BlackBerry Leap Review
YOU ARE A START UP. THE STORY OF YOUR LIFE IS ABOUT TO BE WRITTEN.
The BlackBerry Leap is a modern smart slab. Straight lines, black bezel and a staunch, if not competitive edge to the design finish and materials; this phone is designed to be used, with reflective surfaces and industrial design influence that builds on the accolades of devices like the Z3 and Passport. It’s heavier than you’d expect but somehow light, with soft contours that make it slim and very one hand friendly. It’s a calm, almost nonchalant design that is understated and maintains a business appeal. Unlike the Passport, it’s designed for users who prefer all-touch, and BlackBerry delivers with a comfortable mid-tier handheld and deliberate design intent.
The Leap sports a 1280 x 720 HD resolution, at 294 PPI. The 5” LCD panel is vibrant and offers decent viewing angles. As compared to the Z30, which offers an OLED screen at the same resolution, the Leap is brighter and somehow sharper. Whites look truer, images vibrant and colors not over-saturated. With the full HD display videos, images and games in the 16:9 ratio look great. We found text is crisper on the LCD panel which is great in places like the BlackBerry Hub. It offers ample viewing angles and, with brightness at full, can be used out on a patio without having to squint to enjoy the screen. The display is fairly power efficient as well, which aids the overall balance of what BlackBerry sought to achieve with the device.
BlackBerry cameras have really come a long way. The back of the Leap brands the 8MP shooter so it’s no surprise that with a little work, you can glean some amazing shots on the phone. Software is the star when it comes to the camera, but the hardware is no slouch either. It supports auto-focus, flash, continuous and touch to focus, video image stabilization, 5x digital zoom, and it can record 1080p HD video at 30 FPS or 720p HD at 60 FPS. As well, 2DOF video stabilization. In some instances, the camera can take in excess light. We found with the latest 10.3.1, the software does a bit too much after processing which brightens darkened photos but increases scaling and noise.
RECEPTION & CALL QUALITY:
As expected with a BlackBerry smartphone, call quality and reception is great. We can easily compare the experience to that of the Z30. BlackBerry natural sound software and smart microphone placement creates strong call audio while the internal Paratek antenna innovations keep your reception optimal. Through the streets of New York, LTE was everywhere and, even in elevators, the device remained connected. In terms of the call quality, we found the Passport is still the top tier experience, but the Leap is fair in its offering. Speaker phone was on-par with that of the BlackBerry Classic but the placement of the speaker on the rear of the device can muffle the resonance of audio, depending on how the device is being held.
The Leap sports a Qualcomm MSM 8960 that clocks in at 1.5 GHz. With 2GBs of RAM, the device is rather snappy. When compared to the Passport, the Leap can be considered underpowered, but the software optimizations between the SOC and the 10.3.1 software keeps consistent the fluidity and multitasking offered by BlackBerry 10. Transitions are smooth between app pages and running applications. Android applications can be a bit sluggish, however apps like WordPress, Spotify, Instagram and others work as expected. Native apps run buttery on the Leap, and in our testing while running 8 applications at one time, the Leap remained up to the task. We noticed some instances of lag and stuttering – one instance while processing a video in Story Maker and simultaneously responding to an influx of BBM messages.
BlackBerry Leap comes with the latest 10.3.1 software. There are a bunch of new features you should know about, including integrated Personal Assistant, Battery Saving mode, advanced interactions, re-arranging live active frames, customizable quick settings, deeper notification profiles for contacts, Meeting Mode in calendar settings, improved call multitasking, BlackBerry Hub instant action triage for messages, 17 preset equalizer options, PDF signatures, and even a Work Space Camera that saves photos to the work partition of the OS. Also, you can now save Time Shift images for editing later, take Panorama’s, and the native video editor has slow motion, old video options and tons more.
BlackBerry is all about keeping you powered through your day. A big part of the 170g Leap is the big 2800 mAh integrated battery. BlackBerry promotes 25 hours of constant use, and this has been near accurate in our tests. We yielded an average of 20-22 hours mixed use, which is pretty darn good. As prosumers, we utilize our devices all day and all night and the Leap has been engineered to stay powered as long as you do. Heavy media consumption types will experience lower thresholds, however average users will greatly appreciate the battery longevity, especially if that user is coming from the 1800 mAh battery of a BlackBerry Z10. The aforementioned Battery Saving mode that comes with 10.3.1 also helps keep the device juiced.
BlackBerry has made huge strides to extend and empower this ecosystem through an open portfolio of software that works across multiple devices. BlackBerry Blend takes your BlackBerry Hub, aggregates conversations and puts them cloudlessly on your computer or tablet. BBM and BBM Meetings extend that conversation to nearly any device (even Windows). As well, BlackBerry has partnered with Amazon to offer their Music/Video catalog and the Amazon Appstore to allow BlackBerry users out of the box access to hundreds of thousands of Android applications. This paired with the productivity focus of BlackBerry World is great, but the OS is even capable of running other .APK based app stores like Google Play.
BlackBerry has released some case solutions, ones to personalize your Leap the way you want. BlackBerry is offering a sync-pod which is a dock for data sync and charging (also great for BlackBerry Blend over USB). As well, there is a leather holster available alongside a leather pocket and Flex shell. The Flex shell comes in a range of colors and sports a kickstand to prop up the Leap. It works in either orientation which makes it great for whatever angle you may be using it in. The Flex shell comes in Military Green, Storm Blue and Black. Screen protectors and other niceties are available as well. Be sure to check out ShopBlackBerry.com.
Affordable, slim and durable, directed at a specific—enterprising end user, the BlackBerry Leap has a great touch-keyboard, awesome battery life and security. It runs well all things considered as the specs have been proven in the market…as a platform, the Leap works exactly as intended.
The BlackBerry Passport exists. No—but, in all seriousness, the Leap is a bit tame. With a slighted spec sheet and a rather blasé announcement at MWC, some of the compromises made seem like an echo of the shortcomings found in first gen BB10 hardware.
Reception & Call Quality
LEAP SCORES 80/100
Review by James Nieves
Edited by Alex Smith
Videography & Photos by Jubei Raziel