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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The BlackBerry Q10 supports Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC. The music app is decent, as is the basic Maps app. The same goes for Documents To Go, which lets you read, create, and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents and view PowerPoint and Adobe PDF files. BlackBerry was kind enough to add a generous supply of social-media apps too in the form of Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and LinkedIn. Sadly, as with the Z10, the YouTube app isn't really an app at all, but a way to link to the service's mobile Web site. Other notable applications bundled with the Q10 are a notes program and an alarm clock with a nifty bedtime mode (it puts the kibosh on all alerts so you can rest better). Besides the keyboard, another benefit to holding out for the Q10 is a fresh infusion of software. The BlackBerry Q10 is the first of the company's handsets to ship with the latest iteration of BlackBerry 10, version 10.1. It brings a host of updates and fixes, including special tweaks that take advantage of the Q10's keyboard. A tool BlackBerry calls Instant Actions lets you jump straight into common functions simply by typing commands. For example, banging out the word "tweet" with text immediately following will post a Twitter update pronto. Typing the command also pulls up options for selecting your Twitter client of choice. Of course there is a wide range of uses for Instant Actions, for functions such as placing calls and crafting e-mails. I do have to say though that using BlackBerry 10's newfangled touch gestures on a keyboard phone takes some practice. Many times I wanted to use a touch pad that wasn't there rather than rip my thumb away from the keypad and reach for the Q10's display. Performance I never would have known that the BlackBerry Q10 was powered by a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, and not one of the cutting-edge quad-core CPUs driving this year's crop of muscular smartphones. The phone felt lively and responsive, smoothly gliding through multiple apps, menus, and browser windows without missing a beat. Putting the handset through our standard battery of basic performance tests, however, belied my impressions. The BlackBerry Q10 took a long 1 minute and 18 seconds to boot up to its lock screen. That's not as fast as the Z10 (56 seconds) and a snail's pace compared with modern quad-core smartphones such as the HTC One (7 seconds). As a matter of fact, the Q10's Web surfing speeds lagged behind as well. It took a full 8.1 seconds to load CNET's mobile page and an even slower 11.2 seconds for the desktop version of the site. This was with the device connected to AT&T's 4G LTE network, which has supplied quick data downloads in the past on countless phones I've tested. Performance: BlackBerry Q10 CNET mobile site load 8.1 seconds CNET desktop site load 11.2 seconds Weather Channel app download (15.2MB) 13.5 seconds CNET Sports app load 4.6 seconds Boot time to lock screen 1 minute, 18 seconds Camera boot time 2.7 seconds Camera, shot-to-shot time 1.5 seconds Call quality A huge bright spot in the BlackBerry Q10's performance was call quality. I tested the phone on AT&T's GSM network in New York and both I and my callers were impressed with the results. Callers reported crystal-clear audio with no static or other distractions to speak of. In fact, they had difficulty detecting that I was calling from a cell phone. Callers' voices were mighty loud to my ears as well, from the earpiece or from the device's speakerphone. People on the other end also commented on the clarity of speakerphone calls. BlackBerry Q10 call quality sample Listen now: Battery life In addition to excellent call quality, the BlackBerry Q10 delivered in another area where many smartphones fall short, longevity. In our highly controlled anecdotal battery drain test, the Q10 played back a video for an impressive 14 hours and 4 minutes before finally calling it quits. The device's behavior during my test period mirrored these results, and I consistently managed to go well over a full business day without recharging it. Camera One of our chief complaints about the Z10 was its no-frills camera app. That said, the phone was the first BlackBerry to pack an imaging system on par with the competition. The 8-megapixel camera you'll find on the Q10 is no different. It essentially uses the same image maker and software tricks as the Z10. Indoor shots were well exposed. There is one difference, though: the addition of an HDR mode for pulling out a high degree of detail in low light. You'll also find BlackBerry's TimeShift function, a mode that shoots multiple pictures in succession and then allows you to pick the best one. Interestingly, the phone provides an innovative circular wheel for cycling through moments in time. HDR mode lightens up shadows. (Credit: Brian Bennett/CNET) The Q10 does fall victim to the Z10's faults, though, namely that there's no way to select image resolution and that the editing tools are designed mainly for use after a picture has been shot. Even so, the phone does take respectable images. Indoor shots were well exposed with an acceptable level of detail. Outdoors, however, both details and colors looked flat and lifeless. Shot-to-shot time was an issue too since the phone required about a second to capture images. This lengthened substantially when the HDR mode was enabled. Details and colors outdoors looked flat. (Credit: Brian Bennett/CNET) The Q10's camera could snap photos of strolling subjects. (Credit: Brian Bennett/CNET) Conclusion How compelling the BlackBerry Q10 is really hinges on whether you believe that the ideal mobile device needs to be an efficient messaging machine first and a gadget for running apps second. If so, and I admit you're in the minority, then the Q10's superb keyboard and message-handling capabilities make it a perfect match. Its long battery life and comfortable keyboard may be what you've been holding out for, and the inclusion of BlackBerry 10.1 is extra icing on the cake. Those who want a phone tied to a bigger ecosystem and one that offers a wider selection of apps and services, however, should look elsewhere. Part I


One of the interesting things about the current crop of Windows 8 tablets is the many opportunities it gives PC makers to come up with clever accessories. For a standard laptop, there are, I suppose, bags and sleeves, but once you have that and maybe a mouse, you're pretty much done.
The Windows 8 tablets we've seen are essentially nearly identical black slabs of metal, glass, and plastic, whether from Acer, Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, or others. Most of these devices even have identical specs, with Intel Atom processors, 2GB of RAM, and 64GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage, so coming up with the proper accessories is even more important for differentiating from the pack.
The HP ElitePad 900 could have been just yet another slablike Windows 8 tablet, but this business-oriented system offers the widest range of tablet accessories we've seen to date, making it very flexible for mobile, home, and office use.
The tablet itself starts at $699, but that only includes a 32GB SSD. Trading up to a 64GB SSD to match other Windows 8 tablets takes you to $799. That's more than roughly comparable consumer tablets cost, but mobile broadband capabilities from T-Mobile or AT&T are included. Some configurations also currently include two years of 4G data from T-Mobile.
The set of accessories that came with our review unit is what really makes the ElitePad interesting. Unfortunately, the most interesting accessory -- called the "productivity jacket" -- is not yet available. It's a keyboard case with three adjustable screen angles, a very nice portable keyboard, and expansion ports that are built right into the case. When available sometime this spring it will cost $199, which is steep for a keyboard case, but this is essentially a sleeve, keyboard, and docking station in one.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Currently available are an expansion jacket, with HDMI and USB ports, plus room for an optional extra battery ($79), and a weighted docking station, with multiple video and data ports ($119). Putting all three together adds almost $400 to the already expensive $799 tablet. For $1,200, you could get a 13-inch MacBook Air, Microsoft's Core i5 Surface Pro, or for another $100, get Google's super-high-res Pixel Chromebook. There are dozens of other worthwhile investments in that price range, the key point being that $1,200 is an awful lot to spend on an Intel Atom/2GB RAM/64GB SSD tablet with a 1,366x768-pixel display.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
There is, however, a justification for this hefty investment. HP created the ElitePad 900 for business customers, not the casual consumers who might buy one of the many $500-$600 Atom Windows 8 tablets we've previously reviewed. The ElitePad is built with corporate IT department needs in mind, with support for various managed deployment technologies, such as HP BIOS Protection and LANDesk. Also to that end, the tablet itself lacks even a USB port -- for security reasons, all ports are relegated to the docks and case accessories (a SIM card and microSD card slot are under a tiny pin-open panel). That's something to keep in mind if you need on-the-go connectivity. Note that NFC is built in, but has yet to become a mainstream data transfer tool.
Many of HP's business-focused products, such as its early ultrabooks, make great crossover PCs and have a lot of consumer appeal. The ElitePad probably isn't one of those, as its high price and security quirks aren't as consumer-friendly as many of the other Intel Atom windows 8 tablets we've reviewed.
Price as reviewed / Starting price$799 / $699
Processor1.5GHz Intel Atom Z2760
Memory2GB, 800MHz DDR2
Hard drive64GB SSD
GraphicsIntel GMA
Operating systemWindows 8
Dimensions (WD)10.3x7 inches
Height0.4 inch
Screen size (diagonal)10.1 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter1.3 pounds / 2.0 pounds
CategoryUltraportable/tablet
Design and features 
This may come as a bit of a surprise, but the actual slate part of the ElitePad 900 ecosystem looks pretty much like every other Atom-powered Windows 8 tablet we've seen so far. In the hand, however, the build quality stands out, with a one-piece aluminum body and a Gorilla Glass screen.
While the dimensions look similar to those of tablets from Acer, Asus, Dell, and others, a concession to the corporate user is a screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio, rather than the more common 16:9 found in most laptops and tablets; this ratio gives you a little more vertical resolution. The 1,280x800-pixel resolution is the same as what you'd find on a non-Retina Display 13-inch MacBook Pro, and the screen is bright, with decent off-axis viewing, and is very responsive to finger input.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
I found myself using the ElitePad most often in its productivity jacket, which includes a full keyboard and USB/SD card connections. Like a heavy-duty iPad keyboard case, the jacket adds weight and size to the system, making it feel more like a chunky ultraportable laptop -- although at only 1.3 pounds by itself, the tablet is very light. The stiff hinge on the keyboard case keeps the screen from slipping, but also makes it nearly impossible to operate with one hand. It slots into three screen angles, but the screen may not tilt back far enough for your tastes.
The flat-topped island-style keyboard built into the case is as good as the best iPad keyboard cases, and reminds me of the excellent keyboard case for Microsoft's Surface Pro tablet, but built into a much thicker base.
So far, so good. But, here's where the ElitePad and its keyboard case run into trouble. The Surface Pro keyboard cover includes a small but functional touch pad. The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 has a small pointing stick built into its optional keyboard dock. But the ElitePad keyboard is just a keyboard -- there's no cursor control available at all, aside from directly using the touch screen.
Sure, Windows 8 is designed to be operated directly by the finger-on-screen method, and when the ElitePad 900 is used as an in-hand slate, it's fine. But when set up on a desk, in either the keyboard jacket or on the docking station, the system's productivity potential shrinks. You only solution is to connect a separate mouse or other pointing device. I actually paired the keyboard case with Logitech's T650 standalone touch pad and ended up with a very usable combination. But HP doesn't go out of its way to suggest a touch pad or even mouse pairing.
The expansion jacket is more like a protective sleeve, but includes HDMI and SD card ports, plus two USB ports. There's a compartment inside for a not-yet-available extra battery, making it feel like an oversize version of an iPhone battery case. The docking station is the most familiar of the accessories, and includes both HDMI and VGA outputs as well as an Ethernet jack. Dongles that connect directly to the tablet and offer Ethernet, SD card, USB, and video connections are sold separately for $29 to $39 each.
HP ElitePad 900 (tablet only)Average for category [ultraportable]
VideoNoneHDMI or DisplayPort
AudioDual-array microphones, stereo speakersStereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data1 microSD, SIM card slot2 USB 3.0, SD card reader
Networking802.11n Wi-Fi, BluetoothEthernet (via dongle), 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical driveNoneNone
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