Sunday, January 17, 2010

Samsung SCH-220 Code - silver (MetroPCS)

Samsung SCH-220 Code - silver (MetroPCS)

Product summary

The good: The Samsung Code offers a sleek design with an easy-to-use QWERTY keyboard. The smartphone also has Bluetooth, GPS, and a 2-megapixel camera.

The bad: Runs on the older Windows Mobile 6.1. No Wi-Fi.

The bottom line: The Samsung Code is a basic but solid messaging smartphone for MetroPCS customers.

The Samsung Code (SCH-i220) is MetroPCS's first Windows Mobile 6.1 smartphone, which seems like a step backward seeing as Windows Mobile 6.5 devices are available. However, that shouldn't detract the customers from getting the messaging-centric device. The Code offers a sleek design, easy-to-use keyboard, and decent performance and call quality. Plus, it costs $100 less than the carrier's only other smartphone, the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330, making it a nice and affordable alternative. The Samsung Code is available now for $299.99 with a $50 prepaid monthly plan, which includes unlimited voice, text, and data.

Having seen several QWERTY slate devices over the past few months, we expected it to be a much of the same as we've seen; however, we were pleasantly surprised by the Samsung Code's design. While it's nothing incredibly fancy, the Code has an eye-catching dark metallic gray chassis and slim profile. The handset measures just 4.6 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 thick and weighs 3.6 ounces, so it fits into a pants pocket without adding too much bulk and it feels comfortable in the hand.

The Code features a 2.4-inch QVGA (320x240 pixels) non-touch display. While on the smaller side, text and images look clear and bright on the screen, though it tends to wash out in bright sunlight. You can customize the Home screen with various background images, home screen layouts, themes, and so forth. We found the Samsung WizPro home screen layout to be particularly useful as it provides a toolbar along the bottom where you can scroll through some of the more commonly used applications, including your Calendar, favorite contacts, and multimedia.

To help you navigate through the menus, there is a directional keypad below the display that also doubles as a jog wheel. It works well both as a D-pad and scroll wheel and features a center select button. You also get two soft keys, Talk and End/power buttons, a Home shortcut, and a back button to make one-handed operation of the phone easy.

Also easy to use is the Code's QWERTY keyboard. The keys are raised above the surface and don't feel too soft or stiff when pressed, so that made for a comfortable typing experience. With large buttons, we had little problem composing text messages and even cranked out longer e-mails with minimal mistakes. We can't foresee too many users having problems with the keyboard.

In addition to the aforementioned navigation controls, there's a volume rocker on the left side and a user-programmable shortcut key on the right, as well as a 3.5mm headphone jack and Micro-USB port. As usual, the camera and self-portrait mirror are located on back with the microSD slot behind the battery door.

The Samsung Code comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a software CD, and reference material.

Powered by Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard Edition, the Samsung Code doesn't offer some of new enhancements of Windows Mobile 6.5, such as an improved Internet Explorer Mobile browser and revamped Home screen layout. However, Microsoft has opened up its Windows Marketplace for Mobile to Windows Mobile 6.1 phones, so you should be able to access the store to download more apps to the Samsung Code. In addition, MetroPCS throws in a link to its own app store on the phone.

As is, the Code ships with the full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite and a handful of productivity tools, including a PDF viewer, an RSS reader, a voice recorder, a notepad, a calculator, a stopwatch, and a measurement converter. There's also a Task Manager so you can switch between apps and end tasks to optimize memory usage and the smartphone's performance.

Being a Windows Mobile phone, you also get Microsoft's Direct Push technology for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via an Exchange Server. In addition, you can configure the device to access your POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts. Samsung includes its own setup wizard to help you along the process and includes direct links for popular clients, such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL, and Comcast. All we had to do to get our Gmail on the Code was simply enter our e-mail address and password, and the phone did the rest. While the smartphone offers text and multimedia messaging, the smartphone only comes preloaded with Windows Live Messenger.

Phone features of the Samsung Code include a speakerphone, speed dialing, three-way calling, conference calling, and voice dialing. The address book is only limited by the available memory and has room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, company information, and so forth. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo, group ID, or custom ring tone.

Both Bluetooth and GPS/A-GPS are onboard. MetroPCS has its own location-based service called MetroNavigator so you can get voice-guided driving directions and real-time tracking with the smartphones GPS. Supported Bluetooth profiles include A2DP for stereo Bluetooth, hands-free kits, audio-video remote control, object push, file transfer, phone book access, basic printing, and personal area networking. Unfortunately, there's no integrated Wi-Fi but the Code is 3G EV-DO capable.

The Code's multimedia capabilities are average. You get the standard Windows Media Player with support for MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV files. In addition, you get a 2-megapixel camera with video recording capabilities and a decent amount of editing options, such as white balance settings, effect, and night mode. Picture quality was quite impressive. Images looked sharp and despite the fluorescent lighting, colors looked pretty rich.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1,900MHz) Samsung Code in San Francisco using MetroPCS roaming service and call quality was decent. We made multiple calls during our test period and experienced clear audio with very little voice distortion or background noise. We also had no problem using an airline's voice automated system. Meanwhile, friends reported mostly good results, though some did say that we sounded tinny. Speakerphone quality wasn't very great, however. While callers said they could hear us OK, the volume was very low on our end so it was hard to hear the conversation even in quiet environments. We had no problem pairing the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

Overall, the Samsung Code felt like a responsive device. There weren't any major delays in performance, aside from some brief pauses when working in multiple apps, nor did the phone crash on us during our test period. Though the Code is EV-DO capable, we were only able to get 1xRTT in San Francisco. CNET's full Web site loaded in 1 minute 20 seconds, while mobile sites for CNN and ESPN came up in 15 seconds and 13 seconds respectively.

The Samsung Code features a 1440mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 6 hours and up to 12.5 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the Code provided a solid 7 hours of talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Code has a digital SAR rating of 0.623 watt per kilogram and Hearing Aid Compatibility rating of M4/T4.

(from: team)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

T-Mobile Tap (midnight blue)

T-Mobile Tap (midnight blue)

Product summary

The good: The T-Mobile Tap has a comfortable and lightweight design, a music player, a 2-megapixel camera, an FM radio, and GPS. It has good call quality as well.

The bad: The T-Mobile Tap's small screen size results in a cramped virtual keyboard and a difficult browsing experience. The Web browser feels a little primitive as well.

The bottom line: If you can get past the limitations of the screen size, the T-Mobile Tap is a decent midrange touch-screen phone.

Chinese phone maker Huawei is relatively unknown in the U.S. market. Up until recently, its only U.S. phones have been basic handsets, like the Huawei M328 from MetroPCS. That has changed with the T-Mobile Tap, which marks the company's first feature-rich touch-screen handset with a major U.S. cell phone carrier. The T-Mobile Tap is available for $79.99 with a two-year contract and $179.99 without.

The T-Mobile Tap has a similar look and feel to the HTC Touch. Measuring 4.2 inches long by 2.2 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the Tap has curved corners, rounded edges, and a soft-touch exterior. This gives it a nice comfortable feel in the hand, and at 3.7 ounces, it won't weigh you down. Like the Touch, it is also one of the more petite touch-screen handsets we've ever used.

One of the reasons the Tap is so small is due to its 2.8-inch display, which is smaller than the 3.0-inch displays on comparable touch-screen phones like the Samsung Mythic and the LG Chocolate Touch. Despite its size, however, the screen has 262,000-color support and 240x320-pixel resolution, which results in crisp and vibrant graphics. You can adjust the brightness, the backlight time, and the greeting message.

The touch screen on the Tap is quite responsive, though you need to press the screen a little hard at times. It has haptic feedback, and you can change the intensity of the vibrations. You also can improve the precision of your finger taps by going through the calibration wizard. Along the left side of the Tap's home screen is a widget tray very similar to the TouchWiz interface commonly found on Samsung phones. You can show or hide it, and you can drag and drop shortcut icons to and from the home screen. Some of the more notable widgets on the Tap include shortcuts to Google Maps and GPS with TeleNav.

Also on the home screen are four shortcut icons along the bottom. They correspond to the phone dialer, the contacts list, the Web browser, and the main menu. There's also a speaker icon on the top right of the home screen that lead to a list of different sound profiles. The phone dialer has a roomy number keypad, with a large area for the dialed digits. It has a handy backspace key, and quick access to the contacts list and the call log.

As for text messages, you can either enter text via an alphanumeric T9-capable keypad, or via a full virtual QWERTY keyboard. Thanks to the Tap's internal accelerometer, the keyboard is automatically revealed when you rotate the phone while in text input mode. The keyboard feels cramped due to the small screen size. The Tap supports auto word completion in either English or Spanish.

Beneath the display are three physical controls, which are the Talk key, a square navigation toggle with a middle selection key, and the End key. The toggle seems a little redundant since you can just use your fingertips to navigate, but it's a nice option to have anyway. On the right spine are the volume rocker, the screen lock key, and the camera key. The power button and headset/charger jack are on the top. On the back is the camera lens next to the external speaker. The microSD card slot is located behind the battery cover.

The T-Mobile Tap has a 1,000-entry phonebook with room in each entry for four numbers, an e-mail address, a nickname, a company name, a job title, a street address, a web address, birthday, anniversary, and information notes. You can add the contacts to caller groups; pair them with a photo for caller ID, or any of 27 polyphonic ringtones. You can also use voice recordings or your own MP3 files as ringtones. Other basic features include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a reminder feature, a memo pad, an alarm clock, a calculator, a unit converter, a world clock, a stopwatch, and a timer.

A few more advanced features include voice command support, a voice recorder, POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail, stereo Bluetooth, GPS with TeleNav, and a HTML browser. Even though you can use it to view full Web pages, the browser feels a little primitive. You can perform basic functions like enter a URL and refresh a page, but you can't do a keyword search on a Web site or toggle your Javascript settings. To zoom you must slide your finger along the magnifying glass line or with the volume rocker. We much prefer using the volume rocker, as it feels more effective. Yet, you can't zoom out all the way into full page mode, which means a lot more scrollingon such a small display.

The Tap also has a built-in music player. You can load your music via a microSD card, which is helpful since the Tap has only 156MB of internal memory. The player interface is basic but easy to navigate and use. You can create and edit your own playlists, set songs on repeat or shuffle, and there's a graphic equalizer as well. You can also send the music player into the background while multi-tasking in other parts of the phone. A nice bonus is a built-in FM radio, which you can only use with the headset plugged in.

The Tap's 2.0-megapixel camera can take pictures in five resolutions and three quality settings. Other settings include three color effects, a night mode, five white balance presets, three shot modes, a self-timer, and two shutter sounds plus a silent option. Photo quality was not bad. Though images didn't look as sharp as we'd like, colors were bright and vibrant. The camcorder can record in two resolutions (176x144 and 320x240) and with similar settings as the still camera.

You can personalize the Tap with a number of graphics and sounds for wallpaper and ringtones. If you want, you can download more via the Tap's browser. The Tap comes with a number of applications and games. They include Google Maps (complete with Streetview and traffic information), Brain Challenge, Platinum Solitaire, UNO, and Bubble Bash 2. You can download more Java apps and games via the browser as well.

We tested the quad-band T-Mobile Tap in San Francisco using T-Mobile. We were quite impressed with the call quality. We heard our callers with little distortion and plenty of volume. They sounded natural as well.

Callers reported similar good call quality. They did detect some environmental noise and there was a little bit of hiss, but it wasn't a deal breaker. They also reported good volume levels and a natural sounding voice. Speakerphone calls was also quite good, though callers said there was a lot more echo and background sound. On our end, we heard them loud and clear, though their voices sounded a little harsh.

The mono speakers emitted tinny and flat audio, so we would recommend using a headset for the best music- or radio-listening experience. The Tap comes with a wired headset in the package.

The 3G speed on the Tap was good, but not great. We loaded the full CNET front door in around a minute and 5 seconds, which is a little slower than we would have liked.

The T-Mobile Tap has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10 days of standby time. The tested talk time is around the same, at 5 hours and 15 minutes. According to the FCC, it has a digital SAR of 1.09 watts per kilogram.

(from: team)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Samsung Convoy SCH-U640 (Verizon Wireless)

Samsung Convoy SCH-U640 (Verizon Wireless)

Product summary

The good: The Samsung Convoy has a durable, easy-to-use design and a respectable feature set. Call and photo quality were excellent.

The bad: The Samsung Convoy has a 2.5mm headset port and a proprietary charger jack. 3G performance was a bit slow.

The bottom line: Despite a couple of design complaints and a missing feature, the Samsung Convoy is an easy-to-use phone with great performance.

Editors' note: This review originally reported that the Convoy does not support Verizon's push-to-talk network. In fact, the phone does support the service. We apologize for the error.

Hot on the rugged heels of the Motorola Barrage comes an equally durable phone for Verizon Wireless called the Samsung Convoy. Similar in form and function to AT&T's Samsung Rugby, the Convoy is built to withstand the elements while offering 3G, a 2-megapixel camera, GPS, and a music player. We consider it an easy-to-use phone with admirable voice quality. It will cost you $99 with service and after a $50 mail-in rebate.

You'll know right away that the Convoy is meant to be a rugged phone. It has a tough plastic skin, rubber sidings, and a battery cover that locks firmly into place. It's not completely waterproof, but it is certified to the usual military specifications for humidity, dust, shock, temperature, and salt fog. Indeed, the Convoy has a solid, comfortable feel in the hand and the hinge is sturdy.

The postage stamp external display supports 65,000 colors (128x128 pixels). You can adjust the contrast only, but the screen shows the date, time, signal strength, and photo caller ID. It also works as a viewfinder for the camera lens and you can use it to access a selection of features like your calendar, Bluetooth, the music player, and voice commands. Below the display are three dedicated music controls, while below them is a large speaker. The camera lens sits above the display, and there is no flash.

The internal display measures 2.2 inches and supports 262,000 colors (220x176 pixels). It's not exactly eye-popping, but it's bright and vibrant with sharp colors and graphics. Outside of your usual Verizon complaints, the menu interface is easy to use. We like that you can choose from three menu styles and that you can adjust the position of icons and replace the standard menu choices with your favorite apps. Other editing options include the backlight time, clock format, dial font size, and menu font size and style.

The navigation array includes a large toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a camera shutter, a voice dial control, a clear button, and the talk and End/power keys. The buttons are flush, but their spacious design makes them easy to use. You also can set the toggle to offer shortcuts to four user-defined features. The keypad buttons are equally spacious. Though they're flat, we could dial and text quickly without making mistakes. The numbers on the keys are large as well and they have a bright backlighting.

On the right spine you'll find a microSD card slot, a speakerphone control, and a 2.5mm headset jack. It's disappointing that we don't get a 3.5mm jack on a music phone. On the left spine are a programmable shortcut button, a volume rocker, and the port for Samsung's proprietary charger. Samsung is making good strides toward the Micro-USB charger standard, but it didn't happen here. Also, since the rubber flaps covering the ports and memory card slots aren't completely secure, we suggest taking care that the Convoy doesn't get a full dunking.

The Convoy has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, a street address, and notes. You can organize callers into groups and pair them with a photo and one of 20 polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a calendar, a speakerphone, an alarm clock, a stop watch, a world clock, and a notepad.

For more demanding users, the Convoy offers speaker-independent voice commands and dialing, USB mass storage, PC syncing, stereo Bluetooth, instant messaging and chat, and support for POP3 e-mail. Thanks to the integrated GPS, you also can connect with Verizon's VZ Navigator. On the whole that's a fairly strong feature set, and you can access Verizon's push-to-talk network for an extra $5 per month.

The 2-megapixel camera takes pictures in five resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 down to 160x120. Other editing options include a self-timer, three quality settings, five color effects, four white balance choices, a 10x digital zoom, an adjustable ISO, spot metering, and a brightness meter. You also get several shooting modes--divided multishot, autoshot, and panoramic--and a selection of shutter sounds. The camcorder has a smaller number of editing options. Videos for a multimedia message are capped at 60 seconds, but you can shoot for longer in standard mode.

Photo quality was very good for a 2-megapixel shooter. Colors were bright and there was little to no image noise. Some of our shots had a slight pinkish tone, but that was our only complaint. Just remember that without a flash, you'll need to have enough light to get a decent image. Videos were fine, but nothing great. You can transfer images off the phone in a message, via Bluetooth, or through a wired connection to your computer. Verizon also gives you an online album. The Convoy has a respectable 90MB of integrated shared memory and can accommodate microSD cards up to 16GB.

As an EV-DO phone, the Convoy supports the full range of Verizon's 3G services, including V Cast streaming video content, and the V Cast Music with Rhapsody. Both the V Cast menu and music store interface are pretty much unchanged from other Verizon phones. Player options include the usual limited shuffle and repeat modes, but V Cast Music also will recommend other songs based on your playlist. The Convoy includes an airplane mode for listening to your tunes while aloft.

You can personalize the Convoy with a banner, wallpaper, and display themes. The Convoy doesn't come with any additional games or applications, but you can download options form Verizon with the WAP 2.0 browser.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900; EV-DO Rev. A) Samsung Convoy in San Francisco using Verizon service. Call quality was quite respectable on the whole. The signal was clear and strong, voices sounded natural and the volume was sufficiently loud. We also didn't encounter any interference from other electronic devices. We used the phone in a variety of places and could hear clearly in each one. Honesty, we have no gripes. The Convoy is compatible with M4 and T4 hearing aids.

On their end, callers said we sounded great as well. We heard no complaints even when we were calling from a noisy place. Some couldn't tell we were using a cell phone. Speakerphone quality also was admirable. The external speaker gets quite loud and the audio remained clear on both ends. We also were pleased with Bluetooth headset calls and with the quality of the voice-command feature.

The 3G connection was shaky when downloading music tracks from the V Cast Music Store. It took almost 2 minutes to download a 3.73MB song, which is quite long. But once the music was on the phone we were impressed with the quality, both over the external speaker and headphones.

The Convoy has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 22.37 days standby time. Our tested talk time is much longer at 7 hours and 32 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Convoy has a digital SAR of 0.912 watt per kilogram.

(from: team)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nokia 6350 - red (AT&T)

Nokia 6350 - red (AT&T)

Product summary

The good: The Nokia 6350 has a slim, easy-to-use design and good call quality. The feature set includes 3G, GPS, and push-to-talk.

The bad: The Nokia 6350's photo and video quality are disappointing. The headset jack is 2.5mm.

The bottom line: The Nokia 6350 does the job as a phone for voice calls, but it doesn't measure up as a multimedia device.

The Nokia 6350 is the second Nokia handset that AT&T has offered this autumn season. Its feature set is similar to the carrier's Nokia Mural, though it offers a sleeker design. It has everything you need for basic communication, and is a good pick if you're a Nokia fan, but it's not our choice for a multimedia handset. Call quality is decent, though, and the price is affordable.

The 6350 doesn't go out of its way to impress, but it has an attractive design. We like the slim profile, smooth lines, and the soft touch material that covers most of the front and back covers. When open, it forms a smooth arc like most of the Nokia's recent U.S. models. At 3.67 inches by 1.86 inches by 0.68 inch and 3.62 ounces, the 6350 is portable, but it has a comfortable, solid feel in the hand. The 6350 comes in graphite (gray) and red, but the features are the same on both models. According to Nokia, the 6350 is free of harmful materials and 80 percent of its parts can be recycled.

The 6350's external display is only 1.36 inches, but with support for 262,244 colors (160x128 pixels) it's quite sharp for its size. It shows the date, time, battery life, signal strength, and photo caller ID. It also works as a viewfinder for the external display. Above the display is the camera lens, while below are the dedicated music controls--you can use them to activate the music player without opening the phone. On the downside, the keys are a bit small and you'll need to press them firmly.

Completing the exterior of the phone are a volume rocker and a push-to-talk button on the left spine. The controls are tiny, but you can find the rocker by feel when you're on a call. Below them is a 2.5mm headset jack; we'd prefer a standard 3.5mm jack on a phone with a music player. The Micro-USB/charger port is on the phone's right spine and the microSD card slot is behind the battery cover.

The internal display measures 2 inches and supports a rich 16.7 million colors (320x240 pixels). With that resolution we'd expect bright, vibrant colors and sharp graphics, and the 6350 delivers. The Series 40, sixth-edition menu interface is easy to use, and you're offered a decent number of customization options. You can change the font size and home screen font color. You also can add shortcut icons to the home screen.

The navigation array is flush, but spacious. There's a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, a shortcut for the browser and GPS feature, a camera shutter, and the Talk and End/power keys. That's a nice assortment, though we'd replace the browser and GPS shortcuts with a speakerphone key and a dedicated back button. You can personalize the toggle with shortcuts. The keypad buttons are also flat, but their spacious design makes dialing and texting easy. They numbers on the keys are large as well, and they have a bright backlighting.

The 6350 has a 1,000-contact phone book with room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mails, a street address, a birthday, a formal name and nickname, a company name and job title, and notes. You can save callers to groups and pair them with one of 14 polyphonic ringtones and a photo or video. The SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts.

Essential features include a vibrate mode, a calendar, a to-do list, text and multimedia messaging, a notepad, a calculator, a timer, a stopwatch, and a full duplex speakerphone. On the higher end you'll find speaker-independent voice dialing, instant messaging, a voice recorder, PC syncing, USB mass storage, and support for AT&T's push-to-talk network. You can use the 6350 as a modem and the Bluetooth 2.1 feature includes stereo and file transfer profiles. The handset also offers access to POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail through a Web-based interface, but you'll be typing your messages on the alphanumeric keypad.

As a 3G phone, the 6350 offers the full set of AT&T's wireless broadband multimedia services. You'll find Cellular Video (streaming-video content) and AT&T Mobile Music (wireless song downloads through partners). The experience with the two applications is similar to that on other AT&T phones; both are minimalist in their designs, but the music player supports a wide variety of file formats and it offers features like album art, an equalizer, playlists, shuffle and repeat modes, and an airplane mode. You also get a solid selection of music-related features, such as support for XM Radio, a Music ID app, music videos, and a community section.

Yet, the 6350 doesn't stop there with its Java apps. Beyond the music offerings it has a fair number of titles, some of which are subscription-based. They include The Weather Channel, WikiMobile, Yellowpages Mobile, a unit and currency converter, a world clock, MobiTV, Juice Caster, and Mobile Banking. As the 6350 comes with Assisted GPS, you also can get AT&T Navigator and a Where app for local search.

The two-megapixel camera takes pictures in four resolutions and three quality settings. You'll also find a self-timer, a multishot mode, a brightness control, a 4x digital zoom, color effects, and white balance. The camcorder, which offers a similar set of editing options, caps clips for multimedia messages at 42 seconds, but you can shoot longer videos in standard mode. The 6350 has just 52MB of integrated memory for storing your work, so we suggest using a microSD card as backup--the phone can use cards up to 16GB. Photo quality is disappointing, unfortunately. Colors were drab and there was a lot of image noise.

You can personalize the 6350 with a selection of wallpaper and display themes. More options and additional ringtones are available from AT&T's Media Mall service using the WAP browser. Gamers can play demo versions of Monopoly Here & Now, Diner Dash 2, Midnight Bowl, and World Poker Tour Hold 'Em 2. The full versions and additional games titles are available for purchase.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was satisfying. The signal was clear and strong, there was no static or interference, and the volume was loud. Occasionally the voices warbled on our end, but it wasn't a big deal. We could hear in most environments and the phone didn't pick up a lot of background noise.

Callers reported good conditions. Most could tell that we were using a cell phone, but they didn't report anything amiss outside of the voice warbling we heard. Automated calling systems could understand us, but it was best when we were in a quiet room. Speakerphone and Bluetooth headset calls were fine as well.

Streaming video quality is unimpressive. There was a lot of pixelation and the audio was slightly out of sync with the video. It wasn't an enjoyable experience, even for short clips. On the bright side, the 3G connection (HSDPA 850/1900/2100) allowed for quick downloads and videos never paused for buffering. Music quality was decent given the external speaker's loud output, but our tunes sounded cleaner over headphones.

The 6350 has a rated battery life of 4.2 hours talk time and 18 days standby time. The tested talk time is slightly less, at 3.5 hours. The promised multimedia times are as follows: 5.4 hours of video playback, 5.58 hours of video recording, 25.3 hours of music playback, and 5.25 hours of gaming. According to FCC radiation tests, the 6350 has a digital SAR of 1.03 watts per kilogram.

(from: team)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Nokia N900

Nokia N900

Product summary

The good: The Nokia N900 offers a powerful mobile Web browser, plenty of storage, a 5-megapixel camera, and an ultrasharp display. It's also fast, multitasks well, and has excellent call quality. Wi-Fi, 3G, Bluetooth, and GPS are all onboard.

The bad: The user interface isn't very intuitive. Ovi Store for the N900 isn't live yet, limiting the number of available apps, and it doesn't sync with Exchanger Server 2003. The phone is a bit bulky and not all apps work in portrait mode.

The bottom line: While it has yet to reach its full potential, the Nokia N900 is a powerful mobile device with excellent browsing capabilities and vast customization options. However, its unintuitive interface and other limitations make this a smartphone for tech enthusiasts and early adopters only.

The Nokia N900 is the next evolution of the company's Internet Table, and don't let its smaller size fool you. It delivers more power, adds phone capabilities, and has one of most robust mobile Web browsers on the market today. It also runs on the Linux-based Maemo platform, which offers great customization options and multitasking abilities but has yet to live up to its full possibilities. The N900 feels incomplete with its limited Exchange support and an app store that has yet to go live. Also, the user interface is incredibly unintuitive, making it frustrating to use at times. Like we said, there's plenty of potential there, but for now, the N900 is probably best for tech enthusiasts or early adopters, while those after an everyday, more mainstream smartphone should stick with the current crop of favorites. The Nokia N900 is available unlocked for $569, though you may be able to find it for less online.

Aside from the slider design, the Nokia N900 bears very little resemblance to its predecessors. Instead of a tablet form factor, the N900 looks more like one of the N series smartphones, such as the N96, but is on the bulkier side at 4.37 inches wide by 2.35 inches tall by 0.77 inch thick and 6.38 ounces. In hand, the N900 feels like a very solid phone but the extra weight is noticeable when you're on a phone call and it'll make for a bit of a tight fit in a pants pocket.

There are a couple of quirks about the smartphone. First, most apps only work in landscape mode and there are very few that work in portrait mode. In fact, the only one we could find was the phone app. It's not a deal-breaker but we'd definitely like to have the option of using more apps in portrait mode. Also, there are no Talk and End keys (or any other of the standard navigation buttons), so a simple task of making a phone call requires a couple of extra steps. This wouldn't be such a huge deal if the user interface was a bit more intuitive (more on this later), but if you're using the device for the first time and trying to make a call or simply trying to return to the previous menu, it can be slightly confusing.

Without physical navigation buttons, you'll mostly use the N900's 3.5-inch resistive touch screen to get around the phone, and it is quite a beauty. The WVGA display (800x480 pixels) is amazingly sharp and bright and has an ambient light sensor and brightness controls. Also, although it's a resistive touch screen, which requires that you use a little more pressure than capacitive screens, we found it to be very responsive to our touches, whether we were opening an app, scrolling through lists, or switching between home screens.

For text entry, you get a full QWERTY keyboard, which you can access by pushing the screen upward. There isn't much space between the keys, but the buttons are a good size and have a nonslippery texture and a slight bump to them, so most users should have no problem with the N900's keyboard. Our only complaint is that Nokia has, once again, placed the space bar off center, which interrupts the flow of typing, particularly for left-handers since it's located on the right side. We don't really understand why the company keeps doing this.

While you don't get the standard navigation array, there are some physical controls on the exterior of the smartphone. On top of the device, you'll find a volume rocker, a power button, and a camera activation/capture key. The right side holds a lock switch, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a stylus, while there's a Micro-USB port on the left. The camera and dual LED flash are located on back, both of which are protected by a sliding cover, and like the Nokia N86, there is a kickstand so you can prop up the device to watch movies or view a photo slideshow.

User interface
As we mentioned earlier, the Nokia N900's UI isn't very easy to use right out of the box, but with time and customization, it can offer a lot. Running on the Linux-based Maemo platform, the smartphone offers four home-screen panes that you can rotate through by swiping from left to right and vice versa. You can personalize each pane with various widgets and shortcuts. To do so, just press on a part of the home screen (outside of any widgets or shortcuts), and you'll see a little tab menu with a settings wheel icon drop down from the top of the screen. Pressing that will bring up another Desktop menu in which you can choose to add a shortcut, contact, bookmark, widget and also change your background or theme. There's also a Manage View option, and you can remove any of the home screens if you think four is too many. To remove any items from a pane, press the X on the right-hand corner of the widget or shortcut.

You may see one of two icons in the upper-left-hand corner on each of the home panes. When you don't have any apps open, you'll see a grid icon, which when pressed, will take a main menu of apps. If you're running other programs, you will see an icon with multiple windows and this takes you to a page that shows all your running apps. From there you can switch to a different program or exit out of one, making multitasking on the N900 quite easy.

Figuring out how all the menus work and what each icon is takes time and in our experience, requires a lot of trial and error. For example, once you get deeper into a task, it's not always clear how to return to the previous page (you just tap outside the window, by the way), and a simple task like this shouldn't be so confusing. However, you learn with more use and with more time; we customized the user interface to our liking and found it quite useful, especially the multitasking window.

Though Nokia has removed "Internet Tablet" from the product name, the browsing experience still takes top billing and it's where the Nokia N900 really shines. The smartphone's browser is based on Mozilla technology and is one of the most powerful mobile browsers we've seen, displaying pages much like you would see on your desktop. It offers AJAX support and Adobe Flash Player 9.4, so you can view Flash content, such as videos or games, right from the browser. Other features of the browser include visual bookmarks, the capability to search within a page, downloads, and multiple windows, but again, finding these options isn't very intuitive. To zoom in and out of pages, you can simply use the volume rocker on top of the phone or double tap the screen. Alternatively, you can use your finger to create a little circular motion on the touch screen.

The N900 can connect over Wi-Fi and is compatible with T-Mobile's 3G network, since it supports the 900/1700/2100MHz HSDPA bands. Though the smartphone had no problem finding and connecting to our Wi-Fi network, we had some initial problems getting online using T-Mobile's 3G network. After a little research through some forums, we found that the N900 had the incorrect APN settings, so we had to go into the Connections menu and change it from to Then we were good to go.

Using T-Mobile's network here in New York, CNET's full site loaded in an impressive 15 seconds and displayed all Flash content, including CNET TV videos. Load times for video took a bit longer and the videos were a bit choppy, though still viewable, and the fact that we could even view it from the browser was amazing. That said, we had problems getting Flash games to play on the N900. Mozilla is also working on a mobile version of Firefox, which will be available first on the N900 in early 2010. A beta version is also expected by the end of 2009.

As a phone, the N900 has quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, conference calling, speed dial (via the contacts widgets), vibrate mode, and text and multimedia messaging. There is no support for voice dialing at this time. You can make VoIP calls, however, and the N900 offers wizards for setting up your Skype, Jabber, and SIP accounts. Bluetooth (supports hands-free kits, mono and stereo headsets, audio/video remote control, file transfer, and object push) and GPS are also onboard.

The Maemo platform offers the basic productivity tools and messaging capabilities, but there are limitations. For example, while the Nokia N900 can access multiple POP3 and IMAP accounts, it currently only syncs with Exchange Server 2007 and not Exchange 2003, so we couldn't hook up our work e-mail to the smartphone, which is almost a deal-breaker. Also, while there are a number of apps and personal information management tools preloaded on the device, including Documents to Go, Nokia Maps, a PDF reader, a calendar, a calculator, and a clock, the Ovi Store for the N900 isn't officially available yet, limiting the number of apps available for download to just about a dozen through the phone's Application Manager. That said, Nokia has said it will send out an update to resolve these issues soon.

As a multimedia device, the Nokia N900 can certainly hold its own. The built-in media player supports MP3, WMA, AAC, M4A, and WAV files and displays album art and ID3 tags. You get basic shuffle and repeat modes and you can create playlists on the fly. There's also support for Internet radio and an FM tuner. (Note that you need to use the included headset for the latter.) The N900 can also play back MP4, AVI, WMV, MPEG-4, Xvid, 3GP, H.264, and H.263 video files, and includes a dedicated 3D graphics accelerator. The Nokia N900 has a whopping 32GB of internal storage and a microSD expansion slot (up to 16GB), so space should not be an issue here.

Like a number of Nokia N series models, the N900 features a 5-megapixel camera with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens with dual-LED flash, autofocus, and video-recording capabilities. There are multiple camera options, including white balance adjustment, ISO sensitivity, exposure settings, and geotagging. Picture quality was quite good. Even in a darker lit room, the N900 delivered a sharp image with decent coloring. There's also an onboard photo editor if you want to touch up your photos afterwards.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; WCDMA 900/1700/2100) in New York using T-Mobile service and call quality was excellent. We were impressed at how crystal clear audio sounded on our end. There was absolutely no trace of background noise or voice distortion, and there was plenty of volume. Friends also had similar praises and said they couldn't tell we were calling from a cell phone. We had no problems using an airline's voice-automated system and didn't experience any dropped calls during our testing period.

Speakerphone quality was also good. Occasionally, the sound could be a bit muffled, but for the most part, we had no issues with speakerphone calls. We successfully paired the N900 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

Powered by a 600MHz TI OMAP3 3430 (Cortex A8) processor, the N900 performed beautifully during our testing period. The transition between home screens was smooth and the smartphone was very responsive with minimal delays even when working in multiple applications. We loaded up a couple of MPEG-4 videos on the device and playback was smooth with synchronized audio and images, and the picture quality was particularly amazing on the N900's sharp display. With the 3.5mm jack, we were also able to plug in our Bose On-Ear Headphones and enjoy rich-sounding music.

The Nokia N900 features a 1320mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 9 hours (GSM)/5 hours (3G). In our battery drain tests, the N900 fell an hour short of the promised 3G talk time, coming in at just 4 hours. According to FCC radiation tests, the N900 has a digital SAR rating of 0.92 watt per kilogram.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

LG Shine II (AT&T)

LG Shine II (AT T)

Product summary

The good: The LG Shine II has an attractive, sturdy design and a bright display. The feature set is functional, streaming-video quality is admirable, and the speakerphone is loud.

The bad: The LG Shine II's controls and keypad aren't very intuitive and the signal strength was somewhat patchy.

The bottom line: The LG Shine II isn't a top-notch performer, but its sturdy metal build and broad feature set will attract some people.

The LG Shine II is actually the third handset in the Shine series that we've reviewed. The first model, the Shine KE970, was an unlocked phone that we saw in 2007. It offered a bright display and a unique navigation array, but we didn't think it was worth the unlocked price of $575. The second handset, the Shine CU720, debuted with AT&T. Though we weren't crazy about its keypad or controls, we enjoyed the phone, particularly at its contract price of $149.

That brings us to the Shine II, aka the GD710. Also for AT&T, the Shine II takes after its predecessors by sporting a shiny metal exterior and a midrange multimedia feature set. Unfortunately, it also suffers from a few of the drawbacks we had beefs with in the CU720. For example, though it sports a different design for the navigation array, it remained difficult to use. Performance was variable, though the phone feels solid. You can get it for $119 with a two-year contract and after a $50 mail-in rebate. The price without a service contract is $269.

Because of its slider design and sturdy metal skin, the Shine II resembles the earlier Shine models. The brushed silver exterior certainly catches the light, though you'll also find that the mirrored surface over the display attracts fingerprints and smudges. On the upside, the metal skin feels solid in the hand. We like that the slider mechanism clicks firmly into place on either end, but a thumb grip for opening the phone would be nice. At 4.2 inches long by 2 inches wide and 0.53 inches deep, the Shine II travels well. It's on the heavier side (4.4 ounces), but it wasn't a bother.

The 2.2-inch display supports 262,000 colors (320x240 pixels). Colors and graphics are sharp, the display is bright, and the menus are easy to use. You can change the brightness, backlighting time, dialing font size, and color and menu font size. You also can view the menus in list or icon styles.

As we mentioned, the Shine II doesn't offer improved navigation controls. Though the KE970's array was weird, we liked it once we learned how to use it. The CU720 took a turn for the worse with its tiny joystick and the Shine II takes another unsuccessful track. To begin with, the two soft keys below the display are way too thin. We could find them by feel, but you had to press them just right. The four-way toggle takes up almost the entire area below the soft keys. It's quite spacious, but it's way too stiff to be useful. Thankfully, the rectangular OK button is a bit better. It's raised above the surface of the phone and is easy to find by touch.

As on many slider phones, the keypad buttons are flush. Dialing by feel is rather difficult, but the backlighting is bright and the keys have a nice give beneath your finger. In usual LG style, the numbers on the keys are large, though the letters are quite small. People with visual impairments should take note. Above the keypad buttons are a large clear/back button and the Talk and End/power keys. We'd prefer the option to access these without opening the slider.

On the left spine you'll find a slim and flush volume rocker. On the opposite spine are a camera shutter, a control that opens an onscreen shortcut menu, and the charger port/headset jack. Though the latter uses the Micro-USB charger standard, we'd rather have a 3.5mm headset jack. Also, a combined jack means you can use only one peripheral at a time. The camera lens and flash sit on the battery cover, but you'll need to remove the cover to access the MicroSD card slot.

The Shine II's 1,000-contact phone book has room in each entry for five phone numbers, two e-mail addresses, and notes. You can assign callers to groups, and for caller ID you can assign your friends a photo and one of 10 polyphonic ringtones. Basic features include an alarm clock, a calendar, a note pad, a calendar, a tip calculator, a full duplex speakerphone, a world clock, a task list, a stop watch, and a unit converter.

The Shine II offers a fair number of features beyond the essentials. You'll find Bluetooth, PC syncing, voice commands and dialing, a voice recorder, a file manager, USB mass storage, and instant messaging (AIM, Windows Live, and Yahoo). The Shine II also has Assisted-GPS and supports AT&T Navigator. Access to POP3 and IMAP4 e-mail is through a Web-based interface, so you'll be typing your messages on the alphanumeric keypad.

The 2-megapixel camera takes pictures in five resolutions, from 1,600x1,200 down to 160x120. You also can adjust the brightness, color effects, white balance, image quality, and shutter tone, and you can use a night mode, a 2x zoom, and a self-timer. The camcorder shoots clips with sound in two resolutions (320x240 and 176x144). Editing options are similar to those of the still camera, including the flash, which doubles as a light. Clips meant for multimedia messages are capped at 32 seconds, but you can shoot for longer in standard mode.

The Shine II has a generous 100MB of internal memory for storing your work. Alternatively, the microSD card slot accommodates cards up to 16GB. If you want to send it on to friends you can use a variety of methods, including MMS, Bluetooth, and e-mail. For videos, the handset supports AT&T's Video Share service. Photo quality is fairly good: colors were natural, but our images were the slightest bit blurry.

As a 3G phone, the Shine II offers the full set of AT&T's wireless broadband multimedia services. You'll find Cellular Video (streaming-video content) and AT&T Mobile Music (wireless song downloads through partners). The experience with the two applications is similar to that on other AT&T phones; both are minimalist in their designs, but the music player supports a wide variety of file formats and it offers features like album art, an equalizer, playlists, shuffle and repeat modes, and an airplane mode. You also get a solid selection of music-related features, such as support for XM Radio, Music ID, an app for making your own ringtones, music videos, and a community section.

Like many AT&T phones in its class, the Shine II offers a selection of Java apps, some of which are subscription-based. They include The Weather Channel, WikiMobile, Yellowpages Mobile, Notifier, a world clock, MobiTV, and Mobile Banking.

You can personalize the Shine II with a selection of wallpaper, color schemes, clock styles and alert tones. The handset also comes with demo versions of four games: Ms Pac-Man, Uno, Tetris and Diner Dash 2. You can use the WAP 2.0 browser to find full titles or download additional customization options and ringtones.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone in San Francisco using AT&T service. Call quality was satisfying, but we wouldn't say it was excellent. Though the volume was loud and voices sounded natural, the signal wasn't consistent. Not only did the audio cut out every now and then, there was also a slight amount of static. These issues didn't ruin our experience, but they were noticeable.

Our friends also heard a bit of static on their end, and a few mentioned that the Shine II picked up background noise. Though we didn't have any trouble hearing when we were in a noisy place, our callers weren't so lucky. Automated calling systems could understand us most of the time, though it was best if we were inside. On the upside, the speakerphone gets quite loud and is relatively clear. Bluetooth headset calls were fine.

The Shine II supports the 1900 and 2100 UMTS bands for 3G service. The browser performed well and we were mostly satisfied with the streaming-video quality. Clips loaded quickly and there was a small amount of pixelation at the beginning of each clip only. On one occasion a clip froze, but most of the time we didn't have any problems. Also, we were pleased that the video frame takes up the entire display. Music quality was fine thanks to the powerful external speaker. Your tunes won't have a lot of range, though, unless you use a headset.

The Shine II has a rated battery life of 3 hours and 20 minutes talk time and 12 days and 12 hours of standby time. It has a tested talk time of 3 hours and 26 minutes. According to FCC radiation tests, the Shine II has a digital SAR rating of 0.761 watts per kilogram.

(from: team)

Monday, January 11, 2010

HP iPaq Glisten (AT&T)

HP iPaq Glisten (AT&T)

Product summary

The good: The HP iPaq Glisten features a spacious QWERTY keyboard and offers the full range of wireless options. The phone has a sturdy construction.

The bad: The smartphone has a low-resolution screen that really isn't optimized for a touch user interface. It has subpar multimedia capabilities, and performance can be sluggish at times.

The bottom line: Offering the bare minimum, the HP iPaq Glisten fails to impress us. It can serve the role of a basic messaging smartphone, but there are better alternatives out there.

It's been a while since we've seen a smartphone from HP here in the United States, but the company's hoping to shine with its new messaging device for AT&T, called the HP iPaq Glisten. The Windows Mobile 6.5 handset looks decent on paper, offering all the essential features a mobile professional would want in a smartphone: a full range of wireless options, e-mail capabilities with a spacious QWERTY keyboard, and productivity tools. However, after spending some time with the device, we came away feeling completely underwhelmed by the iPaq Glisten. Its AMOLED touch screen should be one of the highlights of the smartphone, but instead, the low-resolution screen and the poor touch interface make it one of the phone's downfalls. In addition, there's very little in the way of extras or customization that just makes the smartphone feel drab.

For our money, we'd rather give up the touch screen and go with something like the RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700, which offers a sharper screen, faster performance, and costs about $80 less than the iPaq. However, if you're not a BlackBerry fan or are partial to Windows Mobile, the iPaq Glisten can do the job, just don't expect a lot of bells and whistles. The HP iPaq Glisten is available now with a two-year contract for $179.99, after a $50 mail-in rebate.


Designed for business users, the HP iPaq Glisten has an appropriately corporate-friendly look with its all-black casing and silver chrome highlights. Its design is similar to the rest of the QWERTY messaging smartphones out there today but like the Samsung Jack, the Glisten is slightly on the wider side at 2.48 inches wide by 4.45 inches high by 0.52 inch thick, so it's a bit of a handful when you're holding it up to your ear on a phone call. It does have a very sturdy construction, however, and has a soft-touch finish on back.

One of the highlights of the iPaq Glisten should be its 2.5-inch AMOLED resistive touch screen, the reason being that AMOLED displays are sharper, brighter, and consume less power than standard LCDs. Unfortunately, the Glisten's lowly QVGA resolution (240x320) doesn't make it pop quite as much in comparison to the AMOLED displays on the Samsung Omnia II and the Behold II. It's still bright and readable, but just doesn't display images and text quite as smoothly or as sharply as the others.

In addition, the small screen isn't optimized to take full advantage of the new touch-friendly menus of Windows Mobile 6.5. For example, there's more scrolling involved since the iPaq Glisten can only show a few of the Start menu icons onscreen at once. Also, once you get past the new Today screen and Start menu, the submenus look a bit antiquated and selecting items from the cramped drop-down require that you break out the stylus to make selections. The virtual soft keys along the bottom of the Home screen also require a bit of precision, so we would have preferred the traditional physical buttons. You do get a few navigation controls below the display, however, including Talk and End keys, a Start menu shortcut, an OK button, and a directional keypad.

Now, while we're not huge fans of the Glisten's screen, we have few complaints about the smartphone's full QWERTY keyboard. It features large, domed buttons with clear lettering and ample backlight, so we had very little problem using the keyboard. The bottom row also includes shortcuts to several apps, including the Web browser, calendar, messages, and AT&T Navigator, which is handy.

On top of the device, there's a power button and a quick-launch key to turn Wi-Fi on/off. The left side holds a volume rocker while you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack and a Micro-USB port on the right. As usual, the camera is located on back with the microSD expansion slot hiding behind the battery door.

AT&T packages the HP iPaq Glisten with basic accessories, including an AC adapter, a USB cable, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

The HP iPaq Glisten keeps it fairly straightforward in the features department, remaining focused on the most essential tools for business users. As we noted earlier, the smartphone is running Windows Mobile 6.5 Professional Edition, so you get some of the new benefits of the updated OS, such as Microsoft's My Phone backup service, Windows Marketplace for Mobile, and an improved Internet Explorer Mobile.

E-mail capabilities remain pretty much the same as Windows Mobile 6.1 with real-time synchronization with your Outlook e-mail, calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. Once Exchange 2010 is released, Windows Mobile 6.5 will support conversation view for e-mails, unified messaging, free/busy calendar lookup, and more. The iPaq Glisten also supports POP3 and IMAP accounts, text, multimedia, and instant messaging. A Facebook app came installed on our review unit but you can download more social networking apps as well as numerous other titles from the Windows Marketplace.

Other apps shipping on the iPaq Glisten include the full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite, Adobe Reader LE, Sprite Backup, MSN Weather, MSN Money, AT&T Navigator, AT&T Music, AT&T Video, and Yellow Pages Mobile.

The standard personal information management tools are also there. The HP iPaq Glisten's address book is only limited by the available memory and offers space for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, company information, and the like. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo, a group ID, or a custom ringtone. Phone features include quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, speed dialing, voice dialing, conference calling, and noise cancellation technology for better audio quality. Bluetooth 2.1, GPS, Wi-Fi, and support for AT&T's 3G network are also all available on the Glisten.

The smartphone is pretty bare-bones in the multimedia department. The preloaded Windows Media Player gives you a basic player for checking out MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, and MIDI music files, and MPEG4, WMV, H.263, H.264 videos. AT&T's entertainment services provide another avenue for discovering new music and video. The iPaq Glisten offers 256MB SDRAM/512MB Flash but is expandable up to 32GB via the microSD slot.

The iPaq Glisten is also equipped with a 3.1-megapixel, fixed-focus camera with 5x digital zoom and video-recording capabilities. HP also includes its PhotoSmart Mobile app so you can edit photos right on your device. Picture quality could be better. There's quite a bit of shutter lag, so even though we tried not to move the camera after pressing the capture button, we still ended up with blurry images. Colors were also slightly washed out.

We tested the HP iPaq Glisten in New York using AT&T service and call quality was decent. On our end, there was plenty of volume and audio was clear enough that we didn't have any problems hearing the conversation. However, there was a slight background hiss that persisted during our review period. Friends also reported hearing a similar static during lulls in the conversation but said sound quality was good otherwise. Speakerphone quality wasn't all that great. Audio sounded tinny and garbled, so it was difficult to hear the conversation at times. Volume was also low in noisy environments, so it was nearly impossible to have a conversation.

We paired the smartphone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth Headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones without any problems. We also plugged our On-Ear Bose Headphones into the smartphone's 3.5mm jack to listen to some tunes and music playback was satisfactory. Video, however, also suffered because of the QVGA resolution. The picture simply wasn't very sharp and playback was often choppy.

Using AT&T's 3G network, CNET's full site loaded in 1 minute and 6 seconds, while CNN and ESPN's mobile sites came up in 10 seconds and 7 seconds, respectively. Not to beat a dead horse, but the smartphone's smaller screen size definitely hurt the Web-browsing experience, and even though Windows Mobile 6.5 has made improvements to Internet Explorer Mobile, navigating the browser is still cumbersome.

The iPaq Glisten is equipped with a 528MHz Qualcomm 7200A processor but can occasionally be sluggish, taking several seconds to launch apps or even open e-mails. However, it was able to handle most tasks without a problem and we didn't experience any system crashes during our testing period.

The HP iPaq Glisten features a 1590mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5 hours and up to 15 days of standby time. We are still conducting our battery drain tests but will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the iPaq Glisten has a digital SAR rating of 1.25 watts per kilogram.

(from: team)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cricket MSGM8 (black)

Cricket MSGM8 (black)

Product summary

The good: The Cricket MSGM8 has a simple easy-to-use interface with a full QWERTY keyboard, a 1.3-megapixel camera, and Bluetooth.

The bad: The Cricket MSGM8 has rather flat navigation keys and a cramped keyboard. The photo quality could be improved, too.

The bottom line: The Cricket MSGM8 is a decent starter messaging phone with a few design flaws.

Just like its nationwide brethren, regional carrier Cricket Communications has added a number of messaging phones to its stable this year. They include the Cricket TXTM8, the Motorola Hint QA30, and last but not least, the Cricket MSGM8. While both the Hint and the TXTM8 are slider phones, the MSGM8 has a simple slate design with features to match. It's not a high-end phone by any means, but if all you want is a basic texting phone with a camera, the MSGM8 is not bad. The Cricket MSGM8 is available for $119.99 without a contract.

The MSGM8 reminds us a lot of other candy-bar messaging phones like the Pantech Slate and the Sanyo SCP-2700. Measuring 4.2 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick, the MSGM8 has a very simple straightforward design with straight lines and rounded corners, plus it's only available in black. It is clad in a soft touch plastic material and is comfortable to hold in the hand. It's also quite lightweight at 3.7 ounces.

The 2.2-inch display is quite colorful with support for 262,000 colors and the text is large enough to be legible. However, it only has 220x176-pixel resolution, which results in rather blocky images and a lackluster look overall. You can change the menu style, the clock format, the brightness, the backlight time, and the image that appears whenever there's an incoming call. Like most Cricket phones, there is a series of widgets along the left side of the screen. You can add more by accessing Cricket's widget catalog.

Underneath the display is the navigation array, which consists of two soft keys, a square toggle with a middle select key, a Talk key, a Speakerphone key, a Back key, and the End/Power key. We found the two soft keys to be a little skinny for our tastes, and the rest of the keys felt quite flat and squishy. The QWERTY keyboard beneath feels cramped as well, but at least the keys are all raised above the surface for easy texting. The keyboard also has a dedicated text messaging key and a dedicated calendar key. The number keys are marked in red.

On the left spine are the charger jack, the 2.5mm headset jack, and a jog dial, while the camera key is on the right. On the back is the camera lens.

The Cricket MSGM8 has a 1,000-entry phone book with room in each entry for five numbers, an e-mail address, a birthday, and a memo. You can place them into caller groups; pair them with a photo, or one of six polyphonic ringtones. Other essentials include a vibrate mode, a speakerphone, text and multimedia messaging, a calculator, a schedule, an alarm clock, a memo pad, a world clock, a tip calculator, a stop watch, and a unit converter. Advanced features include voice command, e-mail, a voice recorder, a wireless Web browser, and Bluetooth.

The MSGM8 has a 1.3-megapixel camera that can take pictures in four resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120) and three quality settings. Other settings include a self-timer, mirror view mode, five white balance presets, four image color effects, nine fun frames, and three shutter sounds plus a silent option. Photo quality was quite disappointing. Even though colors looked good, images looked blurry and weren't as bright as we would like.

You can personalize the phone with a variety of wallpaper, screensavers, and alert tones, and you can get more Cricket's online store. The MSGM8 also comes with a few games like Where's Waldo and Super Street Fighter 2, and you can also get more of those from the Cricket store.

We tested the Cricket MSGM8 in San Francisco using Cricket's roaming service because the Bay Area is not part of Cricket's home coverage. Call quality was quite good on the whole despite some voice quality issues. We heard our callers loud and clear, but there was a little bit of static and warble at times.

On their end, callers also heard us clearly, but they did say our voice sounded quite mechanical and not as natural as they would like. It was worse with the speakerphone on, since it adds a heavy echo effect to our voice. For us, we heard our callers fine with the speakerphone, though it does sound a little tinny.

The Cricket MSGM8 has a rated battery life of 5 hours talk time and 10 days of standby time. Our tests revealed a talk time of 4 hours and 18 minutes. According to the FCC, the MSGM8 has a digital SAR of 1.27 watts per kilogram.

(from: team)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

BlackBerry Curve 8900 (T-Mobile)

BlackBerry Curve 8900 (T-Mobile)

Product summary

The good: The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 offers a sleeker and more solidly constructed design as well as a brilliant display. The smartphone features Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS and brings new productivity tools, a full HTML Web browser, and a 3.2-megapixel camera.

The bad: The Curve 8900 lacks 3G support, and the smartphone can occasionally be sluggish.

The bottom line: We're disappointed by the lack of 3G, but the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 is a solid update to the Curve series, bringing a better design, improved features, and faster performance and is one of T-Mobile's top smartphone offerings.

T-Mobile teased us at CES 2009 by introducing the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 but denying us any details on availability date and pricing. Fortunately, we didn't have to wait too long as the carrier has released the final details and has given us our own review unit.

In short, the BlackBerry Curve 8900 is a solid addition to T-Mobile's smartphone lineup and one of the company's top offerings, in our opinion. It replaces the Curve 8300 series, and brings several notable improvements, including a sleeker design that's bolstered by a more solid construction and an amazingly sharp display, a faster processor, a full HTML Web browser, and a 3.2-megapixel camera. It also has integrated Wi-Fi with UMA support so you can make unlimited calls over a Wi-Fi network. However, our one big disappointment is the lack of 3G support. It's a feature that could really have given the 8900 an edge over its competition.

Despite this omission and some other minor issues, we would absolutely recommend the BlackBerry Curve 8900. It's a solid device that will appeal to both consumers and mobile professionals, offering a nice balance between work and play and all wrapped up in a sweet little package. The BlackBerry Curve 8900 is available now through B2B sales and will be in retail stores nationwide starting February 11 for $199 with a two-year contract.

The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 holds the distinction (though who knows for how long) as being the thinnest full QWERTY BlackBerry to date. The smartphone measures 4.2 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighs 3.8 ounces compared with the BlackBerry Curve 8320, which comes it at 4.2 inches high by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick and 3.9 ounces.

It feels comfortable to use a both a phone and messaging device and fit into a pants pocket. We do appreciate the Curve 8900's sleek profile but even more than that, we're fans of the phone's more solid construction.

Though the phone's body is still made of plastic, RIM used different finishes and paint applications to make the handset more durable and you can notice the difference as soon as you pick it up. Our only complaint would be that the battery cover can sometimes shift a little.

Also, while style is subjective, we have to say we dig the look of the Curve 8900 over the previous Curve 8300 series. It has tapered edges like the BlackBerry Storm and the metallic paint gives the 8900 a fresh, modern. It's a lot less corporate and masculine looking than the BlackBerry Bold, so it should appeal to a wide variety of users.

The Curve 8900 features a 2.4-inch TFT LCD that supports 65,536 colors at a 480x360-pixel resolution. It's a better screen than the BlackBerry Bold, which isn't too shabby itself with a 480x320-pixel resolution, but there is an extra level of sharpness and brightness to the Curve's screen that's quite impressive.

The Curve 8900 also runs the latest version of the BlackBerry operating system so you get an updated user interface. There's no doubt the UI is more aesthetically pleasing, but we do have one minor complaint: a lot of icons look the same, so it's a bit hard to distinguish different folders and applications onscreen just at a glance.

Below the display, you have your standard navigation array that includes Talk and End keys, a menu shortcut, a back button, and the trackball navigator. The layout is simple and spacious, so there were no problems using the controls or navigating the phone. The side controls, which are outlined below, also allows for easy one-handed operation.

The BlackBerry Curve 8900's keyboard is similar to the one found on the BlackBerry Bold. Since the phone is smaller, the keys aren't as big or roomy but we still found it easy to compose e-mails and text with minimal errors. The buttons provide a nice tactile feedback and the keyboard is adequately backlit, with the number keys highlighted in red instead of white.

On the left side, there's a single user-programmable shortcut key (launches voice dialer by default), while there's a 3.5mm headphone jack, a volume rocker, a MicroUSB port, and another customizable side button (assigned to the camera out of the box). The camera and flash are located on the back, and behind the battery cover are the SIM card and microSD expansion slots. We would have preferred that the expansion slot be on the outside for easier access, and we also weren't huge fans of the little plastic piece that held the card in place. It felt flimsy, so we worry if it'll hold up over time. Finally, while not immediately visible, there's a mute button and a lock key on top the unit.

T-Mobile ships the Curve 8900 with a travel charger, a USB cable, a 256MB MicroSD card, a wired headset, a protective case, a software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

The RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 runs BlackBerry OS so aside from the aforementioned updated user interface, you also get new functionality and improved applications. For example, unlike the Curve 8300 series, you can now edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, thanks to the inclusion of DataViz's Documents to Go Suite. Like the Bold and the Storm, only the Standard Edition is preloaded on the smartphone so if you want the ability to create new documents, you will have to upgrade to the Premium Edition.

The BlackBerry Curve 8900 also ships with a number of personal information management tools, such as a Calendar, a task list, a memo pad, a voice recorder, a calculator, a password keeper, and more. There's quite a catalog of applications available for BlackBerrys, whether you're looking for new games or software for your job.

Be aware, however, that if you have third-party applications on an older BlackBerry model, they may not be compatible with the Curve 8900. T-Mobile includes some suggestions and direct download links on its mobile site, or you can check out for more ideas.

One of the most-needed improvements was in the area of Web browsing, and the Curve 8900 delivers. You now get a full HTML Web browser with support for RSS feeds and streaming media, including YouTube clips. Browsing and navigating sites is made better by the Page and Column view options and onscreen cursor.

There are also zoom in/out functions. The experience hardly matches the Web experience on the iPhone, but it's a definite improvement from previous versions of the BlackBerry browser, which was pretty much atrocious. Baby steps, right?

To get connected, you have two options: Wi-Fi or T-Mobile's EDGE network, which is all well and good but what's more newsworthy to us, is what's missing: 3G support. We realize that the addition of a 3G radio affects battery life and size, but still, T-Mobile has finally rolled out its 3G network and could use more 3G smartphones (currently, the T-Mobile G1 is the carrier's only smartphone to offer 3G). Admittedly, we found that surfing the Web on the Curve 8900 over EDGE wasn't that bad but even so, we still would have liked to see the inclusion of 3G.

Fortunately, you do get Wi-Fi as an alternative, and the other upside of the integrated Wi-Fi is UMA support. This means you can make and receive unlimited calls over a wireless network and not have the minutes deducted from your cellular plan. The caveat is that you will need to sign for T-Mobile's Unlimited HotSpot Calling plan, which starts at $9.99 per month on top of an existing T-Mobile plan.

Other voice features of the BlackBerry Curve 8900 include quad-band world roaming, a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging.

The address book is limited only by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts) with room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home addresses, job title, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign each contact a photo, a group ID, or a custom ringtone.

Like most of the carrier's handsets, the Curve 8900 supports T-Mobile's MyFaves service, giving you unlimited calls to five contacts, regardless of carrier. Individual plans for MyFaves start at $39.99 a month. You also get Bluetooth 2.0 with support for mono and stereo Bluetooth wireless headsets, hands-free kits, and dial-up networking.

GPS is built in, using both satellites and cellular triangulation to find your position. You can get maps and text-based, turn-by-turn driving directions with applications such as BlackBerry Maps, which is preloaded on the Curve 8900, and Google Maps for Mobile, but if you want any real-time tracking and voice-guided instructions, you'll have to use a location-based service like TeleNav GPS Navigator.

The BlackBerry Curve 8900's built-in media player can play various music and video formats, including MP3, WMA9/WMA9 Pro/WMA20, AAC, AAC+, eAAC+, AMR-NB, and MIDI music files, and MPEG4, WMV, DivX4, DivX5/6 (partial support), XviD (partial), and H.263 video clips.

There's a search function, playlist creation, shuffle and repeat, and you get a full-screen mode for video playback. The included software CD also contains a copy of Roxio Easy Media Creator, so you can create MP3s from CDs and add audio tags as well as the BlackBerry Media Sync application so you can load your iTunes library. The Curve has 256MB onboard Flash memory while the expansion slot can accept up to 16GB cards.

The Curve's camera gets upgraded to a 3.2-megapixel lens (from 2 megapixels) with video recording capabilities, flash, auto focus, 2x zoom, and image stabilization. In camera mode, you get a choice of three picture sizes and three picture qualities. There are white balance settings, and you can add various effects to your photos, such as black and white, and sepia. With the built-in GPS, you can also geotag photos. The camcorder records clips in two formats (normal and MMS) with sound and offers a video light and color effects.

Picture quality was good, as long as we were snapping shots in well-lit areas. Even with the flash or in night mode, we had a hard time getting a photo that didn't look dark or completely blown out by the flash. We also noticed a bit of shutter lag, so be sure not to move to quickly away from the scene after pressing the capture button. Video quality wasn't the best as clips looked pretty grainy, but you can still make out the objects and scenery so it'll be fine if there's a moment that you absolutely must get on film and don't have access to a camcorder.

Despite all these other features, e-mail remains the heart and soul of the BlackBerry. The BlackBerry Curve 8900 can sync with your company's BlackBerry Enterprise server, with support for Microsoft Exchange, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise, to deliver corporate e-mail in real time. There's also an attachment viewer for opening Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, GIF, and more. With BlackBerry Internet Service, you can also access up to 10 personal/business POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts. Set up is nearly instantaneous; we simply input our Yahoo log in and password, and within a couple of seconds, we received a message that activation was successful. The smartphone also comes preloaded with several instant messaging clients, including Yahoo, AIM, Windows Live, and Google Talk.

We tested the quad-band (850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 in San Francisco using T-Mobile service and call quality was satisfactory. There was some minimal background noise that made audio quality a little less pristine than some other smartphones we've tested, but nothing that prevented us from having a conversation or using an airline's voice automated system. There's an Enhance Audio option where you can boost the treble or bass, but we didn't find a noticeable difference. Our friends reported a couple instances of warbled audio, but otherwise no major complaints. We didn't experience any dropped calls during our review period. The speakerphone was also OK. There was plenty of volume, but there was some hollowness to the audio, making it sound as if our callers were talking in an empty room. We successfully paired the Curve 8900 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Motorola S9 Bluetooth Active Headphones.

The BlackBerry Curve 8900 is equipped with a 512MHz processor and is a fairly responsive device. There were some instances of sluggishness; for example, we encountered some lag when we were trying to access our photo gallery and a couple of times when we launched the camera. It wasn't anything that stopped us in our tracks or left us completely frustrated, and overall, we're pleased with the general performance.

The Curve 8900's speaker can't rival the BlackBerry Bold's rich output, but most of you will probably be listening to your music through headphones anyway, so it's a not a huge issue. Using the handset's 3.5mm jack, we plugged in a pair of Bose On-Ear headphones for a MP3-like music-listening experience. Video playback was quite impressive. We checked out a couple of clips, including an MP4 file, and found playback to be smooth and the picture looked great on the Curve's high-resolution screen. We also watched a couple of YouTube clips from the Web browser, which looked very mushy and blurry, but that's more about a video quality issue than a Curve issue.

Our review unit had no problem finding and connecting to our Wi-Fi network. On EDGE speeds, it took the smartphone about a minute to fully load CNET's Web site, while it took about 15 to 20 seconds to load CNN's and ESPN's mobile sites. Though we weren't hooked up with TeleNav GPS Navigator for real-time navigation, the Curve's GPS radio was able to pinpoint our location within a couple of minutes on BlackBerry Maps.

The BlackBerry Curve 8900 features a 1,400mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 5.5 hours and up to 14.5 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 8.5 hours of continuous talk time from the Curve 8900 on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the BlackBerry Curve 8900 has a digital SAR rating of 1.01 watts per kilogram.

(from: team)

Friday, January 8, 2010

HTC Droid Eris

HTC Droid Eris
Product summary

The good: The HTC Droid Eris offers a slim design, plentiful features, and satisfying performance. It also has pinch and zoom multitouch.

The bad: The HTC Droid Eris has mixed multimedia quality. It comes only with the Android 1.5 OS, there's no file manager, and internal performance was occasionally sluggish.

The bottom line: Though its performance wasn't completely top-notch and we would prefer a more recent Android OS version, the HTC Droid Eris is a satisfying Android device that offers a nice contrast to the Motorola Droid. And you can't beat the price.

The HTC Droid Eris is the second Verizon Wireless' Google Android phone after the Motorola Droid. Where the Droid was flashy and high-end, the Droid Eris offers a simpler, slimmer design that lacks a physical keyboard. You get the same Android features, but it all comes at bargain price. At $99 with service, the Droid Eris is the cheapest Android phone at the time of this writing.

Though the HTC Droid Eris is essentially a rebranded version of the HTC Hero, the smartphone's design deserves its own mention because it's a beautiful device. The style may be familiar to anyone who knows HTC's Touch devices, as it's a little reminiscent of the HTC Touch with its smooth, rounded corners and black soft-touch finish. Admittedly, the black casing isn't all that exciting, but it's still a classic and it's accented by chrome edges.

In the hand, the Droid Eris feels like a solidly constructed phone. It measures 4.45 inches tall by 2.19 inches wide by 0.51 inch thick and weighs 4.23 ounces, so it's slim enough to slip into a pants pocket and feels comfortable to hold during phone calls. In addition, HTC added a proximity sensor, a feature that was missing on the Sprint HTC Hero, so now the screen will turn off when you're on a phone call to prevent any accidental misdials from a brush of your cheek.

Speaking of the screen, the Droid Eris's 3.2-inch HVGA capacitive touch screen is hard to ignore. With a 320x480-pixel resolution, the display is amazingly sharp and vibrant. Text is easy to read and the colors of images are vibrant and rich. The Android interface, with its icon-based main menu, is familiar, but we're disappointed that the Droid Eris comes only with Android OS 1.5. That means you'll have to wait for OS 1.6 and 2.0.

In addition to a light sensor, the screen has a built-in accelerometer so the screen orientation automatically changes from portrait to landscape mode when you rotate the phone. Be aware that the feature only works in certain applications, such as photos, the Web browser, and e-mail.

The onscreen keyboard also will change depending on the phone's position. Just like the Hero, the Droid Eris uses HTC's own virtual keyboard rather than the stock Android one. We find it to be a little easier to use with its bigger buttons, white background, and more spacing between the keys, particularly in landscape mode. Even with those refinements, it's slightly behind the iPhone's in terms of precision, but it's responsive and provides haptic feedback.

The capacitive touch screen generally is responsive, whether you're tapping an icon to open an app, scrolling through long lists, or swiping through the various home screens. We love that the Droid Eris offers full multitouch support in the Web browser and photo gallery. That means that you can zoom by pinching your fingers and by double-tapping the screen. It's a big improvement over the first-gen Android phones and it removes one of the last remaining advantages of the iPhone's browser. On the bottom of the display are three touch controls for the main menu, a home screen customization menu, and the calling menu. The latter opens the phone dialer and offers access to your recent calls and your contacts list.

There are other ways to interact with your device. Below the display you get four navigation buttons: Home, Menu, Back, and Zoom. However, unlike the Sprint and GSM Hero, these four navigation controls are touch sensitive rather than physical buttons. Like the keyboard, they provide haptic feedback and we preferred them over the Sprint Hero's since they have a more spacious layout and are more responsive. We occasionally had to press the Menu button a couple of times for it to register, but it wasn't a big problem. You also get some physical controls, including a Talk and End/power keys and a trackball navigator.

Of course, what sets the Droid Eris apart from other Google Android phones is the HTC Sense user experience. Instead of three home screens, you now get seven, all of which you can customize with various shortcuts and widgets. HTC makes the phone even more customizable by adding a feature called Scenes. This lets you change the theme of the phone depending on whether you're at work, at play, or traveling. Each scene also provides seven customizable panels so there are plenty of ways to make the phone personal to your lifestyle. For more about the HTC Sense user interface, please read our review of the Sprint HTC Hero.

Rounding out the device is 3.5mm headphone jack on top, a volume rocker on the left side, and a Mini-USB port/power connector on the bottom. As usual, the camera is located on the back, and the microSD expansion slot sits behind the battery door on the right side.

Verizon packages the HTC Droid Eris with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an 8GB microSD card, and reference material. For more additions, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

The Droid Eris offers a loaded feature set that rivals other Android phones. You'll find Bluetooth, voice dialing, Verizon visual voice mail, a calculator, a calendar, a speakerphone an alarm clock, Wi-Fi, PC syncing, USB mass storage, and a voice recorder. And of course, you get access to the full set of Google applications like Google Maps, YouTube, Google Calendar, Google search (with voice), and Google Talk.

Messaging and e-mail options are similarly plentiful. Besides the standard Gmail syncing, the Droid Eris will sync with popular POP3 accounts like Yahoo and Hotmail, and corporate mail, calendar, and contacts with Microsoft Exchange Active Sync. We successfully set up a Yahoo account and our CNET account using Outlook with Access (OWA). With QuickOffice and a PDF viewer, the Droid Eris' attachment support is robust as well. Both came in handy for viewing a variety of file types.

You can delve into your in-box folders, but as on the MyTouch 3G it can take time to find the folder you need since they're arranged haphazardly. Also, you'll need to manually refresh each subfolder once you open it. On the upside, we like the options for viewing only flagged messages, and e-mails with attachments. The Droid Eris doesn't have a unified in-box, but multiple account in-boxes are grouped under the same main menu icon.

The Hero's phone book size is limited by the available memory (see below). Each contact holds multiple phone number and e-mail types, a birthday and anniversary, an instant-message handle, a postal address, an organization/company name, and notes. You can organize contacts into groups and pair them with a photo and one of 32 ringtones. You even can send calls from your frenemies directly to voice mail.

The phone book app also offers other useful features such as syncing your contacts directly with your Exchange account and with Facebook and Flickr. What's more, you can compose a list of favorite friends and see a list of upcoming Facebook events. And like the Hero, the Droid Eris' contact management system will automatically pull and import contact information from e-mail accounts and social networks into your address book. Check out our HTC Hero review for a full description.

The Droid Eris also offers a handful of other apps like stocks and weather feeds, a Teeter game that uses the phone's accelerometer, and a Twitter app called Peep. If you need more options, you can access a wide range of utilities, apps, and games through the Android Market.

Unfortunately, you still can't save apps to a microSD card; you must store them on the phone's shared internal memory. The Droid Eris offers 512MB ROM and 288MB RAM, but you can store photos and music files on the microSD card.

Like the Hero, the Droid Eris's browser has Flash Lite support. Though most videos remained jerky and the audio wasn't always in sync, we still give HTC props for including the feature at all. Also, we figure it will get better when Adobe releases a full version of Flash for mobile devices. On the other hand, the browser itself is quite decent. You can open multiple windows and it supports visual bookmarks, copy/paste, and the capability to share sites via e-mail, text message, Facebook, or Twitter. As mentioned, the multitouch improves the Web browsing experience greatly, but there are still hiccups. For example, we didn't like that we had to bring up the browser menu to do basic browser navigation such as Back and Forward.

The Droid Eris has a 5-megapixel lens and offers video-recording capabilities and geotagging through the HTC Footprints app. Compared with other Android devices, editing options are plentiful. You get four image resolution sizes, four white-balance settings, a brightness meter, spot metering, a digital zoom, a self-timer, autofocus, a flicker adjustment, four ISO settings, three color effects, and more.

The camcorder shoots clips with sound and offers a similar set of editing options. You can select a variety of clip lengths--from as little as 30 seconds to as long as the available memory will permit. The controls for both the camcorder and camera are relatively easy to use, but we'd prefer to have a dedicated camera button on the side of the device. Since you must use the trackball, make sure you steady the phone securely.

You can view your images through the attractive Albums app and then share them with the world via Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, Picasa e-mail, or a multimedia message. Videos can also be shared through e-mail and multimedia message, and there's an option to upload them to YouTube right from the device.

Unfortunately, photo quality was as disappointing as it was on the Hero. Colors were dull and there was visible image noise. You'll also need plenty of light, since the Droid Eris doesn't have a flash. Video quality was average, as well.

The music player is similar to that on other Android phones, though it shows a few cosmetic differences. It supports MP3, AAC, AMR-NB, WAV, MIDI, and Windows Media Audio 9 format and includes shuffle, repeat, and playlists. But here again, we'd prefer real syncing software to help us manage and transfer our tunes. Instead, we had to drag and drop files while connecting the phone to a PC with the USB cable. It'd also be great to have a file manager so we could more easily find files from our SD card.

Of course, you can also download songs via the Amazon MP3 store. The store allows you to browse by album, song, artist, or genre, and single tracks cost about 99 cents, while albums can range anywhere from $2.49 to $10.99. On the other hand, we'd love access to an online store with a broader array of video content, like movies and television shows.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) HTC Droid Eris in San Francisco using Verizon Wireless service. Call quality was excellent, with clear audio and a strong signal that penetrated far into buildings. We could understand our friends clearly and never had a dropped call. Our only complaint was that the volume could be louder; we had trouble hearing in very noisy places. The Droid Eris is compatible with M3 and T3 hearing aids.

On their end, callers said we sounded fine. They could tell that we were using a cell phone, but they had few complaints about the calling experience. The only gripe we heard was that the Droid Eris has a sensitive sweet spot for the microphone. If we moved our head just a little bit, they had trouble hearing. They also had problems if there was a lot of wind or background noise.

Automated calling systems could understand us most of the time, but it was best when we were in a quiet place. Bluetooth headset calls were decent, but it will depend on the headset. Speakerphone calls were satisfactory. The external speaker has decent output and the audio was clear. Also, we like that the calling menu offers direct access to the speakerphone, the mute control, your contacts list, and the dialpad.

The EV-DO (Rev. A) signal was strong; most Web pages downloaded in a matter of seconds, even the busiest sites. Apps, YouTube videos, and files downloaded quickly and the signal remained strong throughout test areas. If 3G isn't available, the Droid Eris will drop back to 1xRTT. The GPS signal was also pretty accurate--most of the time it pinpointed our location within a city block.

Multimedia quality was rather mixed. Music over the external speaker gets rather loud, but the quality isn't very rich. You should use a wired headset for a better quality experience. YouTube videos were a bit fuzzy and jerky, but the audio was in sync and our clips never froze.

The Droid Eris has the same 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7600 processor as the Hero. That means the device performed well most of the time, though it was occasionally sluggish when launching the browser and the music player. The accelerometer also took a bit longer than necessary to kick in.

The Droid Eris has a rated battery life of 3.5 hours talk time, which is a half hour less than the Hero. Thankfully, the tested talk time is quite a bit more at 5 hours and 27 minutes. The promised standby time is 15.5 days. According to FCC radiation tests, the Droid Eris has a digital SAR of 1.19 watts per kilogram.

(from: team)