BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Earlier this year, we reviewed the BlackBerry Key2 which was seen as the latest attempt to revive the old-fashioned QWERTY-style smartphones. Now, Noida-based Optiemus Infracom is back with the Key2 LE, a budget-centric QWERTY smartphone that’s being pitched as an affordable Key2. With the Key2 LE, the narrative is once again to sell a phone with a physical keyboard, while we are still not sure the world needs another high-end, QWERTY smartphone.
The good news is that the BlackBerry Key2 LE is cheaper compared to the Key2 and is priced at Rs 29,990. The Android-powered phone is identical to the original Key2, but comes with a few sacrifices. The Key2 LE, like the Key2, focuses on privacy and security and its selling point will be a physical keyboard. The question that really matters is: Does the Key2 LE hold up against a regular Android smartphone? I have used the BlackBerry Key2 LE for a few weeks, and here’s what I think about the smartphone aimed at business users.
BlackBerry Key2 LE specifications: 4.5-inch 1620 x 1080 IPS LCD display, 3:2 aspect ratio|Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor|4GB RAM, 64GB internal memory, microSD card support (up to 256GB) |3000mAh battery|13MP+5MP dual camera with dual tone LED Flash|8MP fixed focus selfie camera|Android 8.1 Oreo OS|35 key backlit Physical Keyboard (QWERTY) with integrated fingerprint sensor
BlackBerry Key2 LE price in India: Rs 29,990 (Amazon India)
BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Design, display
We got the Key2 LE in a slate blue shade and it looks nice. The phone is relatively blocky (like the Key2) and the back has a rubbery finish. It is comfortable in hands and feels solid.
At first, it is hard to differentiate the Key2 LE from the original Key2. But a closer look reveals the differences between the two devices. As the name suggests, the Key2 LE is lighter and has a thin profile too. This is because the Key2 LE uses a polycarbonate frame rather than aluminum. Frankly, that’s not a bad thing. The Key2 LE is designed for those users, the ones who are not ready to shell out Rs 40,000 on the Key2. If we apply that logic, you will understand why the company has launched the Key2 LE with less premium build and modest specifications.
The Key2 LE’s screen is 4.5-inches with a resolution of 1,630 x 1,080 pixels and 3:2 aspect ratio — the same as the Key2. The screen size is smaller compared to today’s standards, which is a real drawback in our view. For someone who is used to a taller screen to browse the web, and watch videos, it would be really tough to go back to a smaller screen size. Though what works in favour of the Key2 LE is the quality of the display. The screen is very bright and colourful, with decent viewing angles which gets the job done. The 4.5-inch display works just fine in most conditions, including outdoors.
BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Keyboard
The biggest highlight of the Key2 LE is its physical keyboard and the company knows the strength of the device very well. The keyboard is responsive, and works really well. You get access to plenty of shortcuts to access apps, speed-dial numbers, etc. Interestingly, the Convenience Key comes configured to Google Assistant.
One of the key differences between the Key2 LE and Key2 is the size of the physical keyboard. The QWERTY keyboard on the LE is slightly smaller, but still larger than the keys on the KeyOne. Unlike the Key2 which has a capacitive surface on the keys, the Key2 LE does not have the ability to scroll around on-screen, although the fingerprint scanner integrated into the space bar is still there.
After using both the Key2 and Key2 LE, I can comfortably say that a physical keyboard does not necessarily enhance the typing experience. I am not against the physical keyboard, but honestly, it does little to type faster and accurately. This is my opinion, and it’s okay if you don’t agree with me.
BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Performance, battery
The mid-end Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 doesn’t impress on paper, but I haven’t notice slowdowns, thanks to its 4GB of RAM. Be it loading up apps, browsing the web, or watching YouTube videos, I got fairly decent performance. Let’s be clear: this phone is not as powerful as the OnePlus 6T or Poco F1, but the performance is acceptable for the audience it is designed for. Still, this phone isn’t made for playing games. The 64GB of internal storage should be sufficient, especially since you can expand the storage by using a microSD card.
This is an Android smartphone, like the Key2 and KeyOne. Although Android 8 Oreo is installed at the moment, an update to Android 9 Pie should come in the near future. The Key2 LE is a productivity device, so it was natural to expect plenty of preinstalled apps, including Calendar, Files, Notes, DTEK for easy security management, and even a Password Keeper app. The user interface is clean, uncluttered and you get a familiar Hub (previously seen on BlackBerry OS) integration for managing notifications and the Calendar, among others.
Battery life on the Key2 LE is satisfactory, if not the best. For starters, the phone has a 3,000mAh battery as opposed to the Key2’s 3,500mAh capacity. I am happy to report that the phone’s battery can get a day of juice on a single charge. Fast charging is also supported.
BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Camera
The Key2 LE uses a dual-camera setup on the back with a 13MP paired with a 5MP lens. The front has the same selfie camera as the Key2 — an 8MP snapper. The dual-camera setup on the rear is average, to say the least. The pictures captured in indoor settings were blurry and noisy.
Close up shots too came out of focus and noisy. In good lighting, the performance is better. I was able to capture decent photos with accurate colours and good contrast. It is hard for the Key2 LE to take even passable shots in low light. Many shots came out grainy, and soft. The 8MP front-facing camera does perform up-to-the market in outdoors, but the quality takes a toll in low-light settings.
BlackBerry Key2 LE review: Final verdict
At Rs 29,990, BlackBerry Key2 LE is a tough sell even for business-savvy consumers. For me, the biggest issue with the Key2 LE is the lack of purpose. Granted, the phone is not for everyone and it is targeted at those who can’t live without a physical keyboard. But that experience then has to overshadow everything else and that’s where the BlackBerry Key2 LE fails to recreate the magic of an old BlackBerry phone.