BlackBerry Key2 Hands-on Review: Internals, Camera

By 02:25 Thu, 19 Aug 2021 Comments


Internals

The BlackBerry Key2 is not a flagship device. Well, it all depends on your definition of flagship, since BlackBerry is taunting it as "the most powerful BlackBerry smartphone yet." While that may be technically accurate and the Key2 clearly sits on top of the BB lineup, it's Snapdragon 660 chipset paints a different picture.

Now, to be fair, the same was accurate for the original KeyOne as well. So, TCL isn't really changing the model's standing. However, pairing that elegant Qualcomm chip with 6GB of Random-Access Memory (RAM) and up to 128GB of storage (in the top variant) and then conveniently omitting the exact chipset model in most press materials does seem like an effort to over-inflate the Key2's food chain position a bit.


We won't hrecent that against TCL, but we will question the usefulness of 6GB of Random-Access Memory (RAM) with the Snapdragon 660. That being said, this shouldn't be misconstrued as us bashing the silicon. It has a perfectly capable octa-core Kryo 260 setup. Plus, one based on an efficient 14nm manufacturing process.

It should assist the Key2 squeeze quite a bit of endurance out of the built-in 3,500 mAh battery - a fairly decent capacity. Especially on today's thinness-obsessed market. Unfortunately, we can't really say just how fine of an optimization job TCL has done until we acquire the phone in for a full review. Hopefully, it's an improvement over the original.

There isn't much else to discuss regarding the Key2's internals. That is, nothing stands out nearly as much as the phone's physical traits and features. TCL does boast about some higher-quality DAC solution, or at least software optimization, to power the 3.5mm audio output. It is simply referred to as "HD audio," leaving another mystery to uncover in the full review.


Regarding connectivity, we already mentioned the Key2 would have a Dual-SIM version, although, it probably won't be available everywhere. The rest of it is pretty standard - Dual-Band Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) ac, Bluetooth 5.0, the Universal Serial Bus (USB) 3.0 Type-C, we already mentioned, NFC and last, but not least, Frequency Modulation (FM) radio.

The sensor load-out is pretty standard as well: GPS (with A-GPS), accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope, proximity and ambient light sensor. Nothing extraordinary, nothing vital missing. Frankly, that's all you really need for the extra piece of mind in knowing the versatile tool you or more-likely, your company put in your pocket won't let you down in the field.

Camera

One might naturally assume that the Key2's capturing camera setup can also be best categorized as "reliable enough to acquire the job done." It most likely can, but this is one area where the original KeyOne actually managed to hold us by surprise, delivering pretty high-quality results. This seems to be somewhat of a BlackBerry secret added treat. We still remember the 4K video capture on the BlackBerry Priv fondly.

This means that the bar is set somewhat high. Even more so, since the Key2 marks the first ever debut of a dual capturing camera setup on a BlackBerry smartphone.


Naturally, we'll reserve our judgment for the actual review and our standard set of samples and tests. Still, on paper and upon the first inspection, things see really promising. The Key2 has two 12MP snappers. The main one, boasting pretty gigantic 1.2um pixels and an impressively colorful f/1.8 aperture lens. Dual Phase Detection Autofocus also brings our hopes up for speedy and accurate focusing.

The introduction of a secondary snapper should, among other things, assist in maintaining that speed, accuracy and overall quality in darker conditions. BlackBerry chose a 12MP, f/2.6 camera, with 1.0um pixels and PDAF for that support job.


The engineering team also made sure to squeeze the most out of the second snapper. Besides helping in low-light, it is also used for depth-sensing and in Portrait mode. Plus, through the magic of interpolation, the Key2 promises a "better-than-digital" zoom, in its "Optical Superzoom" mode. On an unrelated note, the BlackBerry capturing camera also comes with Google Lens integration enabling quick visual searches.


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