How do you review a phone that costs double what the most expensive regular flagships cost? That was the challenge facing me when I received the Porsche Design P’9983 a couple of weeks ago. Or rather, should the question be: Should I compare it to regular flagships, or is it in a league of its own? Find out in the review.
With Porsche Design-made products, clearly, the aesthetics and build quality are of upmost importance. The company prides itself on making fashionable devices, normally crafted from a beautiful metal and featuring modern angled frames. The P’9983 is no different. And, as you’d expect, it features some classy materials.
The rear shell, for example, has been crafted from a bespoke glass-weave material which looks very much like carbon-fibre. From the inside, you can see the weaves in detail. The outside has a very glossy finish. As you’d expect, a surface this shiny is a huge fingerprint magnet. But on the rare times that it’s clean, it’s one of the most beautiful finishes I’ve ever seen on a phone.
This look is further enhanced by the smoky chrome BlackBerry. And for that added element of Porsche Design-ness, the camera and LED sit inside two perfectly round metal rings embedded in an industrial metal rectangle panel. This same rectangle is almost identically mirrored on the front of the device where Porsche Design’s brand logo proudly sits taking up a ton of space. BlackBerry’s logo is sitting rather less obviously below the keyboard.
The metal frame around the edges continues Porsche Designs industrial look with its soft, anodized finish, chamfered edge and angular chin. Of course, it also has Porsche Design’s monogram on both sides. It also happens to be really comfortable to hold in one hand.
The 4 row keyboard has been made from what the BlackBerry site refers too as a synthetic glass-like material. In other words, probably some really fancy, hard, transparent plastic. The angular sculpted finish looks attractive, almost sexy. But what it has in looks, it loses in functionality. This is one of the hardest-to-type-on physical keyboards BlackBerry has ever released. Not helped by the fact that the phone is considerably smaller than both the Passport and Classic. They also have a disappointing, weak, spongey feel when trying to type, which doesn’t help matters at all. It conspires against you, along with its shiny, almost slippery finish and cramped positioning. Almost daring you to try speed typing and then waiting, ready to laugh at you when you fail. But dammit if it doesn’t look sexy while it’s doing it.
Display, Performance, Battery and Camera
There’s little to say about the Porsche Design’s display or performance, because from here on in, there’s little to admire about the hideously expensive smartphone.
The screen is a 3.1-inch 720x720 square AMOLED panel. With a pixel density of 328ppi, it’s actually quite sharp. But being a square of this size is just far too small in this day and age. And it takes up less than 40 percent of the front of the phone. Even for a BlackBerry, that’s not a lot of screen real estate. There’s only enough room for about four rows of messages in the BlackBerry Hub inbox, and its size and shape means that most apps aren’t well-optimized. Particularly the Android apps available to download from Amazon’s Appstore. Saying that, colors are very saturated and contrast levels are decent enough. But it is quite reflective. You can forget watching videos on it, too.
Along with its display, its performance would be adequate for a mid-range smartphone. In fact, its specifications are virtually identical to the BlackBerry Q10 released more than two years ago. It has the same 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM. A little more generously, however, it has 64GB of internal storage space for all your content.
For the most past, the dual-core processor cheap seems enough to get the most basic tasks done. Sliding in and out of the Hub, to the apps or the home screen is achieved effortlessly with little stutter. It’s when you get to loading web content or apps that it shows weakness. It takes a little longer than I’d like. Maybe its a lesson in patience for me, but it’s one I don’t want from a smartphone.
If there’s one element of performance I found impressive, it’s the battery life. On almost every occasion it got through two days of use on a single charge. But part of me thinks that’s mostly down to the fact I was using it less than I would a daily driver, just because I found typing and doing anything on it so frustrating most of the time. The other element, of course, is that its low resolution display and low power processor don’t demand much from the 2,100mAh battery.
Its camera is another element that’s easy to forget. It may be 8MP, but it's hardly the focus of the device. Image quality is a little fuzzy, and shutter speeds can be slow. It’s okay for taking the odd unimportant shot in good daylight, but once light diminishes, there’s little you can do about the noise and distortion that creeps in. The small square display isn’t the best viewfinder either.
It’s hard to judge a phone like this compared to others. It’s clearly not designed to be an all-singing, all-dancing top flagship. But at the same time, I’d expect more than what I got for a phone that costs more than double the price of an iPhone 6. The only thing that I see it offers is the beauty and prestige that comes from owning a Porsche Design product. It has nothing else of value. I could almost justify the outlay if it was the BlackBerry Passport with some added luxury materials and premium design. But it isn’t. This is a BlackBerry Q10 wearing some fancy clothes.
If you want a great BlackBerry, don’t get this. Get the Passport or the Classic. If you want a luxury smartphone, don’t get this. Get a gold iPhone and save some cash.