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I checked out the Blackberry Key 2 LE recently. While I thought it was a solid phone, I also got the feeling that it was built to not step on the toes of a more expensive model. The screen was nice but could be better, that sort of thing.

Now itís time to check out the fancier model, the Key 2 (no LE).


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The first thing that sticks out is the anodized aluminum body which feels much more special than the LE.

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Size-wise the Key 2 is closer to a ďregularĒ sized smartphone like an Pixel 3 or iPhone X than a Phablet like the XS Max or an Galaxy S9+ so itís very easy to hold.

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There are 4 buttons on the right which I think is too many buttons; volume, power and a convenience key. It makes me have to think about which button I want to press when Iím looking for the convenience or power buttons.

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The combined SIM card/MicroSD card slot is on the left.

The headphone jack is on top.

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Along the bottom are the USB Type C connector along with the speaker (left) and microphone (right).

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The 2ís keyboard is slightly different from the LEís. While the general shape of the keys are identical, the 2ís are a tiny bit taller.
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The keys along the side of the LE curve slightly at the edges whereas the 2ís stop right before the sides. Itís just a cosmetic thing; I donít find it changes how you use the keyboard.

The LE has a smaller keyboard while the rest of the keys on the bottom row are a tiny bit wider. A smaller space bar means the LEís fingerprint reader actually has a smaller surface area.

I actually found that the LEís fingerprint reader was more reliable than the 2ís. The LE seemed to get my fingerprint every single time while the 2 often takes a couple of tries. I tried deleting my finger multiple times and it doesnít seem to help. Is this due to the smaller reader?

Both keys have identical tactile feedback when you press them in.

Above the keyboard are capacitive menu buttons. While capacitive buttons looks sleek, theyíre prone to accidental presses when youíre typing on the physical keyboard.

Since they used capacitive buttons, they should have just extended the display all the way to the keyboard or used physical menu buttons. After all, future versions of Android move away from the home button and replace it with a gesture.

The USB Type-C connector supports Quick Charge 3.0 which allows for charging at up to 18 watts vs regular Type-C (no Power delivery support) which charges at 15 watts.


The 4.5Ē LCD display has a resolution of 1680x1050 so itís plenty sharp. It has an unusual aspect ratio of 4:3 which is a bit ďshorterĒ than most other phones. These days the trend is to shrink the top and bottom bezels so displays are getting longer. This is the opposite of that.

The shorter display isnít noticeable when youíre entering text since the LE doesnít require an on-screen keyboard.

You feel it more when you donít need a keyboard. Most Android phones have 16:9 displays which are longer so when youíre gaming the LEís display can feel a bit cramped. Either you donít see as much vertically or things can get ďzoomed outĒ so thereís empty space on the sides.

Itís a compromise; do you want an actual keyboard badly enough to sacrifice quite a bit of screen real estate?

Compared to the LEís display the 2ís is a bit warmer. They appear to have different displays even though they have identical resolution.

The screen has a really mid-range quality to it. Maximum brightness isnít as strong as a flagship but since this is an LCD display itís bright enough for pretty much all situations. Black levels are also not as deep; the LEís black bezel makes this more noticable.

Whites are a bit on the cold side. There isnít a setting to adjust the colour temperature. That said, to my eye, overall colour is excellent. Theyíre accurate with no oversaturation.


The single speaker at the bottom is used for media playback.

I found that the speaker on the cheaper LE was loud but had very limited range with no bass and was mostly optimized for voice. I had high hopes for the Key 2 but unfortunately it appears to have an identical speaker.

The 2 comes with 64GB of storage which can be expanded with MicroSD cards.


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Like the LE and many other phones the 2 has dual cameras on the back. The 2 has one camera for taking ďnormalĒ photos while the other has a telephoto lens for close ups. This is a contrast from the LE, which has one camera for taking pictures and the other to aid in calculating fake background blur.

The normal camera sensor has 1.28um pixels and a wider F/1.8 lens vs the Key 2LE which has smaller 1.12um pixels and a more pedestrian F/2.2.

Thereís quite a difference between the LE and 2 cameras; the 2ís is considerably more sensitive so it does much better indoors. It also has much greater dynamic range so it doesnít blow out brightly lit areas as much and darker spots have more detail.

The telephoto lens has relatively small 1um pixels and a slow-ish F/2.6 lens so Iíd avoid using it indoors unless you have a lot of light.


They Key 2 runs Android 8.1 aka Oreo. The most up to date version is 9.0 which was released 4 months before I posted this. It has a very comprehensive Blackberry-ish overlay.

Instead of the standard Android task switcher, it has something that looks similar to the one youíll find on BB OS.

They keys on the keyboard can be configured as shortcuts. You can set them up to make calls, send messages, launch apps, etc. There are 26 letter keys which is a lot of shortcuts to remember. While this is definitely a cool feature, I should point could also use Google assistant to accomplish the same task and more with just your voice.

Thereís the Blackberry hub which consolidates your calendar, messaging, ToDo list, phone book and widgets into one app. It can be brought up from any screen by swiping floating bar.

Locker is a place you can hide pictures, files and launch Firefox Focus in a password protected app.

Redactor allows you to hide things from your screen before you take a screenshot.

Window shade dims the screen. It then places a rectangle on the screen which isnít dimmed. You can move the rectangle around to view the screen discreetly.


Under the 2ís hood is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 SoC vs a 630 on the LE. Given that the Key 2 is the higher end model, youíd think TCL would slip a 8xx series SoC in the Key 2 but really its price puts it more in upper midrange price point than flagship territory.

Despite the model number only being slightly higher, the Key 2 actually noticeably faster than the LE. When you put them side-by-side the 2 is always noticeably quicker. It loads apps faster, draws web pages more quickly, scrolls more smoothly and installs apps in much less times.

While both are 6xx series SoCís, the 660 contains newer, more efficient Cortex A73 cores which explains the noticeable difference in performance. That plus the fact I found the 630 to be a bit lacking in the horsepower department.

While itís no Snapdragon 845, it sometimes feels almost as fast as one. I put it next to my Pixel 3 and the Key 2 oftentimes renders web pages as quickly. While they come with different camera apps both launch them at around the same speed.

Youíll also find 6GB of RAM vs 4GB on the 630 which while a to have probably doesnít make much difference performance wise.

With all that said, I installed Antutu which really helped to illustrate the difference between the Snapdragon 670, 630 and 845.

Antutu Key 2 (Snap 630) Key 2 LE (Snap 660) Pixel 3 (Snap 845)
CPU 64935 56235 87410
GPU 30028 21325 123108
UX 39355 32769 57379
Memory 7352 5750 14936

While the 670ís CPU and UX scores are quite close to the 845ís, its GPU score lags meaning the Key 2 isnít the greatest choice if you plan on doing a lot of intensive gaming.

The 3500mAh battery should easily last the day for most and a second day for some.

RF performance is average.

Maximum earpiece volume is quite loud while the speakerphone is merely average.
Incoming sound quality is good.


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Despite not actually being made by Blackberry, TCL has done an admiral job of continuing the Blackberry experience. If I didnít know about TCL being licensed to make Blackberry branded devices, I would have never guessed it.

The Key 2 looks, feels and works just like a Blackberry. Itís not just some random phone with the Blackberry logo.

Theyíve done an interesting job of slotting the Key 2 so that itís a bit more expensive that many mid range phones but is still a couple 100 cheaper than many flagships. While nothing about it really matches a flagship, it does a decent job of setting itself above other mid-range phones

Excellent keyboard
Overlay is very focused
Surprising performance
Long battery life

Speaker sounds lousy
Too many buttons on the side