BlackBerry KEYone Review

BlackBerry KEYone


Rather than feeling like an afterthought, the KEYone comes through with a surprisingly satisfying camera

The KEYone really doesn't have to do a whole lot with its camera for the phone to be successful; it's difficult to argue that too many of the shoppers whom the KEYone will appeal to are going to judge the phone based on its image-capturing prowess.

Basically, all the phone's camera has to do is not be an unworkable piece of garbage – and we're happy to say it very much isn't.

TCL equips the KEYone with a 12MP main camera with an f/2.0 lens, as well as an 8MP f/2.2 front-facer. There's nothing real fancy here – no laser-assisted auto-focus or LED flash for the selfie cam. On one hand, that could be a good sign, that instead of getting bogged down with extras, the KEYone is instead focused on a clean, no-frills, straightforward but functional camera experience. Then again, it could also reflect a a general lack of attention to the camera as a whole. So what's it going to be? Let's take a look.

Image quality

Going in with our expectations appropriately tempered, image quality from the BlackBerry KEYone's camera really turned out not bad at all. Focus speeds are quick enough, exposures tended to come out looking nicely balanced, and while the HDR mode occasionally took a little longer than we'd like, the output really is pretty consistently solid.

Of special note, we found the KEYone camera's low-light performance to be much better than we could have hoped for, snapping shots as evening faded into twilight without missing a beat.

If we were going out with the express intent of taking lots of pictures with a smartphone, the KEYone probably wouldn't be the first handset we reached for, but for a phone where you wouldn't expect imaging to be a top priority, the KEYone comes through with an impressively competent camera.

Video recording

If our expectations were low when it came to still image-taking, they're even lower when it comes to video. After all, who ever said, “hold on, let me get my BlackBerry,” when anticipating the need to film a moment for posterity? None of this is to say that we didn't expect the phone would be decent at video – we just doubt anyone is betting on the KEYone being a video-recording superstar.

One immediate plus is a nice mix of shooting options: how many other mid-rangers offer 4K filming in both 30fps and 24fps modes? And so long as you're filming at 1080p 30fps or below, you can tap into the phone's electronic stabilization to help smooth-out your shots.

Video shot on the KEYone looks alright, and is about as sharp as we'd expect, though exposure had a tendency to be on the darker side. And while the stabilization is nice to have for shooting modes that support it, we couldn't help but notice a small degree of background image-warping, as the the algorithm appeared to be struggling to keep things looking stable.

All in all, we're pretty darn satisfied with what the KEYone was able to do in terms of video. Re-focus times are nice, the interface is easy to use, and for a feature we initially were ready to nearly write off entirely, the phone ended up leaving us pleasantly surprised.


The KEYone's speaker won't blow anyone away, but earbuds with interchangeable tips are a nice extra

The small, oddly-shaped screen on the BlackBerry KEYone doesn't exactly lend itself to media-watching. With the 3:2 aspect display, you're pretty much guaranteed to be wasting screen real estate with black bars no matter what content you care to consume.

But get past the small size of that video, and there's a lot to like about media on the KEYone. One nice aspect to having this hardware keyboard is that it give you somewhere solid to hold the phone without smudging up the screen. And while to hear to most manufacturers talk about how bezelless phones are the way of the future, sometimes we really appreciate having a nice big non-screen spot to grip our phones.

Speaker output is a little on the quiet side of things, and while it's not the lowest we've tested so far this year, it's definitely not among the top performers. At least the analog headphone jack remains, and much like BlackBerry itself, that's one hold-over from the past that still has a little life in it yet.

More than that, beyond just having a headphone jack, the KEYone actually comes with a pair of earbuds – and ones with a bunch of alternate tips, at that. Coming with headphones is far from a certainty with even more mass-market smartphones, and for them to show up on a BlackBerry is a nice treat. There's nothing particularly special about the audio output of the included pair, so just we'll just consider them a welcome bonus.


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PhoneArena rating:
8.5Very good
Display4.5 inches, 1080 x 1620 pixels (433 ppi) IPS LCD
Camera12 megapixels
Qualcomm Snapdragon 625, Octa-core, 2000 MHz, ARM Cortex-A53 processor
Size5.87 x 2.85 x 0.37 inches
(149.1 x 72.4 x 9.4 mm)
6.35 oz  (180 g)

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