Blackberry DTEK50 Review: BlackBerry really pushed the boat out when it debuted its Android-powered flagship, the Blackberry Priv, last year. By comparison, 2016’s new BlackBerry DTEK50 is more focused on affordable security, but still packs all of those great ‘Berry features on top of the excellent Android Marshmallow OS. Here’s our full DTEK50 review.
Blackberry DTEK50 Review: Design
When BlackBerry first unveiled the DTEK50 many were quick to point out the similarities it shares with Alcatel’s Idol 4 and indeed both phones start with the same reference design from Chinese manufacturer TCL, however, BlackBerry has tweaked things to give the DTEK50 some individuality.
It’s the thinnest BlackBerry ever, with a 7.4mm thick body featuring a finely milled and chamfered aluminium frame that paired with a low weight of 135 grams, means the DTEK50 is a pleasure to wield. The textured plastic back also gives you tons of grip, so there’s less chance of it taking a tumble.
The button placement is the most obvious point of contention, with the power key positioned high up on the left side making it tricky to get at. The most prominent button is in fact the convenience key – a programmable hardware button that you can set to perform certain actions or open specific apps.
There are also micro-drilled speaker holes that permeate both sides of the phone, giving the front-facing stereo speakers room to shine, even if overall sound quality is a tad on the tinny side and the holes themselves can fill with detritus pretty easily.
Blackberry DTEK50 Review: Screen
We were pleasantly surprised by the 5.2-inch Full HD screen on the DTEK50. It doesn’t pack the same visual punch as the Priv, but still produces pleasing overall imagery with accurate colours, good brightness and excellent clarity, beating out the likes of the OnePlus 3’s 5.5-inch Full HD screen.
To alleviate the issue of awkward power button placement, BlackBerry has also added double-tap to wake and sleep to the phone, so you can knock on the display to activate the DTEK50 if you prefer (and we suspect most users will).
Blackberry DTEK50 Review: OS
Last year, the Priv gave us our first taste of Android with a BlackBerry twist and it made for a winning combination. The DTEK50 enjoys all of that same enhanced functionality but also introduces a few new tweaks and features too.
Running atop Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the experience focuses on two key aspects: productivity and security. The BlackBerry Hub is a great way to stay on top of multiple email accounts, social feeds, calls and texts (even if we did have some trouble adding a Microsoft Exchange account), the ever-present Productivity Tab lets you quickly address upcoming calendar entries or messages, and you can swipe up on select apps to expand their chosen widget; letting you glance at your calendar for example, without having to leave a widget permanently on show on one of your home screens or having to open the calendar app up completely.
Along with enabling encryption at various levels throughout the phone’s hardware and software, BlackBerry’s DTEK app, from which the phone gets its (rather awkward) name, serves as a form of security health check; rating how secure the current setup of your DTEK50 is and suggesting ways in which you can improve it. It enables native Android security features, like encryption by default, and places it all in a more readily accessible place than the stock experience does, which we’re all for.
Blackberry DTEK50 Review: Performance
Whilst the software experience is almost identical to the one found on the updated Priv, the internal hardware is wholly different. The DTEK50 is specced as an affordable performance phone, in the same vein as handsets such as the Samsung Galaxy A7.
It runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 617 processor and 3GB of RAM with 16GB of internal storage, making for a fast, fluid user experience, and whilst the phone did warm up during extensive camera use and gaming, we never encountered notable dips in fluidity or performance.
Thankfully, although the DTEK50 doesn’t feature a removable back you can get at a microSD card slot, which supports cards up to a whopping 2TB, so the low internal space isn’t all that much of an issue. The 2610mAh battery meanwhile feels a little on the small side considering the phone only just makes it into a second day of use on a charge, but fast charging (up to 50 per cent in 51 minutes) is available thanks to that Qualcomm chipset.
For a phone that puts security first, many have pondered as to why the DTEK50 forgoes a fingerprint sensor. In truth, the primary reason for its absence is most likely as a cost-saving measure, but fingerprint sensors in phones right now are more about convenience than outright security. As security specialists have proven time and again, they can be foiled without too much effort, so whilst it would have been a nice feature to have, its absence isn’t really an issue.
Blackberry DTEK50 Review: Cameras
BlackBerry has placed a growing amount of focus on the imaging experience offered up by the cameras on its phones and the DTEK50 is no exception. Both the 13-megapixel primary camera and 8-megapixel front-facer are competent all-rounders. Neither is class-leading by any means, but overall image quality is very good, colours appear accurate and it’s usable in poorly lit environments, especially thanks to the dual-tone LED flash.
The front camera doesn’t enjoy the time-shift mode from BB10, but it does pack its own single LED flash and as a whole, the imaging experience is wrapped up in a clean interface with options for manual control too.
On the video front both cameras top out at 1080p HD at 60fps and the rear camera’s software-based stabilisation also does an effective job or ironing out heavy footsteps.
Blackberry DTEK50 Review: Verdict
BlackBerry continues to move away from the troubled past of older ‘Berrys with another strong Android-based offering. Whilst some might consider the lack of a physical QWERTY keyboard and a fingerprint sensor losses, but for £275, you don’t just get a competent, elegant-looking Android device, but you also get the peace of mind afforded to you by BlackBerry’s know-how in the security industry.
Read next: Blackberry Priv: Re-review after three months and BlackBerry DTEK50 vs BlackBerry Priv: Which is best for me?