Black­Berry DTEK50

PC Advisor - - CONTENTS -

For all the spec­u­la­tion as to why Black­Berry has failed to keep up with the best smart­phones, one thing is cer­tain – it should have done so, so much bet­ter. It’s too late for it to as­sume the throne once more, the throne it sat on back in the days when every­one was bash­ing out emails on a Black­Berry Bold.

Now, af­ter the com­pany tried to change tact with the square Passport and the high-end Priv, it has re­leased the DTEK50. It’s a mid-range (in terms of specs and price) An­droid hand­set with no phys­i­cal key­board and a pen­chant for se­cu­rity. Surely this is some­thing the com­pany should have done sev­eral years ago?

De­sign

The DTEK50 is quite plain look­ing, and bears a close re­sem­blance to Al­ca­tel’s Idol 4. This shows the de­sign sac­ri­fices Black­Berry has had to make, to the point of shar­ing de­signs with other man­u­fac­tur­ers, to pro­duce what is in essence a mid-range, stock An­droid smart­phone. Hav­ing said that, the DTEK50 is good look­ing, if in a strictly busi­ness-like way.

It’s pleas­ant to use and hold, with metal­lic edges, though it’s not quite heavy enough to have the fa­mil­iar re­as­sur­ing heft of flag­ship de­vices, and the back is a rub­berised cross­hatch. This stops the DTEK50 slip­ping out of your hand, though it doesn’t scream high qual­ity. It is prac­ti­cal, though.

It mea­sures 147x72.5x7.4mm and weighs just 135g. With a 5.2in screen it’s right on the edge of easy one­handed use. If you’ve got smaller hands you’ll strug­gle still though.

It’s charged over Mi­cro-USB, and a fast charger is sup­plied in the box, which is great to see be­cause it works very well. Slightly con­fus­ingly, the power but­ton is on the top left edge, while the sil­ver but­ton on the right edge where you’d ex­pect it to be is a ‘con­ve­nience’ key. You can as­sign one of a num­ber of uses to this but­ton to launch an app or com­mand of your choice. We used it to open the cam­era app as there’s no cam­era but­ton. The cam­era it­self is 13Mp with sin­gle LED flash, while the front fac­ing cam­era is a re­spectable 8Mp.

The right-side edge of the DTEK50 also has a vol­ume rocker, and there’s a 3.5mm head­phone jack on the top. So far, so nor­mal. Like we said, it’s not unat­trac­tive, but there’s no es­cap­ing that this is not a very ex­cit­ing phone to look at or to hold.

Dis­play

Things picked up a bit af­ter our first im­pres­sions though, when we turned the DTEK50 on. It’s a shame that the cas­ing is a bit dull be­cause the specs are ac­tu­ally quite good. The phone has a 5.2in full HD dis­play with a res­o­lu­tion of 1920x1080. Colour re­pro­duc­tion is solid, and videos dis­play sur­pris­ingly well. The glass is sup­pos­edly scratch and smudge re­sis­tant, but the lat­ter is im­pos­si­ble on smart­phones at the mo­ment. Ex­pect fin­ger­prints.

The speaker grills at the top and bot­tom of the screen are wel­come; not only is the de­sign sub­tle but it means that for video viewing you have two front-fac­ing speak­ers that are pleas­ingly de­cent. For those Net­flix ses­sions you’ll still want head­phones, though.

Per­for­mance

With mid-range price comes mid-range pro­cess­ing power. The DTEK50 has a Qual­comm Snap­dragon 617 pow­er­ing it, but in ev­ery­day use it zips along very nicely. For web viewing, so­cial me­dia, email and the like it is not no­tice­ably slower than many flag­ship An­droid de­vices. Once you put it un­der some pres­sure (mul­ti­ple app jump­ing, graph­i­cally in­tense gam­ing), then it starts sweat­ing a bit, with oc­ca­sional screen freezes and lag.

What is great to see, and prob­a­bly helps with the speedy dayto-day per­for­mance, is 3GB RAM. This is more than the 2GB in Ap­ple’s flag­ship iPhone 6s – this doesn’t mean the DTEK50 is as good at mul­ti­task­ing as that phone, but goes to show that if a man­u­fac­turer finely bal­ances the pro­ces­sor and RAM specs it can achieve above av­er­age per­for­mance. That is the case here.

So it is frus­trat­ing that our usual meth­ods of bench­mark­ing sim­ply wouldn’t work on the DTEK50. Both Geek­bench 3 and GFXBench re­fused to con­nect to their re­spec­tive

servers, so for now we can’t bring you any bench­marks. Although in av­er­age use the Black­Berry was good, you can be sure that it will fall be­hind flag­ship mod­els in these sorts of tests.

We won­dered if the DTEK50 is so se­cure it doesn’t con­nect to what it con­sid­ers un­se­cure servers. Hope­fully this won’t ex­tend to stop­ping con­sumers do­ing sim­ple tasks in daily use, though we didn’t en­counter any more stum­bling blocks like this.

Cam­eras

You might see a pat­tern emerg­ing here, with the cam­eras firmly in the mid range. A rear-fac­ing 13Mp snap­per takes great close-up im­ages, but tends to strug­gle with de­tail in wider-an­gle shots. Take a look at the ex­am­ple pho­tos above for an idea of the qual­ity. The front­fac­ing 8Mp cam­era can cope with Skype calls, but it isn’t one to go for if you’ve got a strong selfie game – pic­tures are just too grainy.

Bat­tery life

The DTEK50 is pleas­ingly strong in terms of bat­tery life. It has a 2610mAh non-re­mov­able bat­tery that teams up well with the bun­dled fast charger. Af­ter tak­ing the de­vice off charge at 8am, it lasted a whole work­ing day with Wi-Fi and Blue­tooth on, re­ceiv­ing push no­ti­fi­ca­tions from sev­eral apps. Come 11pm it was on about 15 per­cent, which rep­re­sents good stamina.

Soft­ware

The DTEK50 runs near to stock An­droid Marsh­mal­low 6.0.1. It’s a plea­sure to use, as ever. One thing to avoid is the Black­Berry In­tel­li­gent Key­board – an on­screen mon­stros­ity that tries to make typ­ing eas­ier with pop up pre­dic­tions. Google Key­board is in­fin­itely bet­ter, so make sure you use it in­stead.

Where Black­Berry is try­ing to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the DTEK50 is in its con­cen­tra­tion on the pri­vacy and se­cu­rity of the de­vice and its user. The mar­ket­ing for the phone even calls it ‘the world’s most se­cure An­droid smart­phone’. This is a bold claim given An­droid’s open na­ture. What’s more, Black­Berry doesn’t prop­erly ex­plain what it’s done to the DTEK50 to make it so se­cure.

Aside from the claims that BBM is highly en­crypted (so is What­sApp), all the DTEK app does is make you aware of po­ten­tial se­cu­rity flaws and then prompts you to do some­thing about it. It won’t stop you send­ing your credit card de­tails to a spam email, for in­stance (then again that’s pretty much im­pos­si­ble). In­stead, the DTEK app gives you an over­view of your de­vice set up and points out where you might be vul­ner­a­ble.

We pur­pose­fully didn’t set up a PIN code to un­lock the phone – the phone du­ti­fully lets you know this is bad.

It’s good that the app shows you how to fix the prob­lem and gives you menu links straight to where to do it, but we couldn’t help but feel the mar­ket­ing is a tad mis­lead­ing by claim­ing the DTEK50 is the world’s most se­cure smart­phone. Any­one with a bit of know-how will al­ready have set up any other An­droid smart­phone to be just as se­cure.

What’s more use­ful is the abil­ity to mon­i­tor and change the per­mis­sions third-party apps have. If you’re wor­ried about an app ac­cess­ing your mi­cro­phone, for in­stance, you can set DTEK to no­tify you when it does so. Or, you can stop it do­ing so al­to­gether. This is more use­ful and pleas­ingly dis­creet if you don’t want to use them. The com­pany also says it will de­liver the DTEK50 An­droid se­cu­rity patches faster than any other hand­set, aid­ing se­cu­rity.

This all amounts to one ques­tion about the DTEK50 – who is this phone for? Busi­nesses may wel­come the An­droid Black­Berry if they are re­luc­tant to let go of the older mod­els, but in re­al­ity they will prob­a­bly just buy in a load of iPhones.

Ver­dict

The DTEK50 is a good phone. Above av­er­age, even. But we can’t fully rec­om­mend it be­cause of the way Black­Berry is mar­ket­ing it. The per­haps in­cor­rect sta­tus quo is that peo­ple don’t want to worry about se­cu­rity; they just want a phone that works. Se­cu­rity flaws on huge scales are largely down to ex­ter­nal data­base hacks, not de­vice vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties. The DTEK50 is a good phone at a good price, but it isn’t dif­fer­ent enough to drag Black­Berry back into smart­phone rel­e­vance. Henry Bur­rell

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