Monday, September 29, 2008

Backstreet Boys - Get Down (Music Video)

Backstreet Boys Music Video - Just Want You To Know [w/ lyrics]

Backstreet Boys - Incomplete [Official Music Video]

Palm Centro - red (Sprint)/Best Smartphones

Palm Centro - red (Sprint)

The Palm Centro isn't the innovative product we were looking for from the company, but with its slimmer size, ease of use, and affordable price tag, the Centro is a good option for those looking for their first smartphone.

Price: $99.99 - $519.99

Product summary

The good: The Palm Centro sheds some of the weight and bulk of Palm Treo to make for a more compact smartphone. It also carries an attractive price tag and offers a lot for the money, including Bluetooth, EV-DO support, push e-mail, and a suite of productivity apps.

The bad: The Centro's QWERTY keyboard is extremely cramped and the hardware feels a bit toylike. The phone's speaker is on the weaker side, and it lacks Wi-Fi.

The bottom line: The Palm Centro isn't the innovative product we were looking for from the company, but with its slimmer size, ease of use, and affordable price tag, the Centro is a good option for those looking for their first smartphone.

Specs: OS provided: Palm OS 5.4.9; Installed RAM: 128 MB; Processor: Texas Instruments 201 MHzXScale

Price range: $99.99 - $519.99 Reviewed on 10/11/07 Release date: 10/14/07

Palm has certainly come under a lot of criticism lately for its lack of innovation in the smartphone department, and rightfully so. While the HTCs and Nokias of the world continually churn out new and exciting devices, Palm can only offer up its aging lineup of Treo smartphones. The company tried to mix things up with the Palm Foleo, but we know that failed miserably. Fortunately, we think Palm will have better luck with its latest device, the Palm Centro. It's the first non-Treo, as well as the smallest and lightest smartphone from the company. Palm hopes that it will attract a new customer base of those ready to make the jump from cell phone to smartphone. For the record, we feel like Palm tried this already with the Palm Treo 680, but there are a number of factors that make us believe the Centro will be more successful at attaining this goal, first and foremost being price.

Available through Sprint, the Centro costs $99 with a two-year contract, which is a bargain for a smartphone, especially when you consider that you get all the features of a Treo and more. It offers ease of use, so first-time smartphone buyers shouldn't be intimidated, and it also provides a nice middle ground between the really basic and youth-oriented T-Mobile Sidekick 3 and more business-featured devices like the Sprint Mogul. The Centro certainly isn't without problems. There are some major design issues; it's not the best choice for serious business users, and it certainly wasn't the type of innovation we were hoping for from the company. However, for that target group of 20- to 30-year-olds looking to make the jump to a smartphone, the Centro is an attractive option. The "black onyx" version of the Palm Centro will be available through Sprint starting October 14, while the "ruby red" version will go on sale in November.

We've got mixed feelings about the design of the Palm Centro. At 4.2 inches high by 2.1 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep and 4.2 ounces, the Centro is certainly smaller than the bulky Treo, and it's a nice compromise between a regular cell phone and a business smartphone like the Sprint Mogul. For comparison's sake, the device carries a similar footprint to the HTC Vox S710 and will also make for a tight fit in a pants pocket.

The petite Palm Centro next to its bigger, older cousin, the Palm Treo 700p.
The Centro comes in two colors: black onyx or ruby red. (We reviewed the red model.) Palm hopes the latter option will help attract more female customers and, in fact, a female colleague passed by and said, "Oh, I like the red." So obviously, there's some logic there. That said, the design fails to impress us; shrinking the size and adding a splash of color wasn't exactly the type of innovation we were looking for. The Centro lacks the flash and "wow" factor of a device from HTC or Nokia, looking more like a toy, and in the hand, it feels, well, a bit plasticky. On the positive side, the smaller size and rounded edges make the phone more comfortable and easier to hold when held up to the ear.

On front, you'll find the Centro's 2.25-inch diagonal TFT display that shows off 65,000 colors at a 320x320 pixel resolution. It's crisp and bright, and perhaps the best news of all, it's a touch screen. This is an advantage the Palm Centro has over some of its competition, such as the BlackBerry Pearl. The ability to enter data, launch apps, and navigate the device via the touch screen is a wonderful convenience.

You also have controls beneath the display to help you operate the smartphone. These include Talk and End keys, and shortcuts to the phone app, home screen, calendar, and message in-box, and a five-way toggle. With the exception of the toggle, which consists of a thin ring and a large central select button that's raised above the phone's surface, the buttons are flat and don't have the best tactile feedback, feeling a bit cheap.

We weren't huge fans of the Centro's QWERTY keyboard, since the buttons are tiny and cramped.
The Centro's full QWERTY keyboard is another sticking point. Given that there's less surface area to work with, we figured the keyboard would be smaller, but we've got to say, it's pretty darn cramped. It's definitely better suited for women with smaller hands, but when we gave it to a few to try out, they remarked that it was hard to easily type messages with. Users with larger thumbs are definitely going to have problems. The individual buttons reminded us of gelatinous stickers, but tactile and well backlit.

There's a ringer silencer switch on top of the unit, while you will find a 2.5mm headset jack and multiconnector port on the bottom. The left spine of the Centro has a volume rocker and a customizable launch button. The right side houses the infrared port and microSD expansion slot, which is protected by an attached cover, but we found it quite difficult to pry off. Finally, the stylus, speaker, camera lens, and self-portrait mirror are found on the back.

The Palm Centro comes packaged with just the basics, including an AC adapter, a USB cable, a desktop software CD, and reference material.

Despite the smaller size, the Palm Centro still manages to pack in all of the features of the Palm Treo 755p and then some. To start with the basics, the Centro runs Palm OS 5.4.9 and comes with 128MB ROM and 64MB RAM. Of course, you get the standard personal information management tools, including a calendar, a to-do list, a memo pad, a calculator, a world clock, and a voice recorder. The Centro isn't just an electronic organizer, though, as the smartphone comes preloaded with Documents to Go (version 10), so you can open, create, and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents, and view PowerPoint presentations and PDFs.

You can supplement the Centro's memory with the microSD expansion slot, which can accept up to 4GB cards.
You have several choices to access your corporate and personal e-mail accounts. There's the VersaMail e-mail app, which has built-in support for Microsoft's Direct Push Technology for real-time synchronization with Microsoft Exchange. VersaMail supports a wide range of POP and IMAP e-mail accounts, including AOL, Apple.Mac, AT&T Global, Earthlink, Gmail, and Yahoo Plus. Alternatively, Sprint offers Sprint Mobile eMail, which is available as a free download to its data subscribers and gives you access to up to three e-mail accounts. For our tests, we used VersaMail, and e-mail setup was really easy, as we simply input our username and password for our Yahoo Plus account and, within a couple of minutes, the Centro retrieved all our messages.

We're also happy to see that Sprint, once again, included its instant messaging app with AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live clients. You can sign into multiple accounts and carry on simultaneous conversations. The Palm Centro also continues to support text and multimedia messaging as well as the threaded text chat view, which in itself mimics the look and feel of IM conversations.

As for voice communication, the Centro offers a speakerphone, a vibrate mode, three-way calling, speed dial, and the "ignore with text" feature, which allows you to reply to a call with a text message if you can't pick up. The contact book is limited only by the available memory, and there's room in each entry for multiple numbers, e-mail addresses, instant-messaging handles, and birthdays. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a picture, one of 37 polyphonic ringtones, or a group ID.

Wireless options include EV-DO support and Bluetooth 1.2. Supported Bluetooth profiles include those for use with wireless headsets, hands-free kits, object exchange, and dial-up networking (DUN) so you can use the Centro as a wireless modem for your laptop. Just be aware that the DUN capabilities will require you to sign up for the Sprint Power Vision Modem Plan, which runs $39.99 per month for 40MB or $49.99 per month for unlimited. Unfortunately, there's no support for A2DP, so you won't be able to use your stereo Bluetooth headset with this device. Also, the only way you'll be able to get GPS capabilities on the Centro (aside from e911) is to pair it with a Bluetooth GPS receiver, since there's no built-in radio. On the plus side, Google Maps for Mobile ships on the device and includes color maps, satellite imagery, and traffic data.

There's no Wi-Fi, but with the 3G support, you can experience broadband-like speeds on your device--around 300Kbps to 600Kbps--and enjoy faster Web browsing, data transfer, and streaming music and video. The Centro works with Sprint TV so you can watch short clips from a variety of channels, including CNN, Fox Sports, and the NFL Network, and you can listen to live streaming music and talk radio from Sirius, VH1 Mobile, and MTV Mobile. You can also now access YouTube videos using the Centro's Blazer Web browser. For more content, check out the carrier's On Demand feature, which pulls all the current headlines for the user's region (based on ZIP code) from the Web and delivers it right to your Centro. Sprint offers these services as part of the Sprint Power Vision pack, which ranges in price from $15 to $25 per month.

The Palm Centro also now comes with PocketTunes Deluxe Edition--the first time this version is shipping on a Palm device--so you can enjoy your favorite MP3s and DRM-protected music. Currently, the Centro does not work with the Sprint Music Store, but the carrier said this is something it is looking to add in the future. For down times, the device also comes with a sudoku game.

The Centro's 1.3-megapixel camera took decent photos.
Last but not least, the Centro is equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera with 2x zoom and video-recording capabilities. Once again, though, like the previous Treos, the camera lacks a flash and any options for tweaking the white balance, resolution, brightness, and so forth. Once you are done capturing your shots or video clips, you can send them to others via Sprint Picture Mail or another online service, or upload them to an online album. Despite the lack of a flash and editing options, picture quality was actually decent. Images had sharp definition, although color wasn't as bright as we wanted.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900; EV-DO) Palm Centro in San Francisco using Sprint service, and call quality was a bit mixed. On our end, there was a slight but noticeable background hiss, but it didn't disrupt our conversations with friends or prevent us from interacting with our bank's automated voice response system. Meanwhile, our callers were impressed by how crisp and clear we sounded to them, and reported no issues. We experienced similar results with the Centro's speakerphone. Volume was soft and weak to us, even though we had audio cranked to the highest level. Voices were certainly drowned out on louder streets. However, friends told us we sounded clear and didn't even realize we had turned on the speakerphone. We had no problems pairing the Centro with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

The Centro is powered by a 312MHz Intel XScale processor, and general performance was satisfactory. We didn't experience any significant or frustrating delays, but there was a brief lag when opening Office documents or waiting for streaming content. Unfortunately, after all that waiting, we were met by some pixilated videos with mismatched audio and images, so we definitely wouldn't recommend viewing clips longer than a couple of minutes. After our experience with the speakerphone, we weren't surprised that music playback sounded tinny and weak through the phone's speakers. Web browsing was swift thanks to the EV-DO support.

The Palm Centro's 1150mAh internal lithium ion battery is rated for 3.5 hours of talk time and up to 12.5 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, the Centro was able to get 4 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Centro has a digital SAR rating of 1.35 watts per kilogram.


Nokia N95 - brown/silver (North American Edition, Unlocked)/Best Smartphones

Nokia N95 - brown/silver (North American Edition, Unlocked)

Rating - 8.0 Excellent 8.0 Excellent

The North American Edition of the Nokia N95 brings some notable additions, including 3G support and better performance, to make this powerful smart phone even better. However, it'll still leave a deep gouge in your wallet.

Read review of the Nokia N95 - brown/silver (North American Edition, Unlocked)
Price: $450.00 - $474.99 (check prices)

Product summary

The good: The Nokia N95 North American Edition adds 3G support and longer battery life. The Symbian smart phone also continues to offer a 5-megapixel camera and integrated GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

The bad: Without the back of a U.S. carrier, the Nokia N95 is expensive and the hardware feels a bit plasticky. Speakerphone quality wasn't the greatest.

The bottom line: The North American Edition of the Nokia N95 brings some notable additions, including 3G support and better performance, to make this powerful smart phone even better. However, it'll still leave a deep gouge in your wallet.

Specs: Band / mode: WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900; Talk time: Up to 390 min; Dimensions (W x D x H): 2.1 in x 0.8 in x 3.9 in See full specs >>

Price range: $474.99

Editor's note: Portions of this review were taken from our original evaluation of the unlocked Nokia N95, as both devices share many of the same features and design.

When it comes to cool Nokia cell phones and smart phones, we here in the United States are often left in the cold, as our friends in Europe and Asia get all the goods. Well, it seems Nokia has heard our cries; the cell phone manufacturer has opened two U.S. retail stores and started selling more of its hard-to-get mobiles from the company's Web site. One model in particular has attracted a lot of attention, and that would be the Nokia N95. An unlocked version, which we reviewed back in April, is already available, but the demand for this smart phone has been so great that Nokia decided to release a North American Edition of the Nokia N95. For the most part, it's very similar to the original version, but there are some major additions that make it a better buy, namely 3G support, more memory, longer battery life, and faster performance. The price tag is still appalling at $699 for an unlocked version, but hopefully a U.S. carrier will pick it up soon (ahem, AT&T).

For the most part, the Nokia N95 North American Edition is very similar in design to the original N95, but there are some minor changes to color and camera that we'll discuss throughout this section.

Considering all the features that are packed into the Nokia N95, you'd think it would be a pretty hefty phone, but not so, my friends. The N95 measures a compact 3.8 inches long by 2.1 inches wide by 0.8 inch thick and weighs only 4.2 ounces. It feels comfortable to hold, and the soft-touch finish on the back of the device makes it easier to grip. That said, we couldn't help but think that the phone felt, well, kind of cheap. In particular, the front cover felt plasticky and rickety (more on this below). From an aesthetic standpoint, the N95 certainly falls more into the short-and-stocky category rather than svelte and sexy, but we think it's still a good-looking phone. The North American version is available in black and silver or tan and silver.

The Nokia N95 North American Edition is very similar in design to the original N95 with some minor tweaks to the color and camera.

Of course, another attraction of the N95 is its innovative two-way slider design. Not only can you slide the front cover up to reveal the alphanumeric keypad, you can also slide it down to expose the media player controls. The dual functionality is nice, but we had a couple of concerns. First, the cover, which houses the screen and navigation buttons, felt loose and rattled around a bit. It just didn't feel like it was securely locked into place, thus leading to our next complaint. When putting the phone into a pants pocket or even when thrown into a bag, it was too easy to slide open the phone. There is a keypad lock, but we would prefer that the N95 just had a stronger mechanism for locking the position of the front flap.

Moving onto the display, the Nokia N95 features a gorgeous 2.6-inch QVGA TFT screen with a 16 million-color output and 320x240 pixel resolution. Be aware, however, that it isn't a touch screen. Images and text looked great, with deep color saturation and sharp definition. You can change the theme of the home screen, backlighting time, and font size. There's also an ambient light detector to adjust the backlighting depending on your environment, which helped keep the display readable in various lighting conditions. However, we noticed the N95's screen had a nasty habit of holding fingerprints and smudges, so keep some kind of wipe cloth close by. We should also note that when you slide open the phone to access the media player controls, the screen automatically switches to Landscape mode, but once you close the phone, it doesn't automatically switch back. You have to open the dial pad to get back to portrait mode, which is annoying.

The navigation controls beneath the display are a bit difficult to use.

Beneath the display are the N95's navigation controls, which consist of two soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, shortcuts to the main menu and the multimedia menu, a Clear key, an Edit key that lets you choose the text input type, and a four-way toggle with a center select button. For the most part, the controls are easy to use, though they're a bit slick and the toggle and outer ring of buttons (see image above) could have been bigger. Still, it's an improvement over the Nokia E65's minuscule keys. The N95's numeric keypad features large, tactile buttons with bright backlighting, and they're raised above the phone's surface so it's easier to dial by feel. Unfortunately, the media player controls are less tactile and require a bit more pressure to register the command.

Since the N95 is a multimedia-centric device, Nokia smartly equipped the phone with a 3.5-millimeter headset jack so you can plug in your favorite pair of earbuds or headphones for a better listening experience. It's located on the left side, in addition to an infrared port and the microSD expansion slot. On the right side, you will find the volume rocker, a shortcut to your photo gallery, and the camera activation button. The latter is in a position so that when you're holding the phone horizontally, it actually mimics the look and feel of a digital camera. The N95's camera lens itself (and flash) is located on the back, but unlike the first version, the protective lens has been removed. Now, you may be scratching your head wondering why Nokia would have gone and done such a silly thing, but it's actually for a good reason. Believe it or not, by removing the lens, it created more space to fit in a larger capacity battery, one that promises 30 percent longer battery life (see Performance for more). We do still worry about scratching the camera lens since there's no cover, but Nokia does include a soft protective pouch for carrying the phone. Finally, there's a power connector and mini USB port on the bottom, and the power button on top of the handset.

In order to make room for a larger battery, Nokia removed the protective camera lens.

The North American version of the Nokia N95 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a TV-out cable, a 2GB microSD card with an SD adapter, a pair of earbud headphones, a headphone adapter with antenna and audio playback controls, a desktop software CD (which includes Nokia PC Suite), and reference material.

It's hard to decide where to begin with the feature-packed Nokia N95, but since imaging is one of its biggest draws, we'll start there. The N95 is equipped with an impressive 5-megapixel camera--unheard of in the cell phone and smart phone world--with a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens. (Carl Zeiss was an optician who first started manufacturing lenses for microscopes and then used his expertise for camera lenses.) The breadth of customization and editing options available on this phone is astounding--almost like an actual digital camera. You can choose from seven shooting modes, ranging from close-up to sports to night portrait, and five quality settings. You can adjust the brightness, contrast, white balance, color tone, ISO light sensitivity, and exposure value to get the best picture possible. The flash even has a red-eye reduction option. Plus, there's also a self-timer and a sequence mode for multiple shots.

The N95 can record video at a maximum VGA resolution (640x480) at 30 frames per second, though you also have a choice of four other quality settings. The N95 can record video with sound in MP4 or 3GP (for multimedia messages) format, and length is only limited by the available memory. There's a handy timer that shows you how much video time you have based on the memory and the quality setting (this feature is available in camera mode as well). Editing options are a little more limited in video mode; you only get two shooting modes (automatic and night) and white balance and color tone settings. In addition, there's a video stabilization feature to help reduce camera shake as you're recording video.

With a 5-megapixel lens, the Nokia N95 took impressive pictures, although there was a slight hazy effect to this picture.

We were impressed by the quality of photos and videos the N95 produced, as one would hope with a 5-megapixel lens. Pictures boasted vibrant colors and sharp lines and edges, though there was a slight hazy effect to our shot. Unlike some smart phones, the N95 didn't require you to have a supersteady hand to get a clear shot. The camera phone also did a decent job with nighttime pictures, though they were still pretty dim. Video quality was also good. There wasn't any of that graininess that sometimes plagues videos shot by camera phones. We also wanted to mention the camera's interface, as we found it extremely easy to use and change camera settings, which can sometimes be challenging when you don't have a touch screen.

The North American version of the Nokia N95 gets a boost in internal memory, and the microSD expansion slot can now accept 4GB cards.

Once you're done, you can touch up your videos and photos with the included image editors. For example, you can add clip art and reduce red eye on still images, or cut audio for videos. The phone's memory capabilities have been upped with about 160MB of internal memory (compared to the previous 150MB) for saving your photos and videos to the phone, but we recommend saving them onto a microSD card, especially since the N95 can support up to 4GB expandable media (used to be 2GB). And sharing your memories is also easy with the ability to view them as a slide show, print them via Nokia's Xpress Solutions, upload them to the Web or Nokia's Lifeblog app, or transfer them to other devices. Also, Nokia includes video-out cables so you can hook up your N95 to your TV to view all your media on the big screen.

As a multimedia computer, the Nokia N95 isn't limited to just pictures and video. There's also an integrated music player that supports MP3, WMA, W4A, AAC, AAC+, and eAAC+ files, as well as OMA DRM 2.0- and WMDRM-protected songs. The music library categorizes tracks by artists, albums, genres, and composers; you can also create playlists right on the phone and adjust the sound with the built-in equalizer. The N95 also has an FM radio, though you'll have to use the included headset to access the radio, since it acts as the tuner. RealPlayer is also onboard with 3GPP and MPEG-4 video streaming support. Again, we applaud the decision to incorporate a 3.5mm headphone jack, which goes a long way in making the multimedia experience that much better.

As part of the N Series of multimedia computers, the N95 has dedicated keys for the media player.

On top of all that, Nokia has also packed a GPS receiver into the N95, along with a mapping application. With it, you can get color maps, route planning, and a healthy points-of-interest database. There's also a trip computer that shows you information about the total distance, time, average speed, and so forth. However, to get any kind of turn-by-turn directions, you'll have to download an upgrade to the device. There are several options for purchase, including a one-year license for $125.77 or a one-month license for $13.96. The N95's GPS performance was satisfactory, although it took quite a while for the unit to get a satellite fix. Once connected, though, it did a good job of tracking our position and gave accurate route calculations.

Aside from the GPS radio, other wireless options on the Nokia N95 North American Edition include integrated Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi, an infrared port, and the best news of all, 3G. Specifically, the device supports the 850/1900MHz HSDPA bands, meaning you'll only get the benefit of 3G (data speeds of around 400Kbps to 700Kbps with the potential to hit up to 2Mbps) if you use AT&T's network. The smart phone supports a number of Bluetooth profiles, including wireless headsets, hands-free kits, wireless keyboards, and A2DP for Bluetooth stereo headsets. As far as Wi-Fi, the N95 is compatible with 802.11b/g standards; in addition, there's support for Universal Plug and Play, which lets you use a Wi-Fi connection to hook up with a compatible PC, printer, or home entertainment system, but the number of UPnP devices is limited at the moment. The N95 was able to find and connect to our test access point, and we were able to surf the Net within minutes, using Nokia's excellent Web browser.

While all the aforementioned features are great, you can't forget that the Nokia N95 is, first and foremost, a phone. The N95 includes a speakerphone, speed dial, conference calling, voice-command support, a vibrate mode, and text and multimedia messaging. The phone's address book is only limited by the available memory, and the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. There's room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, work and home addresses, e-mail addresses, birthday, and more vitals. For caller ID purposes, you can assign each contact a photo, one of 44 ringtones, or a group ID.

Last but not least, the N95 runs the third edition of the S60 platform on the Symbian operating system for your productivity needs. An app called QuickOffice lets you view Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, and it optimizes the pages for the phone's screen, so you don't have to scroll all over the place to read text. There are some nice shortcuts to jump to the top or bottom of the page to reduce the up-and-down scrolling, and there's also a search function. However, if you want any editing capabilities, you'll have to upgrade the preloaded copy of QuickOffice. For messaging, the N95 supports IMAP4, POP3, and SMTP e-mail accounts and comes with a full attachment viewer. The N95 does support a number of push e-mail solutions, as well as Microsoft Exchange Server synchronization, but this is dependent upon your service provider and company's e-mail solution, so check with your IT department if you have any questions.

There's a handy wizard when you first power up the device to help you configure your e-mail, and we used it to easily set up our SBC Global account. Other productivity apps and PIM tools include Adobe Reader, a Zip Manager, a calculator, a notepad, a measurement converter, a clock, and a voice recorder.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; ) Nokia N95 in San Francisco using AT&T service and call quality was excellent. We could hear a faint background hiss when talking to friends, but still enjoyed plenty of volume and clarity to carry on with the conversations and to interact with our bank's voice-automated response system. Our callers said they were impressed at how good the phone sounded and had no complaints. Speakerphone quality wasn't as good as the background hiss increased slightly for us and we sounded muffled on the other end; still, it was nothing that prevented us from continuing with the call. We had no problems pairing the N95 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset or the Nokia BH-604 stereo Bluetooth headphones.

When we reviewed the original Nokia N95, we were pretty disappointed at the sluggish performance of the smart phone. The device is jam-packed with features, so understandably this can bog down the processor, but even so, the number of delays we experienced was frustrating--imagine if we had actually paid $700 for it. Fortunately, we had a much better time with the North American Edition of the N95. There were still times where the phone acted sluggishly--for example, when opening a Word document--but it was much improved. Web browsing was also swift, whether we were cruising via Wi-Fi or 3G.

Music playback through the phone's speakers was better than anything we've heard from recent smart phones. It still lacks that deep bass, but we're impressed nonetheless. Video playback was also smooth with good synchronization between picture and audio.

The Nokia N95 is rated for 4 hours of talk time and up to 9 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 8.5 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. According to FCC radiation tests, the Nokia N95 has a digital SAR rating of 0.42 watts per kilogram.


Samsung SCH-i760 (Verizon Wireless)/Best Smartphones

Samsung SCH-i760 (Verizon Wireless)

The Samsung SCH-i760 goes big (literally), delivering a solid set of features and good performance to Verizon customers looking for a business-centric smartphone.
Read review of the Samsung SCH-i760 (Verizon Wireless)
Price: Sorry, pricing not available

Product summary

The good: The Samsung SCH-i760 features a slider design with a full QWERTY keyboard, external dialpad, and touch screen. The Windows Mobile 6 smartphone also offers good performance and has integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and EV-DO; a 1.3-megapixel camera; and real-time e-mail delivery.

The bad: The i760 is bulky, and we wish there was a built-in scroll wheel. There's no support for Verizon's V Cast services, and it lacks Windows Live integration.

The bottom line: The Samsung SCH-i760 goes big (literally), delivering a solid set of features and good performance to Verizon customers looking for a business-centric smartphone.

Specs: OS provided: Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.0 Professional; Installed RAM: 64 MB; Processor: 400 Hz

It's been a long time coming, but it looks like the Samsung SCH-i760 for Verizon Wireless was worth the wait. This highly anticipated Windows Mobile 6 smartphone features a slider design that opens up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard, and yes, while we've seen these type of devices before (e.g., the Sprint Mogul), how many of them had an external dialpad? Zilch. But more than design, the i760 offers business users a full-featured device with messaging capabilities, various wireless options (EV-DO, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi), and good performance. It certainly has its downfalls: the handset is bulky and Verizon has curiously omitted some cool features, like Windows Live integration and V Cast services. It's also pricey at $349.99 with a two-year contract and after rebates, but for Verizon customers looking for a corporate-centric smartphone, the Samsung SCH-i760 is a solid choice.

One look at the Samsung SCH-i760 and you know it means business. Unlike its distant cousin, the Samsung BlackJack, this smartphone isn't about being thin and light. The i760 is built for utility and power. Consequently, this also means it's on the bigger side, measuring 4.4 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.7 inch and weighing 5.2 ounces. It's similar in size to the other slider Pocket PC phones like, as we mentioned, the Sprint Mogul and the AT&T Tilt. Admittedly, the i760 is bulky, especially with the extended battery, and certainly won't easily fit into a pants pocket. It's also a bit slippery (no soft-touch finish) and could get uncomfortable to hold while on a phone call after a while, but the handset is solidly built.

The Samsung SCH-i760 is a full-featured smartphone with the build to match. Here it is next to the Palm Centro.

The Samsung SCH-i760 features a 2.8-inch touch screen that displays 65,536 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution. It's sharp and bright for easy readability, and is viewable in most lighting conditions. Colors washed out a bit in bright sunlight but we were still able to see what was on the screen. We're also a fan of the touch-screen capabilities since it provides an easy and convenient way to launch applications, navigate the menus, input data, and more. There's a stylus included to use with the touch screen, but it's in a weird location. We had some difficulties finding it at first, but finally realized it's the little knob on the lower right side.

Below the display, you also have tactile controls for achieving the same tasks, as well as an alphanumeric dialpad. You won't find an external keypad on too many (if any) Pocket PC phones, and it's a nice option since it saves you the step of calling up the virtual dialpad. The other controls include two soft keys, a Clear button, and a four-way navigation toggle with a central select button. The latter set of buttons are clustered on the left half of the device (see image below), which offsets the position of the soft keys with the corresponding menu items onscreen so that's just something to note. Meanwhile, the Talk and End keys flank the screen but they're tiny slivers, and a bit difficult to press. Another minor complaint is that when you press the Talk button on the left side, it's easy to shift the slider screen, which got to be annoying.

The i760 is unique in that it offers an external dialpad, unlike some other Pocket PC smartphones.

To access the SCH-i760's full QWERTY keyboard, just slide the front cover to the right. This automatically switches the screen orientation from portrait to landscape mode, and unlike some of the other smartphones we've tested, the transition was fairly smooth and without too much of a delay. The keyboard itself is pretty easy to use with sizeable keys and sufficient spacing. It's also well-backlit, but the buttons tend to be a bit slippery.

Though the buttons are slightly slippery, we found the Samsung i760's full QWERTY keyboard pretty easy to use.

There are a number of quick-launch buttons on the phone to make for easier one-handed use, but it's a bit overwhelming and will probably take some time before you're completely familiar with the layout and experience. On the left spine of the phone, you'll find a microSD expansion slot and a volume rocker, while the right side has 2.5mm headset jack, a Today/voice recorder launcher, an OK button, and a camera activation key. We do wish there was some kind of jog dial or wheel to more easily scroll through the menus. Finally, the camera lens and the flash are located on the back of the handset.

Verizon ships the Samsung SCH-i760 with a travel charger, two batteries (standard and extended), a USB cable, a desktop software CD, and reference material. For more add-ons, please check out our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

The Samsung SCH-i760 is stocked with an arsenal of tools that should satisfy most mobile professionals. The phone runs the latest Windows Mobile 6 Professional Edition so you get the full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite with the ability to create, view, and edit Word and Excel documents. You can also view PowerPoint presentations (with minor editing options) and PDFs. More functionality was also added to calendaring, contacts, e-mail, and more; all the details are outlined in our review of Windows Mobile 6. Other personal management tools include a world clock, a calculator, a notepad, and a task manager. Of course, you can customize the i760 for your lifestyle and download other applications to the device; visit for some ideas.

With Microsoft's Direct Push Technology, the i760 can synchronize with your office's Microsoft Exchange Server for real-time e-mail delivery and Outlook synchronization. There's support for a number of other e-mail solutions, as well, including Good Mobile Messaging and Verizon Wireless Sync. In addition, the device can be configured to access your POP3 and IMAP4 accounts. There's a handy e-mail wizard that walks you through the steps for setting everything up, and it's really just a simple matter of entering your e-mail address, login, and password. We used it to access our Yahoo Plus account and had no problems whatsoever. Unfortunately, like the Motorola Q9m, the i760 has been stripped of the Windows Live Messenger instant messaging client as well as Windows Live.

Phone features on the Samsung SCH-i760 include a speakerphone, voice dialing and commands, smart dialing, three-way calling, and text and multimedia messaging. The phone book is limited only by the available memory, and each entry can hold as many as 12 phone numbers, three e-mail addresses, addresses for home and work, a job title, and more. For caller-ID purposes, you can assign a contact to a category or pair it with any of 14 polyphonic ringtones or a photo.

In terms of wireless options, the i760 pretty much has it all except GPS. Bluetooth 2.0 is onboard with support for the A2DP profile, so you can connect to stereo Bluetooth headsets. You can also use Bluetooth for wireless headsets, hands-free kits, wireless file transfers, and dial-up networking. Integrated Wi-Fi lets you hop onto your home network or any available hot spots so you can surf the Web. Alternatively, the i760 is EV-DO capable so you'll be able to enjoy data speeds of as fast as 2.4Mbps, though realistically, you'll average closer to 300Kbps to 600Kbps. Bottom line, you'll have a better experience whether you're browsing the Web, listening to streaming media, or downloading games.

There's a microSD expansion slot located on the left spine of the phone, and it can accept up to 2GB cards.

Given the 3G capabilities, support for Verizon's V Cast music and video services would seem like a good fit, but given that the i760 is more of a business-centric smartphone, Verizon decided not to include these services at this time. However, that doesn't mean the i760 can't have fun. As a Windows Mobile smartphone, the Samsung i760 comes with Windows Media Player 10 Mobile, supporting a number of popular audio and video formats--AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV, to name a few. If you have TV shows recorded on your Windows Media Center PC, you can transfer them to your device for on-the-go viewing. Onboard memory is 64MB of RAM and 128MB of built-in flash memory with about 59MB of user-accessible storage, but you should be able to carry a nice size library of music and videos by taking advantage of the expansion slot, which can accept cards up to 2GB.

The i760's 1.3-megapixel camera produced some decent-looking photos.

Finally, there's a 1.3-megapixel camera with video recording capabilities. There's a flash and self-timer, and you can choose from several shooting modes, quality settings, and resolutions, which range from 1,280x960 to 160x120 for still images. To enhance the picture, there are white-balance settings and various effects that you can add. These tools are also available to you in camcorder mode, though you can only choose from three quality settings. Picture quality, while not spectacular, was good. We had some difficulty steadying the device to get a clear shot, but images came out with sharpness and decent color.

We tested the dual-band (CDMA 850/1900; EV-DO) Samsung SCH-i760 in San Francisco using Verizon service, and call quality was mixed. There was some reverberation on our end but we could still carry on conversations without problem and interact with our bank's automated voice response system. Our friends said we sounded fine, though not spectacular, as they could tell we were using a cell phone. The speakerphone also yielded a similarly mixed reaction. This time we thought the speakerphone sounded great with clear sound and plenty of volume. In fact, we were caught a bit off guard when we first activated the speakerphone and were blasted away by our friend's voice. Sadly, they didn't enjoy quite the same results, saying that we sounded soft. We had no problems pairing the i760 with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

Powered by a 400MHz Samsung S3C2442 processor, general performance on the Samsung i760 was snappy, though response time reduced as we used several applications simultaneously. Surfing the Web was a joy with speedy load times thanks to the EV-DO support, and the smartphone was also able to find and connect to our test access Wi-Fi point with no problem. We had no major complaints in the multimedia category either. As we saw when using the speakerphone, the i760 has plenty of volume to crank out tunes, but it could use a little more in the bass department. We also wish the smartphone was equipped with a 3.5mm jack so we could plug in a nice pair of headphones. Video playback was decent with synchronized audio and image, but as expected, there was some pixelation during actions sequences.

The i760 is rated for 3.5 hours of talk time and up to 7.5 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests, we were able to get 4 hours of talk time from the standard battery and 6 hours of talk time from the extended battery. According to FCC radiation tests, the i760 has a digital SAR rating of 0.73 watt per kilogram.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

RIM BlackBerry Curve 8320 - pale gold (T-Mobile) / Best Smartphones

RIM BlackBerry Curve 8320 - pale gold (T-Mobile)

The RIM BlackBerry Curve (aka BlackBerry 8320) for T-Mobile is the best BlackBerry we've seen to date as it offers Wi-Fi, best-of-breed design, and excellent performance.

Read review of the RIM BlackBerry Curve 8320 - pale gold (T-Mobile)
Price: Sorry, pricing not available

Product summary

The good: The RIM BlackBerry 8320 offers integrated Wi-Fi and works with T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home service so you can make calls via Wi-Fi. The smartphone also features a nice, sleek design; a spacious QWERTY keyboard; a 2-megapixel camera; popular IM clients; and good call quality.

The bad: The Curve's camera can't record videos, and there's no 3G support. The BlackBerry Web browser isn't quite as sophisticated as those on competing smartphones.

The bottom line: The RIM BlackBerry Curve (aka BlackBerry 8320) for T-Mobile is the best BlackBerry we've seen to date as it offers Wi-Fi, best-of-breed design, and excellent performance.

Specs: OS provided: BlackBerry Handheld Software; Wireless connectivity: IEEE 802.11b,; IEEE 802.11g,; Bluetooth 2.0; Talk time: Up to 240 min

Portions of the design section were taken from our review of the RIM BlackBerry Curve for AT&T, as the two devices share many of the same physical characteristics.

AT&T may have scored the RIM BlackBerry 8820 last week, but we're thinking T-Mobile got the better deal with the just-announced RIM BlackBerry 8320, aka the BlackBerry Curve with Wi-Fi. Why? Well, first it has the same sleek design of the original Curve with a more spacious and easy-to-use QWERTY keyboard. You also get a 2-megapixel camera, whereas the BlackBerry 8820 is sans camera. Of course, the latter is definitely aimed more at the business set, whereas the BlackBerry 8320 will appeal to a wider audience, and we're thinking it'll be a hit. The Curve offers solid performance, a great design, excellent messaging features, and the addition of Wi-Fi is icing on the cake. The RIM BlackBerry 8320 is available now for $249.99 with a two-year contract.

We loved the design of the first RIM BlackBerry Curve, so we're glad to see the company didn't mess with a good thing when the RIM BlackBerrry 8320. It still offers a best-of-breed design that beautifully combines a full QWERTY keyboard into a sleek and compact form factor (4.2 inches high by 2.4 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep; 3.9 ounces). With such a slim profile and small weight, the Curve is comfortable to hold and use as a phone, even though it has a wider body than regular cell phones. The outer edges also have a soft-touch finish to give it a rubbery texture, thus making it easier to grip. Unlike the AT&T version, T-Mobile offers two color options: pale gold or titanium.

The RIM BlackBerry 8320 for T-Mobile pictured next to the first BlackBerry Curve for AT#&38;T.

On front of the device, there's a 2.5-inch diagonal, 65,000-color screen with a 320x240 pixel resolution. The display features a light-sensing technology that automatically adjusts the backlighting of the screen as well as the keyboard, based on your environment (indoors, outdoors, a dark room, and so forth). In addition, you can customize the screen with various themes and wallpaper, as well as adjust the font size, family, and style. We didn't have any problems reading the contents of the screen under various lighting conditions, and both text and images were sharp and vibrant.

As with all BlackBerry models, the BlackBerry 8320 does not have a touch screen, but we still found the device easy to use and navigate with the provided controls. You'll find these controls beneath the screen; they include the Talk and End/power buttons, a Menu shortcut, an Escape key, and the trackball navigator. You can adjust the sensitivity of the latter under the Settings > Screen/Keyboard menu. Along the right side, there is a volume rocker and a user-defined launch button that's set to activate the camera by default. The left side holds a mini-USB port as well as another programmable convenience key, and--good news--the Curve is equipped with a 3.5-millimeter headset jack, so you can plug in Walkman-style headphones.

One of the biggest complaints about the BlackBerry 8820 was its keyboard. RIM switched up the layout and feel of the keyboard on the 8820, and many users found the buttons to be slippery and cramped. Happily, the BlackBerry Curve's full QWERTY keyboard offers a better typing experience, as it reverts back to the styling of the keys found on the BlackBerry 8700g. This means you get more spacing between the buttons, and they're tactile and less slick.

The BlackBerry 8320 features a spacious QWERTY keyboard for easy messaging.

Finally, the camera lens, flash, and self-portrait mirror are on the back of the device, and a mute button is located on top. The Curve is equipped with a microSD slot, but it's located behind the battery, so it's a bit inconvenient to access. T-Mobile ships the RIM BlackBerry 8320 with a travel charger, a USB cable, a wired stereo headset, a belt holster, and reference material. For more BlackBerry add-ons and downloads.

The RIM BlackBerry 8320's biggest draw is the addition of Wi-Fi. It supports 802.11b/g, whether you're using your home or corporate network or hopping onto a Wi-Fi hot spot. The Curve also works with T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home, which lets you make and receive calls using both regular GSM cellular networks and preconfigured wireless networks. The benefit of this is that calls made via Wi-Fi will not be deducted from your cellular plan, meaning you get unlimited calls as long as you're within range of the hot spot. Our review unit was able to find and connect to our test access point without any problems, and we were up and running on the Web in no time.

The addition of Wi-Fi gives you another way to surf the Web and make calls on the BlackBerry Curve.

Other wireless options include EDGE and Bluetooth. Supported Bluetooth profiles include those for wireless headsets, hands-free kits, dial-up networking, object exchange, and A2DP for stereo Bluetooth headsets. Unlike the BlackBerry 8820, however, the Curve doesn't include a GPS radio. Instead, you will have to take advantage of the device's integrated Bluetooth and add this functionality via a Bluetooth GPS receiver. There's no 3G support, but seeing as T-Mobile has yet to roll out its 3G network, this is a bit of a nonpoint at this time.

As for voice features, the Curve is a quad-band world phone and offers a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, and speed dial. In addition, the phone features advanced audio technology that's supposed to cancel out background noise and echoes and will automatically increase the volume when you're in a noisy environment. The BlackBerry 8320's phone book is limited only by the available memory--the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts--with room in each entry for eight phone numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home addresses, job title, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a photo to a contact as well a group category--business or personal--or one of 45 polyphonic ringtones. The BlackBerry 8320 also supports T-Mobile's MyFaves service, which gives you unlimited calling to five contacts, regardless of carrier. Plans for myFaves start at $39.99 a month.

The BlackBerry 8320 is compatible 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. In total, the device can support as many as 10 accounts, including POP3 or IMAP4 e-mail accounts, and there is an e-mail wizard on the device to guide you through the setup process. An attachment viewer is also onboard to open popular file formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Corel WordPerfect, PDF, JPEG, GIF, and more, and we were able to receive and open all files. Other messaging options include text, multimedia, and instant messaging. Of the latter, we were thrilled that T-Mobile included access to some of the most popular IM clients today, such as AIM, Yahoo, and Windows Live Messenger.

Like the original Curve, the BlackBerry 8320 has a spell-check feature for e-mails. As you would expect, the feature will look for any spelling errors in your messages before they're sent and offer alternatives to misspelled words. Spell-check is also available for memos, but not for text messages. You can turn this feature on under the Options > Spell Check menu, where you can also find settings to ignore acronyms, words with numbers, add words to a custom dictionary, and more. During our review period, the feature worked great, and it definitely comes in handy--especially if you're sending messages to clients, your boss, and other professionals.

There are a number of PIM tools, such as a calendar, a tasks list, a memo pad, an alarm, a calculator, and the BlackBerry maps application. The latter is particularly useful, as it gives you maps of the United States as well as text-based driving directions--great for mobile professionals. Of course, you can always download more applications.

The Curve is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera and flash, which are located on back of the device.

For multimedia, the BlackBerry 8320 boasts a 2-megapixel camera with a 5x zoom and a built-in flash, but unfortunately, still no video-recording capabilities. You do get three picture sizes (1,600x1,200; 1,024x768; and 640x480) and three quality options (superfine, fine, and normal). You can also tweak the white balance and add color effects. Picture quality was good when we could get a clear shot. We found it a bit difficult to get steady shot and had to really concentrate on holding the phone still in order to get a decent photo. Once we did, however, pictures had decent color tone and definition.

The BlackBerry 8320 took decent pictures, but you'll need a real steady hand in order to get clear shot.

There's also a media player onboard that supports MP3, AAC, MIDI, and WAV music files and AVI, MP4, MOV, and 3GP video formats. There's 64MB of flash memory, but you should store multimedia files on a microSD card since they tend to be memory hogs. The music player is pretty rudimentary, but it displays some track information such as title, artist, and album art, and you can create playlists as well as shuffle and repeat songs. You can have music play in the background while you use the device's other apps, and if there's an incoming call, the Curve will pause the music, then resume the track after you hang up. One notable improvement to the video player is the support for full-screen mode, so you can take advantage of the entire screen's real estate. The 3.5-millimeter headset jack is also a boost, since it gives you the ability to plug in a better set of headphones or earbuds.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) RIM BlackBerry 8320 in San Francisco using T-Mobile service, and call quality was outstanding. Audio was crisp and loud on our end, and we had absolutely no problem interacting with our bank's voice-automated response system. Our friends were also impressed by how good calls sounded and had no complaints of any background noise or distortion. There was a slight background hiss when we activated the speakerphone, but nothing that prevented us from carrying on a conversation. We were able to pair the BlackBerry 8320 to both the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Nokia BH-604 stereo Bluetooth headphones.

In everyday use, there were some slight delays, such as when activating the camera or viewing photos, but overall, we enjoyed snappy performance. Music playback through the device's speakers was good, with fairly full sound and decent balance, but we could have done with a little more bass. Watching video was smooth overall. Audio and video were synchronized, but as expected, there was some pixelation of the picture during action sequences. Web browsing was swift over Wi-Fi, while a bit poky using T-Mobile's EDGE network. We also admit that the BlackBerry Web browser isn't quite as sleek as those found on Windows Mobile, Symbian, and Palm smartphones.

The BlackBerry 8320 has a rated talk time battery life of 4 hours and up to 17 days of standby time. We are currently still conducting our battery drain tests, as well as T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home compatibility, and we will update this section as soon we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the BlackBerry 8320 has a digital SAR rating of 1.51 watts per kilogram.


AT&T Tilt / Best Smartphones

Lighten your load by picking up an all-in-one device. Whether you use it as an organizer, an e-mail device, a cell phone, getting a smartphone is a smart move. Here are our top five picks for these phone-PDA hybrids; we've picked one for each major carrier, as well as one unlocked smartphone.

AT&T Tilt

The AT&T Tilt promises to be the carrier's most powerful smartphone for business users with its full range of wireless options, Windows Mobile 6, and innovative tilt screen.

Price: $199.99 - $199.99 (check prices)

Whether you know it as the AT&T 8925, the HTC Kaiser, or the HTC TyTN II, this highly anticipated Windows Mobile 6 smartphone officially got its crowning today as the AT&T Tilt. And we'd say the name is quite fitting given that it has a slide-out screen that tilts 40 degrees for a better viewing angle. It's a nice touch that we enjoyed, but there's more to this smartphone than an innovative design. It's packed with all the features a mobile professional could want in a smartphone: the full range of wireless options, including UMTS/HSDPA support and GPS, Windows Mobile 6 (AT&T's first WM6 device, in fact), and strong messaging capabilities. It can also entertain with support for AT&T Music and AT&T Video and a 3-megapixel camera.

We had the opportunity to check out a preproduction unit of the Tilt, and while we'll reserve final judgment until we have the finished product in hand, we think it will be a hit. Let us be clear that this is a device best-suited for power business users. It doesn't have the mass appeal of an Apple iPhone, and it certainly has its downfalls, too: It's hefty and talk-time battery life is somewhat short. However, the added features make it a worthy upgrade from the AT&T 8525. The AT&T Tilt will be available starting October 5 for $299.99 with a two-year contract, which isn't too bad considering all the features you get with this device.

Let's just cut to the chase and talk about what makes the AT&T Tilt so special, shall we? From the outside, the Tilt doesn't look that much different from its predecessor, the AT&T 8525. It has a PDA-like design and features a slide-out screen that reveals a full QWERTY keyboard underneath. However, there's one major difference between the two: The Tilt's screen tilts (hence the name; get it?) up to 40 degrees, mimicking a mini laptop. Though we never had any problems with the old design, we do like this extra functionality. It gives you a better view of the display, and it's nice if you just want to lay it on a flat surface and read through your e-mails, work documents, or view videos. Of course, if you so choose, you could compose messages in this position, but you'd probably have to peck away with your index fingers, which seems a bit uncomfortable and dorky. We found it easier just to hold the smartphone in both hands and let our thumbs happily tap away.

If the name didn't give it away, you can slide out the AT&T Tilt's screen and angle it up to 40 degrees for better viewing.

The keyboard itself is roomy with large rectangular buttons that are tactile and well-backlit, so we were easily able to type out e-mails, text messages, and the like. The number buttons are also easy see, as they're highlighted in silver--a stark contrast to the rest of the black keys. The only real problem we ran into was trying to press the two soft keys above the keyboard while the screen was tilted up. Having the screen in the upright position reduces what little space there is between the soft keys and the bottom edge of the front cover, so we kept banging our thumbs up against it. It's certainly not a deal breaker, though, and we were happy with the overall experience.

The Tilt's full QWERTY keyboard features large keys, so typing e-mails and messages on the smartphone is a breeze.

The AT&T Tilt's touch screen measures 2.8 inches diagonally and shows off 65,536 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution. Text and images looked sharp and bright, and the display was readable in various lighting conditions, including bright sunlight thanks to the tilting screen. You can change the theme of the Today screen as well as the background image, displayed menu items, and backlight timeout. The screen orientation will also automatically switch from portrait to landscape mode once you slide open the cover, but we noticed there was a slight delay during the transition (See Performance for more).

Below the display, you'll find a navigation array that consists of the Talk and End buttons, two soft keys, an OK button, shortcuts to Internet Explorer Mobile, the Start menu, and your Inbox, and a five-way navigation toggle with a central select key. All of these controls are easy to use, and we're particularly pleased with the spacious directional keypad. On the left spine, there is a push-to-talk launcher, an OK button, and scroll wheel that you can press to select a menu item. Once on a call, it can also be used to adjust the phone volume. The right side houses the power button, camera activation key, and stylus, while the microSD expansion slot and mini USB port are found on the bottom of the unit. The camera lens (no self-portrait mirror or flash) is located on the back along with speaker and external GPS jack, and the SIM card holder is actually on the backside of the front cover when slid out rather than behind the battery. Speaking of which, a minor point, but we found it extremely difficult to take off the battery cover. There doesn't seem to be a release switch, so we had to pry it off with a sharp-edged object. Another thing on our wish list is a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack.

The AT&T Tilt measures 4.4 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep and weighs 6.1 ounces. We're not even going to lie; the handset is definitely bulky and heavy, so it won't easily slip into a pants pocket. However, we think HTC did a nice job designing the Tilt. The smartphone has nice rounded corners and boasts a sleek-black-lacquer-and-polished-steel finish on front, while the back features a soft-touch finish for better gripping. It's more comfortable to hold than the AT&T 8525 and Sprint Mogul, and feels like it has a more solid construction.

The AT&T Tilt is one hefty smartphone, but it has a solid construction and soft-touch finish for easy gripping.

The AT&T Tilt comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an extra stylus, a Getting Started CD, and reference material. Frankly, we're a little disappointed with the included accessories, as we would have liked to seen the inclusion of at least a belt holster or a wired headset.

With the barrage of smartphones that hit AT&T's lineup this year, it caught us by surprise that this is actually the carrier's first Windows Mobile 6 smartphone. It runs the Professional Edition, and the updated operating system brings a number of small but notable improvements over Windows Mobile 5. For example, there's a new Calendar ribbon that gives you a better view of your schedule at a glance with colored blocks for appointments and details of the event, such as meeting location, right along the bottom of your screen so you don't have to open each one. There's also a new e-mail search function that works like the Smart Dial feature on Windows Mobile 5 devices, where you start typing in a word while in your Inbox, and it will automatically pull up messages with that term in the subject or contact field.

As a mobile professional's tool, the Tilt comes with the full Microsoft Mobile Office Suite for creating, viewing, and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. In addition, there's an Adobe Reader client for opening PDFs. Other PIM tools include a calculator, a clock, a ZIP manager, and a voice recorder. To manage your memory and optimize the device's performance, you can view the amount of available memory under the Settings menu and stop running programs with the Task Manager. The Tilt comes with 256MB of ROM and 128MB SDRAM. There's about 87MB of user-accessible storage and 68MB of program memory, and you can always expand the capacity by using the microSD expansion slot, which accepts up to 4GB cards.

The AT&T Tilt is equipped with a microSD expansion slot located on the bottom of the device.

Of course, with the full QWERTY keyboard, e-mail and messaging is also a key feature. The AT&T Tilt ships with Microsoft's Direct Push technology out of the box so you get real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. In addition, the Tilt works with other e-mail solutions, including BlackBerry Connect and AT&T Xpress Mail. There is, of course, continued support for POP3 and IMAP accounts, but now you also can view e-mails in their original HTML format, regardless of account type. The Tilt also comes preloaded with AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo instant-messaging clients and supports text and multimedia messaging.

For voice communication, the Tilt offers world roaming capabilities, a speakerphone, and voice commands and dialing. The Tilt's contact list is limited only by the available memory (the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts) and is quite robust. You can store up to 12 numbers for a single entry as well as home and work addresses, an e-mail address, an IM screen name, birthday, spouse's name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or one of 26 polyphonic ringtones. The Tilt also supports AT&T's push-to-talk service, allowing you to instantly see the availability of your contacts before calling them and make individual or group PTT calls. PTT plans start at $9.99 per month.

Much to our delight, and we imagine yours as well, the AT&T Tilt offers the full gamut of wireless options: Wi-Fi (802.11b/g), Bluetooth 2.0, UMTS/HSDPA, and GPS. The smartphone supports a number of Bluetooth profiles, including those for wireless headsets, hands-free kits, dial-up networking, and A2DP for stereo Bluetooth headsets. For surfing the Web, you can use the built-in Wi-Fi to hop onto a hot spot, or, alternatively, you can take advantage of the 3G support to get data speeds of around 400Kbps to 700Kbps (with the potential to hit up to 2Mbps) using AT&T's network. In addition, you'll be able to access UMTS/HSDPA networks while abroad. For your convenience, there's a Wireless Manager where you can turn on and off all the various radios.

With the built-in GPS radio, you can use a location-based service, such as AT&T's TeleNav GPS Navigator, and you can get color maps and text- and voice-guided driving directions, and points of interest right on the device. In addition, the TeleNav application can help you find the cheapest gas based on your location, share addresses with your contacts, and more. Just be aware that if you choose TeleNav GPS Navigator, this is an add-on service from AT&T that will cost $9.99 per month for unlimited trips or $5.99 for up to 10 trips.

To get the most out of 3G, the Tilt supports the AT&T Video and AT&T Music services. Using AT&T Video, we watched clips of The Daily Show, MTV Mobile, ESPN sports highlights, and a few other videos. Downloads were speedy with barely any delay for video buffering. AT&T Music is a full-featured service that not only allows you to purchase songs from independent music services, such as Napster to Go and Yahoo Music, but also includes streaming XM satellite radio, music videos, MusicID for identifying song titles and artists, and a music news site called TheBuzz. Unfortunately, not all features of the service were enabled on our review unit, but we were able to listen to XM satellite radio and enjoyed smooth streaming audio. Of course, you can import your personal library of MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV files via microSD card, thanks to Windows Media Player 10 Mobile.

The Tilt gets an upgrade over its predecessor with a 3-megapixel camera, but there's no flash or self-portrait mirror.

Last but not least, the AT&T Tilt is equipped with a 3-megapixel camera with up to 8x zoom and video recording capabilities. The editing options are very similar to those found on its predecessor. In camera mode, you can choose from six resolution settings and four quality modes. Unfortunately, there's no flash, but you can adjust the white balance, add effects, and set a self-timer. The options are a bit more limited in video mode, but you can record clips with sound in MPEG-4 or H.263 format and choose from one of four resolutions.

Picture quality could have been better. The color tone was orangish, and we found that you have to have a really steady hand to get a clear shot.

Picture quality was OK, though not as good as we expected from a 3-megapixel lens. First, it was really difficult to get a clear shot since you have to have a super steady hand when pressing the capture button. It took us multiple tries to get a decent image. Even then, we thought the coloring was a bit dull and hazy, but we were still able to make out the objects in the picture since definition was sharp. As with most camera phones, the Tilt is fine if you need to grab a quick shot for a multimedia messages or an e-mail, but nothing worth printing out.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE; UMTS/HSDPA) AT&T Tilt in San Francisco using AT&T service, and call quality was excellent. We enjoyed crisp audio with very little to no background noise or interference, and we got more than one "wow" from our friends, as they, too, were impressed with the sound quality. We were also able to interact with our bank's automated voice response system with no problem. Unfortunately, things took a dive when we activated the speakerphone. We had a hard time hearing our callers even with the volume cranked to high, as their voices sounded hollow. Meanwhile, they said we sounded far away and could tell we were using the speakerphone. On a good note, we were able to successfully pair the Tilt with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset and the Nokia BH-604 stereo Bluetooth headphones.

As we reported at the beginning, we were sent a preproduction unit of the AT&T Tilt, which we hope explains some of the sluggishness we experienced during our test period. The delays weren't so bad that it prevented us from working, but the lag was particularly noticeable when changing screen orientation and working in various applications. Hopefully, these minor issues will be resolved with the final software update, and we will certainly re-evaluate the performance then.

All that said, we enjoyed working and playing on the Tilt. We had no problems setting up the smartphone to retrieve our e-mail and we were able to successfully transfer and work on various work documents, including PDFs, and Word and Excel files. The Web browsing experience was swift whether we were using Wi-Fi or AT&T's 3G network. However, we ran into some problems with the built-in GPS radio. It took at least 10 tries for the Tilt to get a fix on our position, and it repeatedly told us that the GPS signal was too weak and needed a better view of the sky. We can understand that, but we were already in an open area, so it was frustrating to have to sit there and wait.

Multimedia performance was mixed. We were truly impressed with how great videos looked on the Tilt. Audio and video were always synchronized, and while there was some pixelation, it wasn't as bad as we've seen on other devices. Unfortunately, the phone's weak speaker system takes away from the music experience, as songs sounded tinny and lacked richness. Again, we wish there was a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack to enhance this part of the smartphone.

The AT&T Tilt's 1,350mAh lithium ion battery is rated for up to 4.4 hours of talk time for UMTS and 7 hours for GSM and up to 14 days of standby time for UMTS and 15 days for GSM. In our battery drain tests, we were only able to get 3.5 hours of talk time on UMTS. We are conducting several more tests, so we'll update this section as soon as we have final results.