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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 II


Connections, performance, and battery
Trying to connect with the ElitePad 900 can be easy or difficult, depending on your approach. The tablet itself has no easily accessible ports, but if you are using one of the accessory jackets or the dock, then you have a reasonable set of connections. The individually sold dongles are annoying -- no one wants to walk around with a pocket full of those. The tablet has dual cameras, an 8MP one on the rear and a standard 1080p Webcam on the inside.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)
Every available EliteBook configuration has the same 1.5GHz Intel Atom Z2760 GPU and 2GB of RAM, with the main differences being either a 32- or 64GB SSD and various mobile broadband options. All this means that the system's performance is predictably comparable to other Atom-powered Windows 8 tablets we've tested, some of which cost a lot less.
Unfortunately, if you're counting on the ElitePad as a workplace machine, we have to hold it to a higher standard than a casual consumer PC. That means the Intel Atom experience can frankly be sluggish, especially if you're using apps, such as Google's Chrome Web browser, that are not optimized as well for Windows 8/Atom as Microsoft's default apps (IE10, for example). That, coupled with the small screen and relatively low resolution, made using the ElitePad fine in short bursts, but not as an all-day (or even all-afternoon) PC.
Battery life was good at first glance, running for 7 hours, 15 minutes in our video playback battery drain test. But, considering the battery life we've seen in some other Atom tablets, which can run 90 minutes longer or more, there's room for improvement. Our expansion jacket did not include the optional additional battery pack, so we were unable to test both batteries together.
Conclusion 
Of all the Windows 8 tablets we've tested to date, or at least the ones with Intel Atom CPUs, the HP ElitePad 900 has the most in-depth ecosystem of add-ons and accessories. Pick the right set for your needs and you can overcome most of the limitations of trying to work on a small, low-power tablet -- still, it's a shame there's no officially pitched HP solution to the lack of touch pad, pointing stick, or mouse (besides digging through a generic list of mice you can buy at the same time).
With the high starting cost of the tablet itself, plus the expensive accessories, you might be better off investing in a full Core i5 Surface Pro from Microsoft, or else hoping that your IT department is willing to foot the bill.
Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
HP ElitePad 900
1,833 
Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Load test (average watts)(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Find more shopping tips in our Laptop Buying Guide.
System configurations
HP ElitePad 900
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GBDDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 32MB Intel GMA; 64GB SSD
Asus VivoTab Smart
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 725MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB SSD
Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 737MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB MMC SSD
Dell Latitude 10
Windows 8 (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR2 SDRAM 800MHz; 747MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB MMC SSD
Acer Iconia W510P-1406
Windows 8 Pro (32-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Atom Z2760; 2GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,066MHz; 747MB (Total) Intel GMA; 64GB SEM64G SSD
Microsoft Surface Pro
Windows 8 Pro (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Micron SSD
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