BlackBerry Passport vs BlackBerry Z30 full review

BlackBerry Z30 vs BlackBerry Passport

BlackBerry Passport vs BlackBerry Z30 comparison: UK price

The Passport is the flagship BlackBerry smartphone you can buy today, and as such couldn't be described as cheap. It retails at £529 inc VAT in the UK. But like the BlackBerry Z30 the Passport is at least principally aimed at business users, so it is entirely possible that the main mode of purchase will be via business-level contract from enterprise supplier. See also: Best smartphones.

No such problems with BlackBerry's previous flag-bearer. The Z30 can be picked up for around £250-£290 SIM free. That reflects its year-old provenance, but the Z30 is worth anyone's consideration as a high-end smartphone at a bargain price. For more on the BlackBerry Passport, see our BlackBerry Passport review - the most BlackBerry BlackBerry ever.

BlackBerry Passport vs BlackBerry Z30 comparison: design and build

The BlackBerry Passport is a strikingly different device. You will love or hate it, but you are unlikely to find it boring. An almost square, thick slab of shiny black tech. Thicker than the average high-end handset at 9.3mm, it is actually thinner than the 9.6mm Z30. But you will notice only that is much wider, and a little shorter. Compare its 128 x 90.3 x 9.3 mm stats with those of the 72 x 141 x 9.6 mm BlackBerry Z30. That 5in phone is longer, but much slimmer and thinner than is the Passport. Indeed, compared to all other touchscreen smartphones the BlackBerry Passport really is another category of device. It is the same size and shape as a US passport (geddit?). And that means it will appeal only to a certain type of user.

Part of the reason for this is that unlike the BlackBerry Z30 the BlackBerry Passport is not just a touchscreen smartphone. Beneath its display is a slim, hardware, qwerty keyboard. And the display itself is perfectly square. Overall the effect is weirdly old-fashioned, but not unsmart. It's a formal looking device, and that makes sense.

BlackBerry Passport

One thing we can say about the Passport is that at 196g it is heavy for a modern smartphone. You will notice the difference when holding the 172g BlackBerry Z30. Weight isn't necessarily a problem, of course. Carrying around the Passport was no problem in our tests, and there's a certain pleasing heft when generally handling the Passport.

Just don't expect to use the BlackBerry Passport in one hand. The keyboard, indeed the whole device, is built for two thumbs. There's also something about the way that the Passport balances in two-handed use that feels uncomfortable. Like the phone is going to topple forward out of your hands. But it is well built and interestingly designed. Just probably not for everyone.

The BlackBerry Z30 by contrast is a large and chunky design, entirely devoid of any buttons on the front. Instead all control is made through the capacitive display, along with a sleep/power button on top and volume up/down keys on the right. The topmost button is centred on top and you should be able to just reach this with the index finger of the holding hand. Slightly wobbly volume keys also fall easily to the thumb.

Build quality of this hefty phone is good but not outstanding. It feels good and solid in the hand, and we've no arguments with a heavier phone if it means strength and long battery life. The clip-on rear panel has a carbon-fibre effect and is non-slip to the touch. Getting around the huge display is another question, and while it's lovely to have a big window into the device it will inevitably mean you'll need two hands to get around most of the time.

Personally we'd choose the quirky BlackBerry Passport over the standard but less-then-stellar BlackBerry Z30. But it really is a matter of choice.

BlackBerry Passport vs BlackBerry Z30 comparison: display

When it comes to display we would definitely choose the Passport over the Z30, albeit with some caveats. The Z30 has a 5.0in, 720 x 1280 Super AMOLED display. That is pretty pokey by modern standards, although perfectly respectable at this price. The OLED panel nearly has Retina resolution, at 294 ppi, although we found it nowhere near as sharp when reading small text, for example. It's okay.

The Passport has a 4.5-inch display with a 1,440x1,440-pixel resolution. This means a pixel density of 453 pixels per inch. The aspect ratio of 1:1 lets us know that the BlackBerry Passport's screen is perfectly square.

That sqaure screen is brilliant for reading- and responding to email, amazing for browsing websites and a good experience when reading and editing spreadsheets. Just don't watch movies, play games, or look at photos. Not if you have an aversion to seeing two thirds of the screen taken up by black borders, anyway. The BlackBerry Passport is a producivity tool and as such its display is brilliant. If you want to read or amend a big chunk of text it is the perfect display.

BlackBerry Z30

The term 'phablet' is generally used for any large-screen smartphone. But in all honesty the BlackBerry Passport is the first smartphone I have used that feels like a workable compromise between phone and tablet. Compromised is compromised, but if you want a smartphone for work this display is fit for purpose. And for that we have to say we prefer the Passport.

BlackBerry Passport vs BlackBerry Z30 comparison: performance, specs

The BlackBerry Passport is a powerful and well-specified device. It runs on a Qualcomm MSM8974AA Snapdragon 801 CPU, a quad-core Krait 400 processor timed at 2.26 GHz. This includes an Adreno 330 and is paired with 3GB RAM. In terms of storage we find a nominal 32GB onboard storage, which in our case meant 27.8GB of usable space. And you can add another 128GB with an SD card.

Bearing in mind that you should always consider synthetic benchmarks as a guide only, we ran the BlackBerry Passport through a series of tests. In GeekBench 3 we find very impressive average scores of single core 780 and multicore 2457. The SunSpider Javascript benchmark was a marginally disappointing average of 1055.5ms. Both results replicate what we experienced: this is a very fast device, even when under load of multiple processes and applications. It is a very powerful and responsive device.

Powering the Z30 is an ARM dual-core processor from Qualcomm, clocked at 1.7 GHz and backed with a generous 2 GB of memory. For storage, card fans will be cheerful to hear of a microSDXC slot to complement the 16 GB flash that's built-in.

There are few other surprises in the general hardware make-up of the Z30. Performance is perfectly adequate, but the Passport is noticably more powerful: as you would expect given the price differential.

BlackBerry Passport

BlackBerry Passport vs BlackBerry Z30 comparison: camera

Neither phone's camera is much to write home about. The Passport's is decent, and we like the front-facing 2Mp, 720p camera for conference calling. The main rear-facing camera is a 13Mp camera with autofocus, optical image stabilization, LED flash, geo-tagging, face detection and HDR.

The BlackBerry Z30's 8 Mp rear camera takes pictures exceptionally quickly, and quite competently. Colour balance was quite neutral, and low-light shots were not the noisy mess we see on budget phones. We'd rank the Z30's camera about as good as an iPhone 5, which is to say pretty good.

For the price we would say that the Z30's camera is unusually good. Both are okay.

BlackBerry Passport vs BlackBerry Z30 comparison: software

Both the BlackBerry Passport and the BlackBerry Z30 run the BlackBerry 10 OS, so there is no competition here. But it is worth investigating for those who haven't used it before. This is an interesting and improving platform.

The traditional review of BlackBerry 10 is to say it has unusual swipe navigation, no apps, and great server side support for system admins. Well the first element is true: it takes a bit of getting used to but in time it feels intuitive to swipe from the sides, or the top and bottom, to get to the home page or the BlackBerry Hub. And despite pressure from Windows Phone, BlackBerry remains the gold standard for running a fleet of devices for a business. Data can be secured and deleted, software updates pushed out remotely. Your system admin will always thank you for choosing a BlackBerry.

The apps thing has definitely improved since BlackBerry started including the Amazon App Store. Spotify is there, for instance, as are native apps for all the major social networks. We could even install GeekBench and benchmark the Passport. But you will find odd misses - I couldn't see a YouTube app that was made by Google, for example. If you are purchasing a phone for app support BlackBerry is not the way to go. In general, however, BlackBerry 10.3 is good to look at and easy to use. It is very similar to recent Android and iOS.

Things we like about BlackBerry 10.3 - in-window email notifications let you read and either dismiss or click to respond to messages as they come in, regardless of what you are looking at. True multitasking is possible because of that big screen and the fact that a simple swipe lets you see all open apps in an array of nine windows. Indeed swipe gestures that work on the touchscreen and keyboard are pretty cool, and the typing issues we had with the hardware keyboard are mitigated to an extent by the fact that if you attempt to move the cursor via touch you get a little circle with arrows that you can nudge to get the correct spot between two characters.

BlackBerry Passport vs BlackBerry Z30 comparison: verdict

If you are looking to save money on a decent smartphone you could do a lot worse than the BlackBerry Z30. It is a decent 5in handset at a very good price. But if you want a BlackBerry that is truly fit for business, and you are able to spend on a full flagship smartphone, the BlackBerry Passport is a truly fascinating and powerful device. Just have a go with one first to make sure it is for you. See also: Best smartphones.


BlackBerry Z30: Specs

  • 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdradon S4 Plus (MSM8960 T Pro) (ARM dual-core)
  • Qualcomm Adreno 320
  • 5.0in (720 x 1280) 294ppi Super AMOLED
  • BlackBerry 10
  • 2GB
  • 16GB
  • microSDXC
  • 802.11b/g/n
  • Tri band LTE 4, 5, 7 (850/2100/2600 MHz)
  • quad band UMTS/HSPA+ 1, 2 ,4, 5/6 (800/850/1700/1900/2100 MHz)
  • quad band GSM/GPRS/EDGE 850/900/1800/1900 MHz)
  • Micro-SIM
  • 8Mp rear camera, BSI, 5-element f2.2 lens
  • 2Mp fixed-focus front camera, 1920 x 1080
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • Micro-USB
  • BlackBerry Tag NFC
  • 2880mAH, non-removable
  • 72 x 141 x 9.6 mm
  • 172 g

BlackBerry Passport: Specs

  • Qualcomm MSM8974AA Snapdragon 801 CPU, 2.26 GHz, Adreno 330, 3GB RAM, 32GB onboard storage, 128GB SD card slot, non-removable Li-Ion 3450 mAh battery, USB 2.0, HSDPA, HSUPA, LTE, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot, Bluetooth 4.0, A2DP, LE, front-facing 2Mp, 720p camera, rear-facing 13Mp camera with autofocus, optical image stabilization, LED flash, geo-tagging, face detection and HDR, 128 x 90.3 x 9.3 mm, 196g