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Ever wanted a 5G smartphone with a slide-out keyboard? (Updated: New specs)

Update: The crowdfunded ASTRO Slide 5G Transformer is receiving a major downgrade, but a few upgrades are incoming too.

Published onJanuary 19, 2021

The Planet Computers ASTRO Slide 5G Transformer.
  • Planet Computers has launched a 5G smartphone with a physical keyboard.
  • The device has received a major downgrade and a few upgrades since its first reveal.

Update: January 19 2021 (5:46 AM ET): Planet Computers has confirmed that its crowdfunded ASTRO Slide 5G Transformer smartphone will be undergoing several spec changes ahead of its new June 2021 shipment window. The firm has downgraded the chipset from a MediaTek Dimensity 1000 SoC to a mid-range Dimensity 800 processor, claiming that the former chip suddenly became unavailable for purchase.

Fortunately, the company has decided to issue a few upgrades elsewhere, such as bumping up to 8GB of RAM (from 6GB), offering a Sony 48MP main sensor, upgrading the selfie camera (from 5MP to 13MP), and offering a hardware shortcut button.

The firm originally told backers that the 4,000mAh battery would be downgraded to a 3,500mAh battery, owing to thickness concerns. However, it’s now told Android Authority that it will be sticking with the 4,000mAh pack following a vote by backers, with an increase in thickness expected.

Original article: March 30 2020 (5:46 AM ET): Smartphones with physical keyboards have all but died out, with the BlackBerry Key series and Fxtec Pro 1 being part of this tiny family. Now, it looks like niche brand Planet Computers is ready to have a crack with the next one, and it packs 5G too.

The Planet Computers ASTRO Slide 5G Transformer IndieGogo campaign has gone live today, and it offers a similar slide-out keyboard design as the likes of the Nokia E7 and Fxtec Pro 1 (albeit with backlit keys).

The device’s 6.53-inch FHD+ OLED display also pops up ever so slightly so you can use it like a mini-laptop — although it doesn’t exactly look comfortable for that purpose. Furthermore, the hinge also seems quite chunky compared to other designs, as you can see below. Hopefully it can withstand falls, dust, and other challenges.

The ASTRO Slide 5G Transformer hinges.
Planet Computers/Vimeo

The other big selling point of the ASTRO Slide 5G Transformer is 5G of course, and this comes via the flagship-level MediaTek Dimensity 1000 processor. The SoC only supports sub-6Ghz 5G for now, but that’s the dominant 5G standard anyway. MediaTek’s chipset also offers an octacore CPU layout (four Cortex-A77 cores and four Cortex-A55 cores), dedicated AI silicon, and a Mali-G77 MP9 GPU.

Other noteworthy features include 6GB of RAM, 128GB of expandable storage, a 4,000mAh battery with wireless charging, an in-display fingerprint sensor, two USB-C ports, NFC, and a 3.5mm port. Need to take a few snaps? Then you’ve got a solitary 48MP camera on the back, while a 5MP camera handles selfies and video calls.

Are there still any phones with a physical QWERTY keyboard?
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Blackberry Key2 LE front, keyboard with atomic red frets, showing preloaded apps and BlackBerry features

On the software side of things, the Planet Computers device sports Android 10. But the firm has also pledged support for Linux distributions and multi-boot functionality. So this could be ideal for those wanting a proper desktop OS or enthusiasts wanting to simply tinker with their phone.

The ASTRO Slide 5G Transformer IndieGogo campaign kicked off today, with a goal of ~$200,000. The company has already reached 84% of its goal as of writing, with 40 days to go.

Keen on getting a device? Then the IndieGogo campaign of $546 is the cheapest option. But there’s also a second tier for $637 if the early bird option is sold out. Either way, the phone is scheduled for a March 2021 release and has a claimed full price tag of $911.

What would it take for you to buy a phone with a physical keyboard? Let us know in the comments!

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