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BlackBerry Q5 hands-on: an affordable BB10 device in a QWERTY shell (update: video)

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It's not the most exciting hardware launch to come from the newly reinvigorated (and rebranded) BlackBerry, but the Q5 is a device with a mission. Announced formally this morning by CEO Thorsten Heins on stage at BlackBerry Live, the Q5 is in some ways a more approachable successor to the Q10. Combining a 3.1-inch, 720 x 720 touchscreen display with BlackBerry's well-loved physical QWERTY, the Q5 is being squarely positioned at users in the developing world. And its less-than-premium build quality is a testament to that affordability. We spent some brief time getting to know this newest BB10 device, so skip past the break for our initial thoughts.

Gallery: BlackBerry Q5 hands-on | 31 Photos

The Q5's specs are nothing to get hot and bothered over. It's a dual-core device, clocked at 1.2GHz that reps the same resolution as its QWERTY relative, the Q10. At 720 x 720, users in these emerging markets are getting a handset with a fairly responsive HD LCD screen and a somewhat gimped physical QWERTY keyboard. Unlike the Q10, the Q5's keys are not arranged in clean, straight lines and there's a very cramped sense to the layout. It could be just the size of our particular fingers, but not even the slight fretting on the individual keys was enough to make detection second nature.

At first blush, the Q5 also comes across as chunky, an impression conveyed in large part by its all-over plastic hull. We'd ding it for the lackluster materials used, but that's precisely the point of this device. It's less about looks and more about performance and durability, so in that sense the Q5 is a decent effort. Certainly, it doesn't achieve the design simplicity and elegance of Nokia's recent low-end efforts, but it gets the job done.

On the right-hand side, you'll find the volume rocker with a dedicated key in the middle that, when pressed, launches voice search and on the opposite edge, microUSB and a covered port housing SIM and microSD slots. The power button and 3.5mm headphone jack are placed up top with the speaker at the base. As for imaging, the Q5 reps a 2-megapixel front-facer and 5-megapixel rear camera. The device harbors 8GB of internal memory, although users can expand that at will via the aforementioned microSD slot. And aside from employing the same resolution and screen size as the Q10, the Q5 features a similar 2,100mAh battery.

WIth a dual-core processor clocked at 1.2GHz (a BlackBerry rep confirmed that it is of the Snapdragon variety, but not an S4) and running the latest OS update, BB10's much-hyped flow remains, for the most part, uninterrupted. True, we find many of the swipe gestures a bit difficult to pull off given the close proximity of the keyboard, but barring that, navigation on the Q5 appeared unhindered by stutters or freezes. We did encounter a bit of lag when trying to access the built-in browser, but that has more to do with the crowded WiFi at BBLive than the Q5's own raw performance.

For now, there aren't any plans to bring the Q5 to the US market -- its destiny lies in other overseas territories. But you should be seeing this lower-end BB10 device, one Thorsten Heins claimed is "going to be a big hit," launch in foreign markets at an affordable price point sometime this July.

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