Blackberry KEYtwo vs. KEYone upgrade notes/comparison

The KEYtwo is a highly worthwhile upgrade from the KEYone. The KEYone proved there was adequate demand for a keyboard device, offering double or triple the battery life of “flagship” phones. The KEYtwo performance is more than adequate with Android 8.1, and I am quite pleased to generally recommend the KEYtwo over other devices such as iPhone or Google Pixel, particularly for corporate and other security-conscious users.

The KEYone performance was too slow with Android 7.1, but was improved with Android 8.1 upgrade after the release of the KEYtwo.

Keyboard

The KEYone keyboard backlight was somewhat objectionable in dim situations. After the Android 8.1 upgrade, the KEYone keyboard backlight can be disabled just like the KEYtwo. The KEYtwo has automatic day/night, configurable keyboard backlight brightness that is very welcome.

The quality of the KEYtwo keyboard feel and use is far better than the KEYone and PRIV, it’s something you just have to use to appreciate.

With regard to the side keys, before receiving the KEYtwo I thought I wouldn’t like having all the keys on one side. However upon trying the KEYtwo, I like all the keys on one side because I can now hold the phone in ways where I know I won’t accidentally hit the power button.

Display

The KEYtwo physical touch bar beneath the screen is only visible when illuminated, and can have its backlight disabled on the KEYtwo and KEYone with Android 8.1. This is a nice compromise as it hides the visual distraction of the keys when not needed.

The KEYtwo display (1680x1080 IPS LED) is the same as the KEYone, and is adequate considering the battery life benefits. When i went from the Pixel to the KEYone, I never really missed the Pixel’s higher resolution display, despite working with visually intensive science media. Remember that high resolution displays drain the battery faster, and some manufacturers quietly default their flagship phones to a low resolution mode!

The KEYtwo display can go much dimmer than the KEYone, which is good for night use.

Camera

The dual-camera of the KEYtwo is much-lauded. I found the KEYone camera autofocus to be quiet problematic in challenging low-light scenarios, as I like to take video at dawn/dusk/nightfall. I am hoping the KEYtwo has got this issue fixed.

  • The dual-camera is enabled in “Portrait” mode.
  • There is the option to put a Blackberry watermark on the corner of the photo, I found this to be a nifty option.
  • Electronic image stabilization of the KEYtwo has the same limitations as the KEYone–the stabilization is disabled if above 1080p30 or 720p30.

Storage

The original KEYone 32 GB internal storage I found lacking, and then became frustrated as the SD card access was slow. The KEYtwo 64 GB internal storage is thus a welcome upgrade.

RAM

The 3 GB KEYone model ran low on RAM, with 90-95% usage quite common. This may lead to some of the slow, stuttering feeling of the KEYone on Android 7.1.

The 6 GB KEYtwo is very smooth and fast by comparison, only using say 50% of the RAM with typical use. However, after several days of use with numerous apps open, I occasionally get a low memory warning on the KEYtwo, but do NOT get slow or stuttering performance.

CPU

The Snapdragon 660 of the KEYtwo is vastly better than Snapdragon 625 of the KEYone. The KEYtwo feels very fluid and a huge improvement over the KEYone. The KEYtwo performance feels like entry-level flagship phone.

Benchmarks show the SD660 at 2-3x the performance of the SD625. However, the SD660 is perhaps 20-50% slower than an SD821 (Google Pixel 1). I will take the lesser performance vs. Google Pixel for double or more battery life (yes, I used a Pixel for several months).

Charging

The KEYtwo officially supports QuickCharge 4.0 and USB-PD 2.0 (as used by Google Pixel). Informally, I found the KEYone also supports USB-PD, but I did not look into what exact parameters of USB-PD it supported, I just knew it also charged faster with USB-PD.

For any phone, it’s important and very useful to have the appropriate quick-charger, not just a simple 5 volt high current, but the actual QuickCharge and/or USB-PD as appropriate for your phone. The Blackberry KEYtwo is officially compatible with both QuickCharge and USB-PD, which I highly applaud and switch between both most days, since I have both types of chargers in various work locations.

Wireless

FM radio

Like nearly all Blackberry phones, FM radio (88-108 MHz, requires headphone as antenna) is included on the KEYtwo and KEYone.

LTE

The KEYtwo added bands 14 and 66 USA LTE band coverage. Check phone specs if your main use is outside the United States of America. Both the KEYtwo and KEYone have international dual-SIM models available–again be sure the LTE bands are appropriate for your intended travel.

  • KEYtwo (BBF100-2): 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/14/17/20/28/29/30/38/39/40/41/66
  • KEYone (BBB100-1 US V1): 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/13/17/19/20/28/29/30/38/39/40/41

  • BBB100-3 US V2 is for CDMA e.g. Verizon–not recommended as it compromises use on other domestic and international carriers.
  • Band 19 is a special band used in Japan, the same frequencies are in Band 5 in North America–no loss.
  • Band 14 is the 758-768/788-798 MHz FirstNet public safety band in North America
  • Band 66 is AWS-3 2100/1700 MHz in North America

Wifi

The KEYtwo can provide enhanced performance in dense urban/corporate WiFi networks.

  • KEYtwo: 802.11ac Wave 2, 867 Mbps, 2x2 MU-MIMO
  • KEYone: 802.11ac, 364 Mbps, 2x2 MU-MIMO

Bluetooth

Bluetooth 5 brings long-range Bluetooth along with substantial power savings and increased security.

  • KEYtwo: Bluetooth 5
  • KEYone: Bluetooth 4.2

The Blackberry KEYtwo also has aptX, which is excellent for high quality Bluetooth audio if your speaker supports it. The SoundBlaster Roar 2 is one of the many speakers supports aptX.

GPS

Both the KEYone and KEYtwo include GNSS systems such as NAVSTAR GPS (USA system), GLONASS (Russia), Beidou/Compass (China), OTDOA (LTE-based positioning).

The KEYtwo adds Galileo (EU) support, important as the system comes online.

Notes

Tags: ,

Categories:

Written by Michael Hirsch, Ph.D. //

Comments