BlackBerry Passport Review

Where out of the box thinking drives hip to be square design

DESIGN:

With sharp looking edges, a gently curved back and the widest QWERTY keypad we’ve seen on a BlackBerry device, it’s arguable that BlackBerry’s Passport will not only turn heads, but change minds. Literally the size of an international passport, the unusually shaped handset explores a design angle rarely tapped into. We’ll get to the specs, but let it be known – BlackBerry wasn’t stuffing a piece of hardware with the Passport, they were sculpting a high performance BlackBerry productivity experience. The Passport’s straight delineation demands it to be seen, held and used. Due to its profile, it begs a kind of user who goes all in, all hands on deck. This thing is designed for serious business. It’s designed as an all-in-one package so that mobile professionals can stay connected with what matters. BlackBerry has crafted a device that truly allows you to leave the laptop at home and Work Wide.

DISPLAY:

If you’ve noticed anything about the BlackBerry Passport, it’s the enormous, 4.5″ square, 1:1 screen. It features an in-cell IPS LCD touch display with a pixel density of 453 ppi. This gives the Passport a picture perfect resolution of 1440×1440. The screen is colorful and vibrant, great for outside viewing. The screen is 30% wider than your average 5” all-touch and displays 60 characters across, close to the print industry’s optimal 66 characters. Comparatively, traditional portrait devices display an average of only 40 characters across. All of this is done to offer you a better viewing experience. With the wider display, you see more information on spreadsheets, PDFs and on webpages. On the screen, everything feels less cramped. Video playback is at the same dimensions as video playback on an iPhone 4.

CAMERA:

Passport packs THE most advanced camera module ever put into a BlackBerry. The rear shooter falls in at 13MP and hosts Optical Image Stablization. That being said, the software behind the Passport has come a long way since the early days of BB10. With the 10.3.1 OS, you can geotag photos, take panormas, Timeshift, burst shots and more. Video can be shot in full 1080p and despite the square display, you can still shoot regular 16:9 video. The 2MP front facing lens is great for 720p video and selfies. This is of great benefit for BBM Meetings / BBM Video calls. There’s a silver ring around the camera module that is not only classy, but helps defuse light away from the LED flash just above the rear camera. The camera has built-in intelligence and now offers suggestions for shooting in certain modes depending on the conditions. For example, it could suggest Time Shift if a face is sensed in the shot, or HDR mode if there is a wide contrast between light and dark areas in the shot.

RECEPTION & CALL QUALITY:

The Passport is a truly marvelous phone. It’s ironic because many of the mainstream smartphones out there are weak at the basics of what a mobile phone should offer. BlackBerry is all about staying connected. From the dynamic Paratek antenna technology to the advanced BlackBerry Natural sound tech, there are a lot of additives to the call and sound experience on the Passport. The ear piece, through proximity sensors, dynamically adapts to the phone’s position on the ear to maximize the audio sweet spot. This active leak compensation assures great call quality, no matter what. Coupled with the quad-microphone array, this is one of the best phones ever built for phone calls. The speakers are also exceptionally loud, which means from shoulder calls to conference calls, the phone performs admirably. Passport comes with great ear-buds that double as a microphone for calls; on the go or at your desk, the Passport will keep you connected comfortably.

SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE.

PERFORMANCE:

Packed with respectable hardware innards, the Passport is a beast. 3GB of ram on board for fluid multitasking – the 2.2 GHz Quad Core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor at the heart makes elder BB10 devices look their age in comparison. Everything loads a little quicker, a little more fluidly, and ultimately enhances your overall productivity. Moving from media, to documents, into the BlackBerry Hub for messages and back – this is BlackBerry Flow. Moving between active frames pinned on the home screen, I never experienced lags or slow downs. You can run eight applications simultaneously (and this doesn’t even take into consideration BB Hub). Whether you’re perusing the web through unlimited browser tabs, or downloading large files over LTE, or even capturing photos whilst taking 1080p video at 60fps, with the Passport you’ll never miss a beat. Even with 32 GB Flash storage and expandable microSD hot-swappable up to 128BGB, the device indexes folders very quickly so you can keep going.

ACCESSORIES:

At the start of 2015, BlackBerry opened up the gates in terms of accessories for the Passport. At launch, there were hard-shell covers and screen protectors, but not much else available from the OEM. There are leather options now, including a very nice holster and a leather flex shell, which has a flexible leg so you can stand the device upright. The leather flex shell offers sleek protection and increases your dexterity while handling the device. Passport supports Bluetooth Low Energy for connection with many wearables, hosts Wifi Direct and Miracast support for wireless screen sharing and, at the base of the device, there is a multiport which does USB charging, supports USB OTG and Slimport. This all means that from one port, you can connect adapters for USB On The Go, HDMI out, and data sync and charging. BlackBerry also offers a Classic and Passport Sync Pod which acts as a desk stand for charging the device, connection via USB for BlackBerry Blend and upright viewing. 

SOFTWARE:

The BB10 software is maturing very well. On the Passport running 10.3.1, which was just recently released globally, BlackBerry has brought over keyboard shortcuts for launch actions and applications, enhanced Advanced Interactions, a power user Battery Saving mode, as well as custom notification profiles for LED, tones and more. BlackBerry is expanding language support for the OS. Adding in an even more robust Device Monitor, you can track data usage over WiFi and mobile network. You can switch between light and dark on-screen keyboard options. You can even automatically generate short media stories comprised of pictures, videos and music through the integrated Story Maker application. These stories are created within the Photos app and act as parallax breaks between photo groups. Software supports Slimport for HDMI display, USB OTG, data sync and charging. Oh yeah, the software also supports Android apps, Miracast, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 LE,  Time of Flight (ToF) sensors – you name it.

BATTERY LIFE:

The Passport’s unique shape allows for a sizeable 3450 mAh non-removable battery to be integrated into the chassis. In my weeks of testing, the device was able to provide me on average 22-23 hours of solid use. Daily tasks included web browsing, phone calls, daily email influx, Spotify, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, lots of BBM and minor launches like Calendar, Photos, Weather, the Remember app and of course, Flow. Even with the default brightness on the LCD, the Passport offers ample battery life and made me confident it would last as long as my days would. You can have a few video calls, watch some videos, play some games and still have plenty of juice in cache for the road ahead. BlackBerry has been known for their batteries and this device has the largest one ever put into a BlackBerry handset. As well, there’s a battery saving threshold you can set which helps milk every watt possible for extended uses.

ECOSYSTEM:

BlackBerry 10.3.1 is newly introduced with Classic and now available on Passport. BlackBerry has partnered with Amazon to have their Appstore, with nearly 240,000 applications, pre-loaded with the BlackBerry 10 OS. This mitigates a huge ecosystem hole for BlackBerry.  Amazon brings popular titles like Spotify, Candy Crush, Pinterest, etc. but that’s not the story. The larger story is that nearly 98% of all Android applications work with BlackBerry 10 (those that utilize Google Play Services do not yet have full compatibility and account for a slim margin overall). Amazon aids to fill the ecosystem, and smart focus of BlackBerry World on business apps will allow both tracks to be happy. The native File Manager gives you access to your computer, OneDrive, Box or Dropbox cloud services right out of the box. Remember integrates with Evernote, and your device files are always there with Blend. Without even touching an app store, the OS is wholly capable.

The BlackBerry Passport: State of the Art Hardware, Built For Productivity. Serious Mobility for Serious Business.

Reward your thumbs with the touch enabled buttons and precision crafted BlackBerry Keyboard.

Key Associated App Action:
A | Address Book — Launch Address Book/Contacts
B | Browser — Launch Browser
C | Compose — Launch Hub > Compose sheet open
D | Notes / Memo — Launch Remember > Notes Compose sheet
K | Lock — Lock Device
L | Calendar — Launch Calendar
M | Mail / Messages — Launch unfiltered Hub
N | BBM — Launch BBM
P | Calls / Phone — Launch Phone
T | Task — Launch Remember with Task Compose sheet open
U | Calculator — Launch Calculator
W | Voice Mail — Speed Dial for Voice Mail

CALENDAR:

Keeping in line with their business and productivity focus, 10.3.1 brings some subtle refinements to the Calendar system on BB10 that are worth mentioning. At launch, there are quick actions for adding events, searching and the ability to ‘Go To Date’ which jumps you to go a specific date on the calendar. From the app, you can add tasks, add alarms and view the Calendar in four separate ways: Month, Week, Day and Agenda. You can setup calendar events manually or import them through your email server. For different events, you can set different tone based reminders, as well as see emails and people associated with the event. This pools information from the contact app so you can network more efficiently. Upcoming events are available within Hub by pulling down from the top. New additions include Meeting Mode where you can set your phone to automatically go to silent once an event begins. The app comes with light and dark theme options and both look spacious on the large display.

PERSONAL ASSISTANT:

To feature parity against the likes of Siri, Cortana and Google Now, BlackBerry has enlisted the nuance libraries of the powerful processing engine, Maluuba. On 10.3+, the Personal Assistant is integrated into the keyboard for QWERTY devices. It’s accessible with a long press on the pause/play button, and when it loads up, it loads very quickly. The results in my uses have been very good. Ask for what movies are playing, and it’ll show the nearest theaters and showtimes. And yes, it even tells lame jokes. My favorite use comes when typing. The personal assistant is fully built with support for the QWERTY keypad, meaning you can type out requests, whether you’re trying to be silent in meetings, or on the subway. Also, you can use the assistant to remote search the device: Files, pictures, documents, emails, BBMs, texts, etc.

BLACKBERRY BLEND:

The BlackBerry Passport comes with full out of the box support for the desktop and tablet companion applications. Blend works on PC/MAC and Android and iOS tablets. It brings you unified communications like Email, BBM and SMS. As well, you get access to video, pictures and music across all blend connected devices. Blend gives you a hardware cloud that you can access via direct connections with supported devices, without the communication leaving your handheld… you still have a portal to it across your other devices. The beefy battery on the Passport comes as a big benefit here so you can keep wirelessly connected for longer. Blend is the perfect additive to allow for consumption of emails, pictures and video on your desktop or tablets. For enterprise, this allows you to access work files on personal devices without the need for IT oversight on those personal devices. Everything stays secure and connected via Blend.

PHOTO GALLERY:

Red BlackBerry Passport Limited Edition:

AT&T PASSPORT GALLERY BY JUBEI RAZIEL:

The Good:

BlackBerry’s Passport is a unique, one of a kind business tool. It’s tailored for top professionals who appreciate the large screen, wider content creation and consumption space it offers. Blend support, a large battery and an innovative touch enabled keyboard alongside the latest 10.3.1 OS platform makes this the most powerful BlackBerry device to date.

The Bad:

The Passport is not a one handed device. Now sure, it can be used with one hand, but after awhile this can become uncomfortable. With a case and in the pocket, it’s definitely got a noticeable heft to it. Sometimes Android applications don’t scale appropriately. The Passport has a steeper learning curve than most devices out there so buyers need to have some patience in the first week of transition.

Design

95%

Display

90%

Camera

80%

Reception & Call Quality

90%

Performance

90%

Software

90%

Battery Life

90%

Ecosystem

85%

RATING

PASSPORT SCORES 90/100

FIN //

Review by James Nieves
Edited by Alex Smith
Spec Slides by The World of Pootermobile
AT&T Passport Images by Jubei Raziel

  • royo1e

    the best device I ever use. Love my Passport. It’s my daily driver.

  • Fan

    Any review of the silver edition passport?

  • Ali

    First of all I really enjoyed your review. Tomorrow I am going to buy the passport, I used z10 as my other mobile for more than a year, and it never crashes with me. But when I saw the passport I fall in love with from the first sight. I read many review regard the passport, but you review really relieved me.

    I shall write another comments after using it.

    Regards

  • cancan

    good job!

  • Michael Grimes

    Amazing review of the best mobile device ever made. It truly is spectacular and needs to garner more recognition.

  • Xavier

    I read this and I must go out and buy it now. Great review.

    • Thanks to saying so! Glad all the work has had a positive impact!

  • xBURK

    Using the Passport since launch, I’d say it’s easily the best device I’ve had the privilege of owning. Plus, out of all the tools I have at work, the Passport and BlackBerry Blend make my life easier and more productive in way possible.

    Great work here James. I couldn’t agree more.

  • moegh

    Good review guys!