Tag Archives: Blackberry Z10

Blackberry z10: Camera and Multimedia, much much improved


Camera Hardware

Blackberry has not won and awards or praise for quality and innovation on the photo stills and video capabilities on their smart phones. The Z10 may not set any new standards but it does improve Blackberry standards by a big way and ensures its not multimedia that is taking away the buyer from Blackberry.

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The Z10 features a 8MP sensor coupled to a F2.2 lens in the rear, while the front camera features a 2MP sensor coupled to a F2.2 lens as well. 

IMAG0037 The field of view (FOV) of the camera compared to my HTC Butterfly is not great, but HTC is known for there very wide angle lenses compared to the competition.  The FOV i would say is more in line with the Samsung S3 though possibly a bit better (Samsung has one of the worst wide angle implementations, specially in video mode).

Still photos

The 10.0.9.x update which i tried while providing decent stills and videos, i felt were lacking in sharpness and detail. However once i got the 10.1.x update, the story changed.  The quality of still photos improved greatly, so much so that level of details was far better than the photos taken off from my HTC Butterfly under both good and low light conditions.  In good light it seems to offer better pictures than most phone cameras i have ever owned.

While the F2.0 lens of the Butterfly gave it an edge in low light, the Z10 did fairly well but more importantly when i analyzed the photos taken (in auto mode so that i can also consider the camera app IQ) the details were fastly better on the Z10.  A few reviews i read also showed comparison with the illustrious Galaxy S3, and here the Z10 does better than the S3 which is a good indication but came second to the Apple IPhone 5.

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IMG_00000010

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However the low light performance is no match for something like the Nokia 920 which has amazing low light pictures mainly due to its ability to slow down the shutter to absurdly low figures thanks to its hardware stabilization implementation.

The camera app for still photos compared to the Android, Apple and Microsoft (thanks to the Nokia Camera app and lenses modules) is very plain, with only the aspect ratio, mode, and flash settings being controllable.  In order to select the slow motion video, panorama, picture effects you will need to select the “Hopefully coming in the future” menu!

One feature that Blackberry has implemented is Timeshift, a capability currently already offered in the Nokia Lumia phones.  This is available as a complete different shooting mode, and is a very cool implementation.  It takes photos in burst mode, and then for any detected faces it allows you to go through a dial to decide which photo of that person you want to include in the final version.  Very very cool, but the only miss is that it disables the flash on Timeshift mode, so its usefulness is strictly in under good light.

The auto focus of the camera is sufficiently fast, but compared to the speed of AF i have been exposed to this is more in line with the Sony Xperia range than the HTC and Samsung phones for auto focus speed. 

The camera touch focus is implemented in a quirky manner that can take some time getting used to.  In the Android phones if you have enabled touch focus you just touch the location you want it to focus and boom it takes the photo, or it simply focuses on that point and takes the photo on the click of the capture button.  In the Z10, you have a focus point, you must be careful not to tap on it, and move the focus point to the specific area you want to focus and then tap to take the photo.  This approach means taking macro focus shots can be challenging specially in low light condition.

The focus accuracy is fairly good once you get used to this method, as you can see from the sample photos where i have moved the focus point.

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The flash of the camera is decent and more than enough to do the job.  Its a standard single LED unit which provides adequate coverage.

Blackberry like Nokia is well aware that getting good developers to start launching apps for their platforms are going to take of only if the platforms can show they are able to start taking on the two big boys in the form of Apple and Android.  So until then Blackberry like Nokia has implemented a very feature rich image editor that ensures the image editing options are fully covered.  So if someone tells you a Blackberry user, hey your phone does not have this, app, give the response, why do i need it when my in-built editor can do much much better for free 🙂

Video footage

The z10 is capable of recording 1080p at 30fps from its main (rear) camera, and 720p @ 30fps from its front camera. The Z10 really shines here, as the video footage under good and semi-decent light is amazing.  There is very good detail and smoothness on the video, and the audio quality is also very good.  The continuous auto focus does tend to hunt a bit when the subject is moving, and takes around 1-2 seconds to get the focus back.  Under low light conditions the footage becomes grainy and looses the color vibrancy.  However the video footage is very impressive and any Blackberry owner can be happy that the video is in par with the competition.

The video also features an digital video stabilization implementation. When enabled the feature does well in ensuring the video remains stable even if your hands are not steady while recording. 

However the video application is plain vanilla and you won’t find any features such as the ability to take a photo while video capture is going on, or changing the exposure, etc.

Speaker performance and headset

The in-built speaker is of the mono variant, and cannot compare with the new stereo implementations now becoming the benchmark as offered with the latest HTC one.   The speaker blares out a decent amount of volumes, and while the audio clarity is good the bass is lacking.

At max volume the speaker still holds strong rather than getting distorted which is a good, but the audio is best listened through an headset or external speaker.  

One annoying problem i noticed is that the headset is not industry standard, in a time where even Sony has moved away to accept the industry standard headset.

Video Player and editor

The camera comes with built-in player which according to external sites has a good support for codec’s.  The phone hardware is more than capable of handling 1080p videos with ease.

The Z10 also features app called StoryMaker, an app similar to the genre of the Microsoft Movie Maker, which provides cool features for you to trim, merge and downscale videos and also directly upload to youtube.  The app has been well implemented and should be more than sufficient for most video editing needs, which in android and the iOS world you will have to achieve by buying one or many apps.

Music app

The music app is implemented cleanly and provides a simple and quick interface for playlist creation, and music playback.  

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A good source on the use of new OS in addition to the great articles from crackberry was, http://us.blackberry.com/content/dam/bbCompany/Desktop/Global/PDF/Media-Gallery/blackberry-10-pressroom/BB10%20Reviewers%20Guide.pdf

Blackberry Z10 hardware: Not all versions have the same hardware!


While the BB market has been declining rather fast, specially among the enterprise users, I felt i had to try out the Z10 and see what new OS and hardware was capable of, since the Z10 and the new BB10 platform has shown good promise, but to many this maybe a year too late in entering the market.

Hardware

The previous Blackberry units very much like the Nokia smart phones running Symbian and Windows 7.x ran rather outdated hardware due to the fact that the operating systems they ran were not supporting modern multi-core hardware, let alone the capabilities of the single-core hardware.

However with BB10 and the Z10 (and now with the Q10 and Q5) Blackberry like Windows Phone 8 has leveraged far more modern and capable hardware.  The hardware in the Z10 maybe modern, but the Snapdragon S4 Plus now is a mid range processor/GPU in the Android space which are now running powerful quad-core and octa-core units.  While Apple may feature a dual-core processor on their current units, and Apple’s strategy of putting very powerful graphics (which is still a match even for the latest Android units) makes the Apple units more potent than the Z10 hardware.

Yet its unfair to compared a platform by the hardware specification alone, since with WP8 we saw the same hardware provide super smooth performance that an Android device fails to achieved. Similarly the Z10 with the new BB10 platform while having its peculiarities offers great multi-tasking, and smooth functioning, and the web browsing performance is very much in tag with the Android quad-core units. 

Not all hardware is the same, Asia and Middle East phones have older Texas Instrument processor

With BB having only a  limited set of models (but compared to Apple one might say they have a wide variety!) i expected that all Z10 units to be the same with possible differences in the antennas for regional support.  However to my surprise this was not the case.  The antenna support for different 2G/3G and LTE was expected, but what i did not expect was that the actual running hardware to differ.

Seemingly BB decided that LTE was not for the Asia and Middle East market phones, and thus decided to eliminate LTE support on this phone, and also by making this decision opted for a totally different chipset for phones of this market.

Model No Processor and GPU 2G Bands 3G Bands LTE Bands
STL100-1

RFG81UW

Dual-Core TI OMAP 4470 1.5Ghz  + Imagination GPU PowerVR SGX 544

GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900

HSDPA 850 / 900 / 1900 / 2100

Unsupported
STL100-2

RFH121LW

Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Plus MSM8960 (Krait) + Adreno 225 GPU

Same as STL100-1

HSDPA 850 / 900 / 2100

LTE 3, 7, 8, 20 (800 / 900 / 1800 / 2600)

STL100-3

RFK121LW

Same as STL100-2 Same as STL100-1

HSDPA 800 / 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100

LTE 2, 5, 4, 17 (700 / 850 / 1700 / 1900)

STL100-3

RFF91LW

Same as STL100-2 Same as STL100-1

HSDPA 800 / 850 / 1900 / 2100

LTE 2, 5, 4, 17 (700 / 850 / 1700 / 1900)

STL100-4

RFA91LW

Same as STL100-2

CDMA 800 / 1900

HSDPA 900 / 2100

LTE Band-13 (LTE 700 MHz )

The key change as you can see with the ST100-1 is that it uses an older TI OMAP processor.   Whilst the processor maybe old, the performance of this processor is still very good but in performance test run by users owning both the models, the browsing performance is significantly different with the Qualcomm S4 Plus unit performing nearly 1.5-2x times better.

The other advantage the Qualcomm unit has is that its made with a new fabrication process (28nm) compared to the TI OMAP unit (45nm) which should mean it should run cooler and possibly have an advantage on the battery usage when on 2G and 3G mode (LTE mode is known to be a power hog).

When you compare the GPU the difference is less obvious as the PowerVR 544 GPU can be more powerful if its the multi-core version (which is what the Apple IPhone uses) compared to the Qualcomm Adreno 225 unit.  However if its a single core PowerVR 544, then the Adreno 225 GPU will be far superior. 

The edge the PowerVR will have is that the older PlayBook device also ran a TI OMAP + PowerVR combination, but with sales bending greater to the Adreno based Z10, will new games be targeting the Qualcomm units?

The impact of this hardware change is also being felt on updates, with the Z10 sales being greater in volume in the US and European markets, the STL 2/3/4 models get more frequent updates than the STL 1. 

With the antenna differences marginal its is very weird why Blackberry opted for a two model approach (and they have done the same with the Q10 as well).

I found an STL100-2 with great difficulty as most phones in my country were STL100-1, or units brought from USA and Canada which meant the LTE would not work (we use LTE 1800Mhz).

Some useful links:

Firmware Upgrades

Make sure you have the correct OS to leverage the hardware and app market

When i got the unit it ran a 10.0.9 version of BB10, and since i did not have LTE compatible SIM i disregarded this to be simply because my SIM not supporting.  However i faced a problem that i could not install Skype (beta) which was released on BB World recently as it required the platform to be 10.1.x. 

I promptly tried the OTA (Over the Air = phone upgrade) which surprisingly said there were no updates.  This worried me, and the initial forums i read said i should update this with a leaked ROM.  I was on the verge of downloading a 920MB size download running 10.1.2xxx when another forum indicated that i should backup my phone,and try the update using BBLink.

The advise was good, as it prompted me with the availability of a new update of the 10.1.x range.  The update was large, around 1GB in download and the phone was updated to 10.1.1720, which was far from the latest but still better than what i had.

The good “side effect” of this update was that it now lists 4G as an option in the connection, even though my SIM is still not an LTE compatible.  It seems BB enables the settings based on the provider, and these updates come along with new firmware.  The evil “side effect”  of this update was a bug where the text message app no longer is able to match SMS received with the contacts which is driving me crazy!

Why Blackberry can’t provide small patches as done by Android, Apple, Microsoft for their platforms is a concern, as downloading 1GB each time to me is crazy! 

Your firmware upgrade depends on your SIM, not where your phone originated from

Many things to learn is what i have gathered with my first time move to a Blackberry devices.  My reading as i got to know the phone also found that your update depends on your SIM on the phone rather than what market your phone was made for.

For example though the phone i got was from European origin, since i have a Dialog SIM from Sri Lanka, the update i get will be based the approved firmware and features for Dialog.  It seems if you have an deactivated SIM, the update will still come based on the provider of the SIM if you are updating via a PC using BBLink.  A workaround suggested for getting updates that are not available from your providers is to get an old SIM from another provider from Europe or US so that you can get new updates faster.

The BB10 Operating System

>coming soon 🙂