BlackBerry Z10 full review

Z10 vs Nexus 4

We put head-to-head the best of Android - that's Google's Nexus 4 - and the best of BlackBerry, the BlackBerry Z10. Spec for spec, which smartphone is best?

It's been an awfully long time coming, but BlackBerry is back with its BlackBerry 10 operating system. With fears that the traditionally business-friendly mobile operating system is already too late to the smartphone party, and many of its once loyal fans having already turned their heads to Android devices such as Google's Nexus 4, BlackBerry hopes the Z10 can return it to favour. Here's how the BlackBerry Z10 and Google Nexus 4 smartphones stack up. See also Group test: What's the best smartphone?

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Price

It doesn't create a great first impression for the BlackBerry that the Z10 costs almost twice the price of the Nexus 4, at £534 versus £279 SIM-free (that's for the 16GB versions; the 8GB Nexus 4 costs significantly less than half the Z10's price, at £239).  

Let's be honest, though, most users will be picking up a BlackBerry Z10 or Nexus 4 free with a two-year mobile contract. In this case, the best price you'll find right now (until 13 Feb) is a free BlackBerry Z10 on a two-year, £36-per-month O2 plan; alternatively, you can get a free handset with a £47 Vodafone tariff. Meanwhile, the best deal we could find that includes Google's handset free of charge is a two-year, £29-per-month Vodafone plan.

Either way, then, the BlackBerry Z10 costs significantly more than the Nexus 4, a handset subsidised by Google to encourage take up of the Android platform and content sales at Google Play. BlackBerry can afford to do no such thing; it has a lot of ground on which to catch up in the mobile market.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Dimensions

There's little difference in the dimensions of the BlackBerry Z10 and Nexus 4 - at least, not anything you're likely to notice. The Z10 is ever so slightly smaller, at 130x65.6x9mm versus 133.9x68.7x9.1mm. Unsurprisingly then, the BlackBerry is also a tad lighter than the Nexus 4, with its 137.5g chassis tipping the scales a just 1.5g less than the 139g Nexus 4.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Build

The Nexus 4 is a cheap smartphone, but it doesn't look it. The premium design has an attractive matrix of tiny silver dots on the rear panel, of which photos do no real justice. There's a rubbery circumference to aid grip, and this shiny black smartphone feels great in the hand. With no removable rear panel, the Nexus 4 also feels very sturdy; its build quality is nothing short of exceptional.

While the Nexus 4 is available only in black, the BlackBerry Z10 comes in black or white. It's BlackBerry's first fully touchscreen phone, with no physical keys or buttons for navigation. (If you're a fan of the traditional Qwerty keyboard, look instead to the BlackBerry Q10.) The design is clean and simple, with straight edges and rounded corners. It doesn't look too dissimilar to the iPhone 5, but it's a cheaper-looking, plastic version of that handset.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Screen

BlackBerry's Z10 offers the highest pixel density we've seen in a smartphone display, and by some way. With 1280x768 pixels stretched across its 4.2in panel, it offers 356ppi. Although the Nexus 4 matches this 1280x768 resolution, its noticeably larger 4.7in panel means pixels are stretched over a greater area, resulting in a 320ppi pixel density. It's worth noting that the Nexus 4's extra screen space doesn't come at the expense of added bulk: as we mentioned earlier, there's very little difference in the sizing and weight of these two smartphones.

Both BlackBerry and Nexus use in-plane switching (IPS) panel technology, which offers vibrant colours, good contrast and excellent viewing angles. Text and images are crisp and clear.

We did notice with the Z10, however, that it's a magnet to fingerprints: there's clearly no oleophobic coating in use here.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Processor & performance

Both handsets are fitted with 2GB of RAM and 1.5GHz processors, but performance isn't equal. That's a subjective comment, of course, since BlackBerry 10 isn't supported by our usual benchmarking tool, Geekbench 2, but the quad-core Nexus 4 is the fastest smartphone we've ever tested (the BlackBerry Z10, by comparison, is fitted with a dual-core chip, although BlackBerry claims that like Windows Phone 8 BlackBerry 10 requires less poke to run quickly).

In benchmarking, the Nexus 4 recorded 2,009 points in Geekbench 2, 39fps in GLBenchmark 2.5, and 1,906ms in the SunSpider Javascript test. And, in real-world use, it feels fast and incredibly slick. The Z10, meanwhile, just beat the Nexus 4 in SunSpider with 1,710ms. We noticed some lag in its drawing of animations, but it was otherwise nippy - just not as nippy as the Nexus 4.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Storage

Two models of Nexus 4 are available, with either 8- or 16GB of internal storage; neither are expandable through removable memory. Although the Z10 is available with 16GB storage capacity only, it also boasts a microSDHC slot that can boost this by 64GB for a potential 80GB. It's interesting to note that while we thought Android was greedy, gobbling up around 2GB of this capacity for system files, BlackBerry 10 consumes a staggering 4GB.

There are ways around the Nexus' storage limit, too. Android actively pushes the cloud as an everyday medium for storage and streaming, with its Play Movies & TV, Books, Magazines, Music and more. But the cloud is accessible only while you're within range of a Wi-Fi hotspot or the constraints of your cellular download limit. At other times, you could consider carrying a Wi-Fi-enabled portable hard drive, such as the Kingston Wi-Drive.

Streaming is made all the more accessible in the BlackBerry Z10 with 4G LTE connectivity in the UK. However, early 4G tariffs are expensive, and available in select cities only.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Cameras

Both handsets specify 8Mp stills cameras that are capable of full-HD (1080p) video, and are equipped with an LED Flash. The BlackBerry Z10 lists a slightly higher-resolution front-facing cam for video chat, at 2Mp versus the Nexus 4's 1.3Mp, although both support 720p video.

Unique to the Nexus 4, as the only Android smartphone to run version 4.2 Jelly Bean, is Photo Sphere (in addition to the panorama mode introduced by Ice Cream Sandwich). This lets you snap pictures in any direction to create a stunning panoramic effect. Google also shouts about the Nexus 4's ability to take still shots during video recording, and take advantage of continuous focus, real-time zoom and time-lapse mode, plus a Movie Studio app that lets you create your own movies and directly upload them to YouTube.

BlackBerry, meanwhile, boasts BSI for better low-light performance, a dedicated ISP with a 64MB frame buffer, a five-element f2.2 lens, continuous focus, a time-shift mode, a 5x digital zoom (3x zoom for its front cam), plus image and video stabilisation. We like the editing software built into BlackBerry 10, which allows you to make comprehensive edits to your pictures. You can crop and rotate images, adjust settings such as white balance, and add Instagram-style filters and borders.

Neither camera is the best we've seen on a smartphone (the iPhone 5 and Nokia Lumia 920 fare better in this regard), but they are perfectly acceptable for high-end smartphones.

Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10: Connectivity

Connectivity-wise, the Nexus 4 and BlackBerry Z10 are similar. Both support dual-band 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, Micro-USB for charging, NFC (the Nexus through Android Beam and the Z10 through BlackBerry Tag), GPS and HDMI (although the Nexus 4 has a 'Slimport' connection, and the Z10 a proper 'Micro' port). Each also has a standard 3.5mm headphone jack.

You'll favour the Nexus 4 if you want to take advantage of its wireless charging, while the BlackBerry Z10 supports 4G LTE and can even act as a 4G hotspot. However, 4G technology is still in its infancy in the UK, and unless it's already available in your area you may be ready for an upgrade by the time it comes around. If you can take advantage (and can afford to), do: switching to 4G is akin to switching from 3G to Wi-Fi.

NEXT PAGE: Nexus 4 vs BlackBerry Z10 software, batttery life and verdict >>

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