, young demographic. If anything, it’s positioned as a transitional device for mature users who have reliably held to their Bolds and Curves. That said, the Classic delivers a lot of the input experiences from old, with the power and performance of BlackBerry 10. Passport pushes innovation while Classic is an ardent throwback to what was. Neither is a bad thing due to limber software. To a contrarian view, the Passport has a larger screen, bigger keys, longer battery life – and “mature users” can get a lot from it as well. The Classic is really for those users who rely on the tool belt and have worked within that design paradigm for far too long to give it up. If you can’t get over the Passport’s size and portability, then you’ll still have a great option with Classic. From a productivity experience, the Classic and tool belt is the “Quintessential BlackBerry Experience.” I believe Passport may appeal to a broader consumer market than the Classic in terms of its unique and innovative design, whereas the Classic is not all that inspiring as it’s an upgraded experience of a model with which the market is already very well acquainted. While Classic appeals to those die-hard BlackBerry users out there, Passport speaks about a broader potential. In light of this, it has the same wide potential for user appeal.
Relative to design and build quality, both of these devices are absolutely solid. Classic feels very balanced. The curved edges, grippy back and three sides of brushed stainless steel for the frame add a great accent to the indomitable sense of nostalgia that is tapped into here. The bottom chin of the frame is actually a painted plastic, and you can only slightly tell the difference between the materials in regular use. The Classic has a professional heft which gives the device more matter and substance. The screen is crisp, the LCD bright and colorful.
Passport in contrast is the genuine article – best in class specifications and a meticulously crafted productivity machine. The full stainless steel chassis is one piece, so the device can maintain structure in strained conditions. The original Passport was inspired by the shape and form of the familiar pocketable symbol of mobility known around the world. As well, the design teams were inspired by the industrial architecture of the Mies van der Rohe-designed TD Centre towers in Toronto. The steel I-beams in modernist architecture are pulled to the outside of the device giving you a durable, delineated design methodology.
With all that said, I wanna hear from you. Which factors do you weigh? Between these two devices, what led you to your final decision? Below you can check out our video overviews for both of these devices if you’re still on the fence.