DTEK50 by BlackBerry

Top Security & Android 6.0 OS‎

BlackBerry’s follow up to their first Android device, the PRIV, is the aggressively priced DTEK50. At only $299, BlackBerry has built their thinnest, most secure device to date. BlackBerry continues to put to market better and better devices while wholly shifting their focus to software.

Aimed at enterprise fleets, DTEK50 checks many of the boxes you’d want in a device while compromising in a few areas to get there. In their sophomore year on Android, BlackBerry has refined the software story with their preloaded suite of apps, and DTEK50 takes the namesake ‘DTEK’ for its first Android all touch handset. At this price, you cannot ask for much more, especially considering the security offering.

DESIGN:

BlackBerry held a 45 minute webcast for this device and were candid in explaining where the overall design aesthetic came from. They worked with hardware partner TCL to borrow a reference design for the smartphone and added their security implementation to it. So, if this device looks similar to an Alcatel Idol 4, that’s because TCL produces both devices. DTEK50 is constructed with a metal and glass chassis. It’s super thin, light and has dual-sided JBL speakers. There’s a sleek convenience key, parallel antenna lines and clicky buttons here as well. The design is handsome, albeit a bit understated. BlackBerry has added their logo to the back of the device, along with a rubberized diamond-patterned back.

DISPLAY:

One of the highlights of the DTEK50 is how great its display is. It’s clearly one of the nicer 1080p displays out there. Its got decent viewing angles and stays visible outdoors. Colors seem to come across more true on this device in comparison to the PRIV’s OLED panel, however colors are less saturated. It’s a 5.2 in (130 mm) IPS LCD, 1920×1080 pixels, at 424 PPI. It also has an oleophobic coating which has some fingerprint resistance. While there’s no magic here to keep fingerprints off entirely, wiping the screen of grease and smudges is very effective thanks to this coating. As well the screen supports double tap to wake, and double tap to sleep which is a nice addition. It’s impressive to see just how much brighter the DTEK50 can be compared to the PRIV.

CAMERA:

DTEK50 supports Camera2 API which allows third party software deeper access into manual camera controls, but the stock camera app from BlackBerry is actually quite functional. The rear camera sports a 13MP shooter akin to the Passport, but admittedly it gets much better shots with a bit of patience, as there’s no OIS. While not impressive, it is entirely adequate at this price range and can be impressive if you delve into the many manual shooting options available. The winner here is the front-facing 8MP camera with selfie flash. Coming from the PRIV’s shoddy 2MP front-facing cam, the DTEK50 surpasses expectations as a device great for video calls. You can set the power button to launch the camera on a double tap, and even use the volume rockers as a manual camera shutter.

RECEPTION / CALL QUALITY / SOUND:

Calls across the earpiece are average. Reception has also been rather average; at certain locations, the phone dropping to HSPA+ from LTE. Over Wifi and LTE, the phone performs as a smartphone should – reliably. PRIV had adaptive audio software that’s missing here on the DTEK50, and for some reason it’s not missed. In the city, there’s consistent data coverage and WiFi aplenty. Even with the bluetooth connection in the car, DTEK50 performs as expected, juggling cellular connectivity, bluetooth streaming and GPS without a hitch. While at the beach, DTEK50 experienced a few connectivity losses on AT&T’s network, but they were temporary if not negligible.

PERFORMANCE:

The DTEK50 rocks the Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 octo-core CPU with 3GB of RAM. When compared to the hex-core CPU of the Priv, performance actually exceeds its flagship counterpart in many respects. The BlackBerry Hub as noted on Upstream 112 actually loads a second or two faster. As well, Snapchat and other intensive apps seem to background process better on the DTEK50. Overall, it’s reaffirming that BlackBerry has ironed out a lot of the performance bumps in this sophomore offering. With all this said, it’s still a mid-range device. Gaming and apps that are graphically intense will take a bit longer to load, but to be fair this is a ‘secure’ Android offering, and gaming probably isn’t at the top of your to-do list if you’re reading this review.

SOFTWARE:

BlackBerry claims to be more of a software company than a hardware one. Since the PRIV’s launch, there have been several updates to the suite of Android applications that BlackBerry has preloaded onto their devices. DTEK50 comes to the market with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow out of the box and a greatly refined BlackBerry software story with the BlackBerry Intelligent Keyboard, BlackBerry Camera, BlackBerry Hub, Password Keeper, Calendar, BBM, Launcher, Notes, Tasks, Device Search and Productivity Edge. These additives are opt-in from what is otherwise a close-to-stock Android handset. Security is the baked into the software from the bottom up.

BATTERY LIFE:

DTEK50 supports similar charging capabilities to the PRIV. Quick Charge 2.0 allows the device to charge up quickly, and on DTEK50 you also get the battery edge, but it only works when the screen is on, which isn’t as cool as PRIV’s ambient edge while charging. DTEK50 sports a 2,610 mAH battery which is middle of the road. Giving up some of the lightness of the device for a larger battery should have been a priority. Alas, the battery should get you about 17 hours of mixed use. In testing, this is about accurate with 3.5 hours of straight, screen-on time. As long as you’re not gaming heavily, DTEK50 should get you through a full day. As said previously, it’s easy to leave the device on a quick charger for 30 minutes and get a solid 30%+ top up on battery life.

ECOSYSTEM:

Android continues to be a wide and accessible mobile platform. Increasingly the market is making better and better cheaper phones. For $299, you can get a lot of phone. Hell, you can get an Idol 4 for $199. With BlackBerry, you’re not buying into the Android ecosystem so much as buying into BlackBerry’s. Buying DTEK50 means you’re locked in for monthly security updates and persistent quick-fixes for new exploits like QuadRooter. If BlackBerry can continue to support these devices with the release of Android N and maintain the cadence of security focused enhancements, the value proposition continues to increase. You can download BlackBerry Hub+ services from Google Play if you want the BlackBerry app experience, but the $299 you pay also pays into the support and update cycle BlackBerry offers. The ecosystem is security here.

CONVENIENCE KEY:

BlackBerry added convenience key support to the nice button on the right side of the device. Don’t mistake it for a power button; this button can be programmed to launch any app on the device or mapped to a specific task supported in the BlackBerry Launcher. Similar to assigning a shortcut to a letter on the PRIV keyboard, this convenience key supports launching apps or specific tasks such as ‘Set an Alarm’ and ‘Compose Email.’ There’s a full list of shortcuts supported by the BlackBerry Launcher. Setting it for a frequently used game or an app like the BlackBerry Hub can also increase productivity. You could even set this key to lock the phone in a pinch.

MISCELLANEOUS:

There are some very minor and subtle differences between the version of Android Marshmallow on the PRIV and the version on the DTEK50. On the DTEK50, some features such as Picture Password and Ambient Battery Edge are not currently supported. When you long press the power button, the menu for Lock, Power and Restart is different (read: more refined) than PRIVs software. Also, you can manually edit the notifications pane and add modules  like NFC, Hotpost and Sound without having to deep dive into developer options. Lastly the notification tray on PRIV says ‘Clear All’ while the DTEK50 simply has a clear all button. DTEK50 has a Maxx WAVES Audio application, an FM radio unlike the Priv.

DUAL SPEAKERS:

In the frame separate from the display panel are laser drilled speakers grills which sit at the top and bottom of the device. These dual-sided speakers were developed in collaboration with JBL. MaxxAudio is a suite of advanced audio enhancement tools from Waves that is preloaded to the device to complement the arrangement with finer controls over the audio experience on this device. The dual-sided system means that, regardless of which way you set the phone down, you’ll hear the same volume level, whether face up or face down. It’s a nice touch, and the speakers themselves sound great. Plugging into the audio-jack, there’s a more noticeable enhancement in the audio quality.

DTEK DEVICE MONITORING:

DTEK50 comes preloaded with an app called DTEK from which it derived its name. DTEK detects security threats at multiple layers on the device. It allows you to monitor specific applications against device permissions. Now, Android Marshmallow already asks the users as permissions are accessed, but being able to monitor that decision once it’s made puts the user in more control over their privacy. At the chip level, DTEK validates that the devices hardware hasn’t been tampered with and that you’re running a genuine version of BlackBerry’s secure Android distribution. DTEK came to form with the Marshmallow update because it can now turn off and on permissions right from the app, giving users the ability to act on the information DTEK supplies.

DTEK50 ACCESSORIES:

The BlackBerry Dtek50 and it's carrying solutions. #blackberry #dtek50 #productdesign #industrialdesign #blackberrydesignteam

A photo posted by JACK DONALD MORRIS (@jackdonaldmorris) on

A photo posted by James Nieves (@bbryflow) on

DTEK50 CAMERA SAMPLES:

PHOTO GALLERY:

The Good:

Priced to move, DTEK50 represents an about face for the company. With above average performance, this very thin, lightweight handset packs all the security from BlackBerry, with the ecosystem of Android, into a fleet device that is atypically BlackBerry.

The Bad:

Would have liked a larger battery – say, 3,000 mAh? This would have added more weight to the device and made it more substantial in the hand. Also, for the camera snobs, OIS is sorely missed in the rear camera.  More minor BlackBerry touches in the hardware to differentiate it from other mid-range Androids would be nice as well.

Design

85%

Display

90%

Camera

85%

Reception & Call Quality

90%

Audio & Speakers

90%

Performance

85%

Battery Life

80%

Ecosystem

95%

RATING

DTEK50 SCORES 87.5/100

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Layout | Photography | Review by James Nieves
Edited by Alex Smith, Review Music by Skylane
DTEK50 Acessories
by @brotherneil
Android Paralax by The World of Pootermobile

  • ABHINAV WUDALI

    Exquisite Review James !! Amazingly penned. I am loving my DTEK 50 no matter what what people think and judge. Your review says it all in each every aspect. Your review should earn you more bucks. My suggestion is to market / advertise your reviews to those filthy morons who are biased towards blackberry and don’t know the art of writing a review. I really appreciate you for taking your time for writing such a review which made me switch from my NOTE 4 to DTEK 50 ( mainly coz of pure android , keyboard , HUB and constant updates ).

    Looking forward to more reviews from you.

    • Your kind words are appreciated Abhinav – help me share this review with others :)

  • Martin B.

    Hi James, I’ve been a fan of this site for a couple of years now. A real elegant review, worth waiting for. I am from Leicester in the UK and have been amazed at the demise in Blackberry phones in the wild. Five years ago they were everywhere. I must admit I have been very tempted to go on the dark side and purchase a Samsung or Sony, however I would feel too guilty on doing that as I want Blackberry to succeed. I have a Classic and love the keyboard, so reluctant to go full touchscreen, however after reading your review I am a little more open minded. Thanks for the read.

    • Thank you for your thoughts here Martin, they are much appreciated!!

  • Jake Motts

    This is a real complete and well done review. It hits upon aspects that most reviews miss. Thank you.

  • Chance

    Stellar review! I would 100% wait for your review over anyone else’s, love the detail! Until now I was a little confused about the dual-sided speaker situation to be honest. And that MaxxAudio app sounds like a pretty nice addition.

    • That’s awesome! Great to hear such positive feedback ☺

  • Brian Isaacs

    I cannot decide upon getting the pruve ir the teck 50,?

    Any suggestions?

    • DTEK50! More bag for buck unless you really need that physical keyboard

  • Patrick

    I was gonna get the DTEK50 but got a Priv instead. This review however is helpful and heck maybe I’ll add another BlackBerry to the mix. I have a Passport and it’s still tops for typing. I’ll always have one as long as they make it. The Priv is good and I like the app access but after 2 weeks I’m using the passport for all serious email and document needs.

    Looking forward to the next BlackBerry android

  • It’s so funny. I know we have talked about it a lot on Upstream, but this device seems like it is more performant and a better daily driver than the PRIV at less than half the price (when it first came out). If you don’t need a physical QWERTY keyboard and want to use a BlackBerry device, the DTEK50 sounds like a no-brainer. Still can’t believe the processor in this thing runs better than the PRIV, but we have done tests, and it just does.

    Really solid review, it’s so apparent that a lot of time was put into it and it really came out nice. Quality over speed/quantity for this one and I like it better that way. Good work James!

  • RL

    Nice review, James! To the point and well thought out. No wonder it took you so long to write the review. You actually used the phone!
    I, as well, am looking forward to Blackberry’s pkb Android phone. My Passport is still going strong and even after almost 2 years, I still love using it and feeling it in my hands.
    Keep up the great work on the Podcasts and this site. It’s very well designed.

  • Farzeen Rashid

    Precise and to the point, I couldn’t ask for more. Thank you for this wonderful review james. I just love the format of the review, The fonts used, the categorisation and all the High quality pics included. It was so detailed, but the aesthetics of the web page gave me such a pleasurable experience. It seems like Dtek50 is indeed a better performer than the priv except for a few hiccups here and there. Also, with time blackberry is getting good at the android game. I hope the BlackBerry droid keyboard version will give us the keyboard fans the love that we desire and help us slowly shift to android. But, BB10 and passport is something that I just can’t do without. I hope that BlackBerry releases a passport v2 with BB10 software. And, I am really looking forward to the passport silver editions review james. Keep up this good work.