BlackBerry has fallen on tough times of late. After it announced that it had lost almost $1bn earlier this year, it received a buyout offer of $4.7bn, a vast drop from its $83bn worth only five years ago. Its launch of BlackBerry 10 on the Z10 was supposed to be its big re-entry into the smart phone world, but it wasn't well received by BlackBerry fans, resulting in poor sales.
Not wanting to fade into the background, BlackBerry has thrown a haymaker in the form of the Z30. Like the Z10 before it, it's an all-touch phone, ditching the physical keyboard that made BlackBerry popular among business types. It has a dual-core processor and an 8-megapixel camera and can be picked up for £500 SIM-free from Selfridges or free from £29 per month on a two-year contract.
It's not cheap, so does it offer enough to justify the money and give the Canadian company a much needed boost?
Should I buy the BlackBerry Z30?
If you've been looking on in envy at your mates with their big screened Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4, but for some reason you absolutely must have a BlackBerry phone, then yes, the Z30 is the phone for you. It's got the biggest screen available on a BlackBerry, with plenty of room for movies and pictures.
As a phone it's not terrible either. The BlackBerry 10 interface has its quirks, but it's got some cool features and it's fairly easy to use. It's still let down by its awful app store though, which is missing a lot of important titles and gets little love from developers. If you like trying out the latest apps, services and games, BlackBerry isn't going to suit.
Instead, check out the range of similarly sized Android phones. The HTC One, Sony Xperia Z1 and Galaxy S4 all have superb Full HD displays, superbly powerful processors and have access to the hundreds of thousands of apps available in the Google Play store.
Design and build quality
With a 5-inch display shoved inside its frame, the Z30 is the biggest BlackBerry phone to date. It measures a sizeable 140mm long, 72mm wide and 9.4mm thick, making it a little longer than the 5-inch Samsung Galaxy S4, due to the additional space at the top and bottom of the Z30's screen.
The Z30 isn't going to appeal to those of you after a small phone to slide into your suit pocket without causing embarrassing bulges. If size is an issue then check out the Z10 -- its 4.2-inch screen makes it much more pocket-friendly. The Z30 isn't ridiculously huge though -- not compared to the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 3 -- and it's quite comfortable to hold in one hand. If you're concerned about its size, try and get a hands on in a shop before you spend any money.
Size aside, it's not a bad looking phone. The rubberised back of the Z10 is gone, replaced instead with the same 'glass-weave', carbon-fibre lookalike seen on the Q10. BlackBerry reckons it's highly resistant to scratches and scuffs. It certainly put up well with some attacks from my keys, but how it looks after months of constant use remains to be seen.
The front of the phone is dominated almost entirely by glass, which curves attractively at the edges. There's a silver chin on the bottom too. It's inoffensive enough, but I don't really know what it's doing there. If BlackBerry could just snap it off, the body would be shorter and it wouldn't alter the screen size.
Around the edges you'll find the volume and power buttons, a micro-USB port for data transfer and charging and a mini-HDMI port for hooking it up to a bigger display or projector to go through Powerpoint presentations. There's also an odd section of the edging that looks like a flap covering a port -- it's not though, and I only found that out after peeling it away from the body, making it look messy and broken. BlackBerry may have planned to pop other ports underneath, but leaving it as it is just seems careless.
The 5-inch display has a 1,280x720-pixel resolution, giving a pixel density of 295 pixels per inch. That's a fair step down from Full HD displays seen on the HTC One or Galaxy S4, but in everyday use I doubt you'd notice much difference.
Even when you get up close, icons and text remain sharp, with little to no fuzziness around the edges. It has good colours too, with deep black levels for satisfying contrast. It'll cope well with playing back some YouTube clips when you're relaxing after your big presentation to the board members.
It's let down though by its brightness, which is far from impressive. Even with the screen ramped to the max, it still seemed a little dim, and holding it against other phones -- particularly the iPhone 5C -- it looked pretty disappointing. If you do a lot of work under harsh office lights or bright sunlight, it might be a nuisance.