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Tech review: BlackBerry’s last in-house phone, the DTEK50 – packs a punch for a decent price

BlackBerry’s latest release, the DTEK50, is the company’s second Android handset (first was the Priv that was launched last November) and the selling point is probably more its mid-range price – HK2,688 – than its claim of being “the world’s most secure Android smartphone”.

BlackBerry has stopped making phones, finally surrendering to Apple and Samsung

Design and hardware

Measuring 7.4 mm in depth and weighing 135g, the DTEK50 feels light and nifty in the hand despite its 5.2-inch screen. Unlike the Priv, which is more angular, its body has more curves and its textured back prevents slippage.

On the left is the power button and on the right are the volume rockers and a protruded customisable shortcut key. Those used to other phone models, notably Sony, are likely to mistake this round key as the power switch; throughout the testing period I kept turning the torch on when trying to turn off the screen. Below this key is a slot for the sim and memory cards.

On the top to the left is the 3.5mm headphone jack, and on the same side at the bottom of the handset is the MicroUSB 2.0 (as opposed to the increasingly common USB-C) charging port.

On the back at the top left hand corner are the 13 megapixel autofocus rear camera and flash. On the front is an 8-megapixel camera and a pulsing white notification light. The overall design is minimalist, clean and pleasant.

Features

Its security and privacy features, which the Canadian phone maker has always prided itself on, remain a priority. When BlackBerry dropped its own operation system in favour of Android for the Priv, many were concerned that its security features would be compromised. But so far the Android Marshmallow (version 6) has proved reliable, especially with its monthly firmware updates.

BlackBerry was reportedly the first major smartphone manufacturer to patch QuadRooter vulnerabilities, which exposed more than 900 million mobile devices with Qualcomm processors to potential cyber-hacking.

According to BlackBerry, the DTEK50 encrypts all users’ information, including business data and personal data such as photos, videos and contacts. Malware protection is also built in along with backup, wipe and restore capabilities. This model also sees the return of the DTEK app that alerts users to potential security risks.

Performance and battery life

The DTEK50 runs on the Snapdragon 617 processor (for mid-range smartphones) and everything runs smoothly without any lags. The phone does warm up when multitasking but it’s not as notable as the Priv, which runs on Snapdragon 808 and is notorious for its heat and battery drain issues.

The virtual keyboard is just fantastic. I am one of those people who make tons of mistakes when not typing on physical keys but with the keyboard’s impressive predictive text and auto-correct features I can breeze through long paragraphs without much drama.

The 2610 mAh built-in battery lasted a couple of days with moderate use (internet browsing, note taking and photo/video taking), and longer when in standby mode.

No one is going to buy the BlackBerry for its camera, but the DTEK50’s is decent and can be used to take snaps of notes or PowerPoint slides at business meetings and presentations.

Conclusion

This is another powerful workhorse from BlackBerry that comes with a relatively small price tag. Anyone who is paranoid about cyber-hacking may want to consider this model. The DTEK50 is functional and solid, if a bit boring to look at. But anyone who is into fancy-looking, stylish phones should never consider the BlackBerry in the first place.

Dimensions: 147 mm x 72.5 mm x 7.4 mm

Weight: 135g

Screen size: 5.2” scratch-resistant display

Screen resolution: 1920 x 1080

Battery: 2610 mAh (non-removable)

OS: Android Marshmallow 6.0.1

Processor: Snapdragon 617

Cameras: 13 megapixel auto-focus (rear), 8 megapixel fixed-focus (front)

Memory: 3 GB RAM (expandable storage)

Colour: black