BlackBerry Q5 vs Sony Xperia SP

Vs Paul Briden 14:34, 5 Jul 2013

Another battle of the budgets this time as the BlackBerry Q5 squares up to Sony’s Xperia SP

The BlackBerry Q5 is BlackBerry’s first foray into the more affordable sector of the smartphone market since it launched the BlackBerry 10 operating system.

It’s a cheaper equivalent of the BlackBerry Q10 Qwerty-equipped model, in the traditional BlackBerry style, rather than the company’s new touch-only approach seen on the BlackBerry Z10.

While the handset is a cheaper device it still shares plenty of hardware with its higher-end BlackBerry Q10 cousin.

The Sony Xperia SP is a similar story from the Japanese manufacturer’s side of things, it introduces many of Sony’s more recent design features to the cheaper category and there are one or two areas where it has a more premium flavour.

BlackBerry Q5: Key specs and features

The BlackBerry Q5 has a relatively compact build by modern smartphone standards, but that’s in part owing to the smaller display combined with a fixed Qwerty keyboard. It’s made from plastic and is quite lightweight, but the materials have a nice feel to them and everything is solidly put together.

The display is a particularly capable area of the phone thanks to the fact it sports the same resolution and pixel density as the premium BlackBerry Q10. It’s a 3.1-inch touchscreen at 720x720 pixels and 328 pixels-per-inch (ppi) which is very sharp, colourful and bright.

The phone uses IPS LCD rather than the BlackBerry Q10 AMOLED setup, so it’s not quite as strong on contrast and black depth but still perfectly capable enough.

Likewise the processor is the same set of running gear you’ll find inside the BlackBerry Q10, which means a dual-core 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon setup and 2GB of RAM.

The BlackBerry 10 operating system is very well optimised both to the display size and resolution and to the processor hardware, so it’s zippy and it looks good while it’s doing its thing.

Speaking of which, BlackBerry 10 itself is one of the main draws for the handset, or indeed any BlackBerry handset. It’s a massive improvement on the older and frankly uninspiring BlackBerry software and the company has managed to produce something very compelling for the modern market.

How’s that then? Well the platform has been built from the ground up to put multitasking at its core. I wouldn’t say that initially it’s the easiest interface to get to grips with but any mobile operating system takes a bit of getting used to and once you’re there it is actually remarkable easy to use.

All your messaging, notifications, calendar activities and social networking take place in the BlackBerry Hub, an ever-present screen always accessible by swiping with a gesture from anywhere in the interface. Although you can still access messaging and social networking apps individually, the BlackBerry Hub means you’re not constantly diving in and out of such apps to get things done.

Another neat trick is that if you’re in a full-screen app you can swipe up to minimise it, which means that rather than having a multitasking carousel you simply get a new temporary homescreen with a preview window for up to eight apps.

A final useful feature is BlackBerry’s universal search which, like equivalents on Android, allows you to search the web and the phone’s contacts, apps and other content simultaneously. On the BlackBerry Q5 (and Q10) all you have to do is start typing from the homescreen to kick this off, which adds a nicely instantaneous way to get to apps and content on your handset.

It’s also worth mentioning that as well as having over 120,000 apps on BlackBerry World, many of which seem to be of decent quality, BlackBerry 10 also allows you to side-load Android apps, currently for Android 2.3 Gingerbread or lower, but in future updates it’s expected support for Android 4.2 Jelly Bean apps will be added.

There’s also a wealth of music, TV and film content on BlackBerry App World and because BlackBerry 10 is based on QNX there’s a lot of potential for the company to patch in a lot of extra features and capabilities later on.

You get 8GB of onboard storage but this is boosted by microSD support for cards up to 32GB and connectivity includes microUSB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, 4G LTE, HSPA+ 3G, NFC and GPS. A 2,180mAh battery should ensure you get plenty of use out of the BlackBerry Q5 on a single charge.

Sony Xperia SP: Key specs and features

The Sony Xperia SP’s outer casing has a similar angular shape to other premium Xperia models with matte finish plastic bodywork and silver trim. The materials used, while not as high-end as its stable-mates, are still pretty good and the build quality has a nice feel in the hand. Unlike Sony’s flagship Xperia Z the Xperia SP has a curved back panel which is comfortable to hold.

Sony usually impresses with its display technology and the Xperia SP hasn’t suffered in this regard for being a more affordable model. The 4.6-inch touchscreen is a decent size and sports a 1280x720  pixel resolution at 319ppi. Not only is it very sharp and clear, but the Sony Mobile Bravia Engine 2 ensures colours are rich, whites are pure and you get good brightness levels too.

The handset uses Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and as a recent iteration of Google’s software it packs in the usual appealing set of features and functionality, including smooth operation, excellent multitasking, reliability and a choice of over 700,000 apps via Google Play.

This runs smoothly on the Xperia SP’s dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon processor clocked at 1.7GHz with 1GB of RAM and an Adreno 320 graphics processing unit (GPU).

The Xperia SP is an even match for the BlackBerry Q5 when it comes to storage as it has the same 8GB of onboard space and microSD for cards up to 32GB. On connectivity it’s in a similar scenario with 4G LTE, HSPA+ 3G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC, microUSB and GPS. It also has MHL TV-out. The battery is a sizeable 2,370mAh unit and lasts for a very long time on a single charge.

As well as great display tech, Sony also excels at cameras and the Xperia SP is fitted with an 8-megapixel Exmor RS sensor which performs very well for a phone in this price bracket. It includes an LED flash, 1080p HD video capture, digital stabilisation, HDR, panoramic capture and face and smile detection. Pictures and video have good dynamic range and produce some really vivid colours, so it’s ideal for the Instagram fans out there.

Direct spec comparison: Shootout

Device BlackBerry Q5 Sony Xperia SP
Dimensions 120.6x66x10.8mm, 120g 130.6x67.1x10mm,155g
Display 3.1-inch IPS+ LCD,720x720 pixels,328ppi 4.6-inch LCD,1280x720 pixels,319ppi
Camera 5-megapixel,LED flash,1080p video 8-megapixel,LED flash,1080p video
Storage 8GB, microSD up to 32GB 8GB, microSD up to 32GB
Processor, RAM, Graphics 1.2GHz/1.2GHz dualcore Qualcomm S4 Snapdragon,2GB RAM 1.7GHz dual-core Qualcomm S4 Snapdragon ,1GB RAM
Operating System, BlackBerry 10 Android 4.1
UI  n/a Sony UI
Connectivity microUSB,Bluetooth,NFC,Wi-Fi,Wi-Fi Hotspot,4G,GPS Bluetooth,microUSB,NFC,Wi-Fi,Wi-Fi Hotspot,Wi-Fi Direct,DLNA,GPS,4G
Battery 2,180mAh 2,370mAh

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