In my first part of reviewing the Passport, I looked at the form factor. BlackBerry is renowned for its iconic hardware QWERTY keyboard. With the Passport, the Canadian company stretched things quite a bit. The passport’s wide form factor requires that stretching. What Blackberry did is put in a three-row keyboard and implement all special characters on-screen. How well does it work?
For starters, because it was a totally new way of text input (the combination of hardware keys and virtual special characters), it took a while, but once I got the hang of it, I find that it works very well. The keys are well raised for easy typing without being uncomfortable.
While there are only three rows of hardware keys with only alphabetic characters and a space bar, having special characters in a pop-up on-screen menu is like having a seven-row keyboard in all. Very efficient. It reminds me of Nokia’s Communicator days. Only, this is more efficient.
But the Passport’s keyboard has a really unique feature – it is touch-sensitive. This means that in addition to its primary purpose as a text entry tool, it is also useful for scrolling through webpages, documents and other menu. By running a finger over it vertically or horizontally, one can scroll up, down, right or left without touching the rest of the display..
Here is a short video demonstrating this feature:
This makes the Blackberry passport’s keyboard stand out in a class of its own. The user does not have to leave the keyboard to be able to scroll through whatever he is doing. It really is a keyboard on steroids.
I do have one minor complaint: there is no way to manually activate the keyboard in mildy dark environments. You see, on some rare occasions when the environment isn’t fully dark or fully lit (like in twilight environment), the sensor doesn’t kick in to activate the keyboard’s backlight, making typing a bit difficult in that scenario. It doesn’t happen often, but at least, a manual means of activating the keyboard backlight would have taken care of that.
Besides that niggle, the keyboard on the Passport is a superb piece of work and well suited to the device. I love it!