Sunday, October 19, 2008

To Where You Are (Music Video) by Josh Groban

Here Without You (Music Video) by 3 Doors Down

Beautiful Liar (Music Video) by Beyonce

No One (Music Video) by Alicia Keys

Teardrops On My Guitar (Music Video) by Taylor Swift

Umbrella (Music Video) by Rihanna

Better In Time (Music Video) by Leona Lewis

Realize (Music Video) by Colbie Caillat

No Air Music Video by Jordin Sparks

Tattoo Music Video by Jordin Sparks

Bleeding Love Music Video by Leona Lewis (with Lyrics)

Bleeding Love

Closed off from love, I didn't need the pain
Once or twice was enough and it was all in vain
Time starts to pass, before you know it you're frozen

But something happened for the very first time with you
My heart melted to the ground, found something true
And everyone's looking 'round, thinking I'm going crazy

But I don't care what they say, I'm in love with you
They try to pull me away but they don't know the truth
My heart's crippled by the vein that I keep on closing

You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love
I keep bleeding, I keep, keep bleeding love
Keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love
You cut me open

Trying hard not to hear but they talk so loud
Their piercing sounds fill my ears, try to fill me with doubt
Yet I know that the goal is to keep me from falling

But nothing's greater than the rush that comes with your embrace
And in this world of loneliness I see your face
Yet everyone around me thinks that I'm going crazy
Maybe, maybe

But I don't care what they say, I'm in love with you
They try to pull me away but they don't know the truth
My heart's crippled by the vein that I keep on closing

You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love
I keep bleeding, I keep, keep bleeding love
Keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love
You cut me open

And it's draining all of me
Oh, they find it hard to believe
I'll be wearing these scars for everyone to see

I don't care what they say, I'm in love with you
They try to pull me away but they don't know the truth
My heart's crippled by the vein that I keep on closing

You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love
I keep bleeding, I keep, keep bleeding love
Keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love

You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love
I keep bleeding, I keep, keep bleeding love
Keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love

You cut me open and I
Keep bleeding, keep, keep bleeding love

Over It Music Video by Katharine McPhee

Buttons Music Video by The Pussycat Dolls

Don't Stop The Music (Music Video) by Rihanna

Gimme More Music Video by Britney Spears

London Bridge: Pepsi Smash Exclusive Performance (Music Video) by Fergie

Friday, October 17, 2008

LaLola (Philippine TV series)


, is a Philippine romantic comedy produced and distributed by GMA Network. It is an adaptation of a famous Argentine telenovela. The series premiered on October 13, 2008 starring Rhian Ramos and JC de Vera.

Laugh at the misfortunes of a womanizer and heartbreaker named Lalo, the president of the brewery Distilleria Lobregat and Manila's most eligible bachelor. A kiss from Sera, vengeful sister of his ex-girlfriend, triggers the spell trapping Lalo in a woman's body. Since nobody will believe his transformation, Lalo has no choice but to pass himself off as someone else.

Lalo enters the company and introduces himself as Lola, his girlfriend. Although lovely and witty, Lola must battle against all odds to prove herself equal to boys and even endure the same kind of harassment and chauvinism Lalo used to inflict on girls.

As if being locked in a woman's body is not enough, Lalo/Lola will realize as days pass that she is becoming more and more effeminate and even finds himself/herself drawn to the irresistible charms of Facundo, the vice president for marketing and public relations of Distilleria Lobregat and the complete opposite of Lalo.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Survivor Philippines: Patani Show/Video


Survivor Philippines: Marlon, anu ka hilo?/Video


Survivor Philippines: NAAK tribe / video


Monday, October 13, 2008

CHARICE Pempengco with Josh Groban and Whitney Huston/Video


Charice Pempengco in Las Vegas Part 1


Charice Pempengco in Las Vegas / Video


Charice Pempengco in Las Vegas Part 2 / Video


Charice Pempengco performs with US Stars, receives Standing Ovation/Video




Charice Pempengco meets Mariah Carey/Video


Sunday, October 12, 2008

Creative Zen (16GB)/Ultrathin MP3 Players

6. Creative Zen (16GB)

Product Summary

The good: The Creative Zen sounds fantastic and features a brilliant color screen capable of displaying photos and video. The player offers a smorgasbord of desirable extras such as an SD card expansion slot, an FM radio, a voice recorder, and a user-definable EQ. It has a slim, pocket-friendly design; is very user-friendly; supports subscription music; and sports a reasonable price tag.

The bad: The Creative Zen only comes in black, the control pad feels cheap, and it doesn't come close to matching the max 60GB offered by the player it's replacing.

The bottom line: We're hard-pressed to find anything not to like about the Creative Zen. It's a great option for anyone looking for a great-sounding, pocketable MP3 player with an excellent, video-capable screen and plenty of extra features.

Specs: Device type: Digital player / radio

In a move that surprised many a Creative fan, the company has ushered in a flash-based replacement for its Zen Vision : M, a full-size, hard-drive player that offered up to 60GB of space. Though the news was not well-received by some proponents of carting around a large library of tracks, those who give the new player--dubbed simply the Zen--a chance will find that it's a completely worthy follow-up to its chunky predecessor. This new Zen--which comes in 2GB ($79.99), 4GB ($99.99), 8GB ($129.99), 16GB ($199.99), and 32GB ($299.99) versions--may not hold as much media as the 60GB Vision:M, but it offers the same, lovely screen in a much smaller body, and it packs in a couple of new features for good measure. Plus, it's an incredible value for the price.

It's all about sleek understatement
Creative has gained somewhat of a reputation for putting MP3 players in a vast array of colors, so it comes as a bit of a shock (and maybe a letdown, for some) that the Zen will be offered in just one: black. Still, it must be said that black does make an excellent frame for the awesome 2.5-inch TFT screen, which is capable of displaying 16.7 million colors. Also, while the design might not be as innovative as that of the iPod Touch and iRiver Clix--or as cute or as eye-catching s that of previous family members--the Zen has a certain understated elegance with its shiny face and brushed-metal backside. It's like a smaller, sleeker version of the Vision.

Despite its ample screen, the Zen is pleasantly compact. At just 3.3 inches by 2.1 inches by 0.4 inch, it's about 60 percent smaller than the Vision:M and it's definitely pocket-friendly. We're also pleased to note that Creative didn't skimp on the controls and has migrated completely to the user-friendly tactile variety. Main functions are handled by a four-way control square surrounding a center select button. This is flanked on the top by a back/contextual menu rocker and on the bottom by a shortcut and play/pause toggle. Sadly, there's no dedicated volume control, but the right edge of the Zen houses the ever-handy hold/power switch along with a standard mini-USB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. The reset and mic holes can be found on the bottom and top spines, respectively.

Fun features for all
Exploring the top side of the Zen also reveals one of the new extras we alluded to earlier. In another departure from the norm, Creative has built in an SD card expansion slot--a first for its MP3 players. We're happy to report that the slot can take SDHC ards, which currently go up to 16GB in the full-size SD variety. (Of course, at a price that exceeds the 16GB Zen itself, those are a bit cost-prohibitive at the moment.) Considering the move away from more capacious hard drive memory, we definitely think the addition of memory expansion was a wise--and necessary--move.

Another new feature to be found on this Zen is its support of unprotected AAC files, meaning it will play back iTunesPlus tracks, though you can't use iTunes to transfer them. The player can sync via drag-and-drop in Windows Explorer, or you can use a jukebox such as Windows Media Player or Rhapsody. Like its other family members, this Zen also supports MP3, WAV, Audible, and both protected and unprotected WMA tracks. Unfortunately, it also shares Mac incompatibility with the other players in its line. Photos must be in JPEG format, which Windows Media Player can convert to automatically during syncing. On the video side, the Zen plays WMV and Motion JPEG out of the box and MPEG4, DiVX, and XViD with conversion. Creative includes an app--Zen Media Explorer--which can take care of the conversion painlessly and (somewhat) quickly.

In addition to its media capabilities, the Zen includes Creative's usual impressive array of features, though it's worth noting that there is no line-in recording for audio or video (the latter in particular would have been a nice touch). You do get voice recording and an FM radio with autoscan and 32 preset slots. There's also basic PIM functionality: you can sync contacts, tasks, and calendar info from Outlook to the device. Plus, you get the usual shuffle and repeat playback modes, handy contextual menus, and the ability to search for artists and songs as well as rate songs on the fly and set up to 10 bookmarks. Nine preset EQs, a five-band, user-definable mode, and a bass boost function ensure that you can adjust sound to your liking.

But it's the fun visual display option that set the Zen line apart. Album art can be viewed as a thumbnail or in full-screen mode on the playback display, and Creative includes various themes for interface customization. You can also set any image on the player as wallpaper, and the photo-browsing experience is great: there's a 5x4 thumbnail grid and each one magnifies as you scroll over it. Naturally, you can view photos and slide shows while listening to music. There's even a nifty, semi-split-screen deal on the main menu that cycles through album art, photos, or video image clips, depending on which media type you are browsing.

Shining performance
No two ways about it: the Zen's screen is fabulous. Photos look vibrant and bright, with excellent color saturation and good detail. Videos are similarly impressive--clear and bright with no noticeable pixilation (though we did notice the occasional blurring around some sharp edges)--and the viewing angle from side to side is excellent. Even the interface looks stellar, right down to the transparent icons on the main menu. It's a nice screen to look at for sure.

Frankly, we've come to expect stellar audio quality from Creative's MP3 players, and the Zen did not disappoint--once we swapped in the Shure SE530 headphones. (For their part, the included headphones were passable.) Perhaps the best thing is that all genres of music sound equally great. The bass of Zeb's disco house track "Disco Patel" was tight and enveloping without overshadowing the sparkle of the high hat and minute ting of the triangle. In the Bangles' high-end heavy intro to "Hazy Shade of Winter," the detail of each instrument was crystal clear, and the relatively quiet Spanish guitar was not lost among the frantic chorus of the rest of the track. Overall, music was rich, warm, and detailed...and it just made us happy.

The Creative Zen also boasts plenty of volume to drive a full-size set of 'phones--we only had it up to about a third with some noise-isolating buds. The rated battery life of 25 hours for audio and 5 hours for video is solid, and CNET Labs pretty much matched these estimates at 24.7 hours and 5.6 hours, respectively. It may not be the longest-lasting battery on the market, but the Zen certainly offers a good value with its lovely screen, nice sound, and good combination of features.


Apple iPod Touch (first generation, 32GB)/Ultrathin MP3 Players

Apple iPod touch (32GB)

Product Summary

The good: The Apple iPod Touch has a large, video-worthy screen, a cutting-edge interface, and Wi-Fi Internet, e-mail, and music download capabilities.

The bad: The iPod Touch may cost too much for you, depending on your needs. It has a small capacity for a portable video player.

The bottom line: The iPod Touch is a beautiful product, inside and out, but prepare yourself for sticker shock.

Specs: Device type: Portable media center; Dimensions (WxDxH): 2.4 in x 0.3 in x 4.3 in; Display type: LCD 3.5

If you find yourself dazzled by the Web, video, and music capabilities of Apple's iPhone but can't stomach the contract commitment, the iPod Touch might be just what you're looking for. Offered in 8GB ($299), 16GB ($399), and 32GB ($499) capacities, the iPod Touch is a premium-priced device with an attractive set of features for a midsize portable video player. Still, the Touch's limited storage capacity makes it a difficult choice when held up to higher capacity products like the iPod Classic or Archos 605 WiFi.

For better or worse, the iPod Touch is clearly the iPhone's baby brother. Like most products that roll out of Apple, the Touch shows the love of committed designers, hardware engineers, and usability experts. The iPod Touch measures a slim and pocketable 4.3 inches by 2.4 inches by 0.31 inch, with an all-metal-and-glass design that feels as expensive as it looks. Because nothing will ruin a portable video player faster than a gouge across its screen, we're happy to see that the face of the Touch uses the same scratch-resistant glass found on the iPhone. Most users will still want to buy a protective case, however, since the iPod Touch feels a little fragile and the back is covered with the glossy, scratch-prone, smudge-loving chrome exterior common to most iPods.

Although the iPod Touch (center) shares most of its features with the iPhone (left), it is technically a sibling of the iPod Classic (right).

There are only two physical buttons on the iPod Touch: a button on the face of the player used for calling up the main menu; and a screen deactivation button found on the top-left edge of the case. The iPod Touch is controlled largely using an icon-based touch-screen navigation menu nearly identical to the iPhone's, but with greater emphasis placed on music, photo, and video playback.

The two design details that distinguish the iPod Touch from the iPhone are the downward-facing headphone jack and volume controls. In the absence of dedicated volume control buttons, the Touch gives users the ability to bring up an onscreen volume slider by double-clicking the main menu button. The same volume screen offers controls for playing, pausing, and skipping through tracks.

When it comes down to it, the iPod Touch's most unique selling point is not its feature set, but its interface. You can find products that offer more features, as well as higher quality audio and video performance, but you won't find any other product that can match the feeling you get using the iPod Touch interface. In the absence of jetpacks or flying cars, the futuristic novelty of zooming photos with a pinch of the finger or flying through your music collection in Cover Flow is difficult to quantify into a bullet point, but it is probably the most justifiable reason to invest in the Touch.

The iPod Touch draws 99 percent of its features from the iPhone. While iPhone owners have zero incentive for buying the Touch, the rest of us now have a way to get our hands on many of the iPhone's features without costly and contractual AT&T service plans. The bad news is that the iPod Touch does away with more than just the iPhone's phone capabilities--it also gives up built-in speakers, microphone, camera, and Bluetooth. Remaining features such as a Safari Web browser, POP/IMAP e-mail, YouTube video portal, photo viewer, music player, video player, stock tracker, weather forecaster, notepad, and iTunes Wi-Fi music store still place the iPod Touch on the cutting edge for portable video players, however. In fact, at the time of this writing, the only product that can even compete with the iPod Touch's combination of a Wi-Fi-enabled Web browser, wireless music store, wide-screen video playback, photo viewer, and audio player, is the Archos 605 WiFi.

One of the few notable features that put the iPod Touch ahead of the iPhone is the ability to output video and photos to a television using an optional Apple AV cable, Universal Dock or qualifying third-party video accessory. We are a little disappointed that the iPod Touch is the only iPod that does not support a generic USB storage mode, but we doubt many users will be upset by this.

Audio format support is unchanged from previous iPods. The Touch supports standard and purchased AAC, as well as MP3, Audible, WAV, AIFF, and Apple Lossless. Video format support is likewise unaltered from the H.264/MP4 files playable on 5G iPods, as well as the third-generation iPod Nano and the iPod Classic. The Touch supports video resolutions up to 640 by 480 at 30 frames per second.

The iTunes Wi-Fi music store lets you browse, preview, and download music over a Wi-Fi Internet connection Safari.

The Safari Web browser found on the iPod Touch is more or less the same great browser found on the iPhone, minus a few features. For instance, when using Safari on an iPhone, street addresses, e-mail addresses, or phone numbers displayed on Web pages can instantly launch a location map, phone call, or impromptu e-mail anywhere with mobile phone reception. On the iPod Touch, however, maps and e-mail functions require Wi-Fi reception, and phone calls are obviously out of the question. Our major complaint using Safari on both the iPod Touch and iPhone is its incompatibility with Flash-based Web objects, such as embedded video players and music players.

Despite these few limitations, using Safari on a small mobile device like the iPod Touch is still fun and useful. The intelligent touch-screen keyboard and multiple browser window management are a big plus. Beginning with firmware Version 1.1.3, iPhone and iPod Touch users can now use Safari to save bookmarked Web pages as menu screen icons, providing quick access to commonly-used sites.

iTunes Wi-Fi
Both the iPod Touch and iPhone allow users to browse, preview, purchase, and download music from the new iTunes Wi-Fi music store. The store is limited strictly to music downloads--no movies, TV shows, podcasts, or games--at least, not yet. You'll have to hop onto an available Wi-Fi Internet connection to take advantage of the wireless music store, but once connected, you can search for any artist, album, or song in the iTunes catalog, as well as browse by genre, top sellers, featured artists, and new releases. Store purchases require you to enter your iTunes password as a security measure. Once the download is complete, the song is immediately available to listen to and will transfer to your computer's iTunes music library the next time you sync the device. The feature seems to work without any kinks. Even interrupted downloads pick up once a Wi-Fi connection is re-established.

Apple has also announced a partnership with the Starbucks coffee chain that will allow iPhone and Touch users the ability to access a Starbucks-branded version of the iTunes Wi-Fi music store when the device is used at participating cafes--without paying to use the hot spot. We doubt that anyone will purchase the Touch based on this added functionality, but it bears mentioning.

Firmware 2.0 improvements
Launched in July 2008, version 2.0 of the iPod Touch's firmware adds support for many third-party applications available in the iTunes App Store. Developed primarily for the iPhone 3G, many of the iTunes App Store applications let you extend the functions of the iPod Touch to include features such as streaming Internet radio, sophisticated video games, and instant messaging. You can download App Store applications directly to the iPod Touch using a new App Store menu icon, or load them through iTunes after connecting the Touch to your computer.

Some of our favorite music-related applications for the iPod Touch include AOL Radio and Pandora, which let you stream music directly to the iPod Touch over Wi-Fi. Apple released an application called Remote which transforms your iPod Touch into a full-featured remote control for your computer's iTunes music library or a separate Apple TV system.

Wish list
Complaining about the iPod Touch's lack of FM radio or voice-recording features feels like complaining about a Porsche's lack of cup holders. Still, there are some missing features on the iPod Touch that we would have enjoyed. High-capacity SD memory card expansion is at the top of our list of most-wanted features for the Touch. We could easily forgive any PVP's limited built-in memory capacity if the option of SD memory card expansion was available (the Archos 405 or Creative Zen are perfect examples of video players that give us the option to expand).

We'd also love to see embedded Flash support in the otherwise fabulous Safari browser. Whether video content from sites like DailyMotion or Viddler or music from Web sites like iMeem and Muxtape, embedded Flash media content is a big part of the Internet media experience. And while we're being picky, we also stereo Bluetooth transmission and the ability to use the Touch as an external storage drive like the iPod Nano and iPod Classic.

Putting aside the Touch's sleek design, futuristic interface, and innovative feature set, the quality of its audio and video playback rank only slightly above average. The iPod Touch reportedly uses the same audio chipset as the iPhone, but a different one than the iPod Classic. The Touch offers good audio quality, but not the stellar audio we were hoping for in an expensive product. The audio issue is compounded by Apple's long-standing history of preventing iPod users from defining their own custom EQ settings. Apple's 20 built-in equalization presets are handy, but there's just no substitute for rolling your own five-band EQ curve. With the Touch's emphasis on video playback, it would have been especially useful to have a surround-sound emulation effect similar to the Cowon A3's or Sony NWZ-S610's.

We've heard some complaints about the iPod Touch's video performance, but we found the overall quality to be good. Viewing angles are less than great, producing some color and contrast shifting from even slight tilting. We also found that the glossy glass screen kicks back a lot of glare. Still, despite the common complaints, the Touch is unquestionably the most video-worthy iPod yet.

Apple rates the iPod Touch's battery life at 22 hours for music playback and 5 hours for video. Our CNET labs found that the iPod Touch lasted an average of 23 hours for audio playback and 6 hours for video--which is better than expected, and more than adequate for a few in-flight movies.

The iPod Touch comes with a small, clear plastic stand for hands-free viewing. It took us only two days to lose it.

Final thoughts

We think the iPod Touch is a great product with lots to offer, but its premium price tag should give some shoppers pause. Don't assume that Apple's most expensive iPod is the best solution for your needs. If you're planning on watching a lot of video, high-capacity products like the iPod Classic or Archos 605 WiFi will allow you to load entire seasons of your favorite TV shows. Also bear in mind that if you're not around an available Wi-Fi network, features like the Safari Web browser, Internet radio, e-mail, iTunes Wi-Fi music store, and YouTube video portal won't mean much at all. While the iPod Touch may not be the slam dunk we were hoping for, it is an unquestionably cool product that continues Apple's legacy of sleek, innovative design.

Source: askmen

Sony Walkman NWZ-A728 (8GB, black)/Ultrathin MP3 Players

Sony Walkman NWZ-A728 (8GB)

Product Summary

The good: The Sony NWZ-A720 Walkman MP3 player series offers high-quality music, photo, and video playback, along with EX-style earphones and a phenomenal battery life.

The bad: The Sony NWZ-A720 series doesn't come cheap, and it lacks an FM radio, voice recording, memory expansion, and a standard USB connection.

The bottom line: The Sony NWZ-A720 is the best-sounding, best-looking Walkman series yet, and the inclusion of premium earphones adds real value.

Specs: Device type: Digital player

The Sony NWZ-A720 Walkman series is a subtle evolution of the NWZ-A810 series we enjoyed in 2007. This year, Sony is treating us with a larger screen and a more assertive design, offered in 4GB ($149), 8GB ($199), and 16GB ($299).

Given Sony's track record with curvy, rounded designs, the Sony NWZ-A720 is refreshingly square. Measuring 2 inches by 3.75 inches by 0.4 inch, it has a metallic body and a 2.4-inch screen. The NWZ-A720 is a little larger than its predecessor, but it maintains a slim, pocketable profile. The circular four-way navigation pad found on last year's Sony NWZ-A810 has turned into a more solid-feeling square on the A720, flanked by two small option and menu buttons. All other buttons are confined to the right side of the player, including a rocker switch for volume control and a hold switch. The bottom of the A720 Walkman features a headphone output and proprietary USB connection.

One little design detail that distinguishes the Sony NWZ-A720 from last year's model is the inclusion of a detachable kickstand for hands-free video playback.

The Sony NWZ-A720 is stocked with features, including music, photo, and video playback. On the audio end of things, Sony is continuing its support for MP3, AAC, WMA, WAV, and DRM-protected subscription music files. In typical Sony style, the restrained design of the music playback screen betrays the awe-inspiring music enhancement technology working behind the scenes, such as a 5-band EQ, Clear Bass, Clear Stereo, DSEE high-frequency restoration, and dynamic normalization.

With its 2.4-inch QVGA LCD and excellent video battery life, the Sony NWZ-A720 is the most video-worthy Walkman we've seen. Sony offers limited video format compatibility, however, including MPEG-4 and H.264 sized at a strict 320x240 ratio. Fortunately, the popularity of the iPod and video podcasts has made the QVGA MPEG-4 file format one of the most abundant on the Web.

The Sony NWZ-A720 is a solid player with plenty to brag about, but the exclusion of features such as an FM radio, voice recording, and memory expansion is worth keeping in mind as you compare the Walkman with its competition. You should also know that Sony offers an identical-looking version of this player (the Sony NWZ-A820 series) which includes built-in Bluetooth audio streaming, at an increased price.

The Sony EX earphones included with the NWZ-A720 Walkman series put Apple's white iPod earbuds to shame.

Year after year, Sony's MP3 players demonstrate some of the highest standards for audio quality. Even at its factory setting, the Sony NWZ-A720 radiates with fidelity that just gets better as each one of its many sound-enhancement features activate. Listening through the excellent pair of included Sony EX in-ear headphones, the rattling saxophones of Moondog's "Dog Trot" were vibrant and easy to pick out in the stereo soundstage. Renowned for its buttery bass performance, the Clear Bass enhancement EQ feature perfectly sweetened the rolling dub synth notes of Squarepusher's "Port Rhombus" with no noticeable distortion.

Videos appeared bright, crisp, and colorful on the Sony NWZ-A720. The Walkman's screen is 0.4 inch larger than the screen found on the third-generation iPod Nano, and it shares a similarly impressive pixel density and sharp picture quality. Videos can be rotated between landscape and portrait view on the Sony NWZ-A720, and audio and video files are automatically bookmarked when the player is stopped or shut down.

Sony rates the NWZ-A720's battery life at an impressive 36 hours of audio playback and 10 hours of video. We'll update this review with our CNET Labs battery results once testing is complete.

Final thoughts
The Sony NWZ-A720 Walkman is an unquestionably great series of MP3 players, however, as a competitor to the iPod Nano it faces steep competition. Creative's Zen MP3 player, for instance, offers a larger screen, an FM radio, voice recording, and memory expansion, while Michrosoft Zune boasts coveted features such as integrated podcast management and built-in Wi-Fi. Sony is clearly king of the hill when it comes to sound quality, but users seeking a more well-rounded MP3 player have plenty to choose from.

Source: askmen

SanDisk Sansa Fuze (8GB, silver)/Ultrathin MP3 Players

SanDisck Sansa Fuze (8GB)

Product Summary

The good: The SanDisk Sansa Fuze is supercheap and nicely compact; it comes in a variety of colors and has an expansion slot that accepts microSDHC cards. The player offers a variety of desirable features such as an FM tuner, Rhapsody DNA integration, photo and video support, and a voice recorder. Plus, the battery life for both music and video is very good.

The bad: The Sansa Fuze uses a proprietary dock connection, the interface is blah, and the screen has a dingy look to it.

The bottom line: The SanDisk Sansa Fuze is a great value--a slim design, simple interface, plentiful features, memory expansion capability, and solid sound quality all come with an easy-to-swallow price tag.

Specs: Device type: Digital player / radio

SanDisk continues to add to its line of Sansa MP3 players, which has been attractive to consumers from the start thanks to the low price point at which the company can list its players. While cheap pricing has made SanDisk a real contender in the portable audio space, the company is not content to rest on that fact alone to draw new customers, persistently tweaking its new offerings in an attempt to make them better. Such is the case with the Sansa Fuze, a slim device with a high-quality feel and several shiny color options. Sure, it's a bit of a Nano clone, but it also sounds good, offers plentiful features, and is cheap as all get-out--just $80, $100, and $130 for the 2GB, 4GB, and 8GB models, respectively.

SanDisk thought up the perfect name for the Fuze, because the player really resembles a Sansa Clip and a Sansa View blended together. At 3.1 inches by 1.8 inches by 0.3 inch, the Fuze is only a bit bigger than the Clip overall, and it comes in the same color options: black (2GB, 4GB); blue, pink, and red (all 4GB); and silver (8GB). But the build is more like that of the View, with a clickable scroll wheel, a shiny, plastic face and smooth, metal backside--the Fuze definitely has a solid, weighty feel to it. It seems more durable and high-quality than early Sansa models.

This observation in quality unfortunately does not extend to the Fuze's interface. The icon-driven main menu is nice enough to look at, and the device is very easy to navigate, with music organized into playlist, artist, album, and so on. And yet, as with other Sansa models we've come across, the inner menus are dull, and while we appreciate the option to at least change the wallpaper color, we'd love to be able to set a favorite photo as a backdrop or otherwise tweak the look-and-feel to our personal preferences. Still, this is a minor gripe, and part of the problem is actually caused by the screen's protective coating, which casts a grainy shadow on the LCD.

This dulling shadow also affects photos and videos, slightly diminishing the overall quality of viewing. At 1.9 inches, the Fuze's screen isn't exactly optimal video viewing anyway, so this isn't too big of a deal. If you still choose to add this type of media to the player, make sure it is in JPEG or MPEG4 SP format to ensure hassle-free playback. On the audio side, the Fuze offers support for MP3, WMA, secure WMA, WAV, Audible, and Overdrive. The player operates on the Rhapsody DNA platform, so it supports not only subscription content from the service, but also Rhapsody Channels, which are essentially Internet radio on the go. If you hear a song that you like playing on a channel, pressing down on the scroll wheel brings up the contextual menu where you can rate it and/or add it to your library.

The Fuze offers a few other attributes of note, most of which add value to the player. The only one that does not is the proprietary syncing port built into the bottom of the device--we'd much prefer it if SanDisk stuck to mini USB. On either side of the Fuze, you'll find a power/hold switch and a microSD card slot for adding more memory. It accepts high-capacity cards, which are available at up to 12GB as of press time. If that still doesn't provide enough music for you, there's an FM tuner with autoscan and presets, or you can record your own beautiful voice via the built-in mic.

Let's be frank: the Sansa Fuze doesn't offer the sparklingly stellar audio quality presented by the likes of the Sony NWZ-A810 or the Samsung P2. It also wasn't quite as encompassing as the sound coming from the Creative Zen V Plus - but it comes close. The Fuze is no slouch, to be sure. We tested it out with the Shure E310 earphones and the Creative Aurvana Live headphones and were not disappointed in either case. The Fuze powered through with reasonable--though not super thumping--bass response; nice, rich mids with smooth vocals; and an impressive amount of high-end detail. Across genres, we were greeted with clear, solid sound. The battery life of 28.2 hours for audio and 6.5 hours for video is plenty impressive.

Source: askmen

Samsung T10 (4GB)/Ultrathin MP3 Players

Samsung T10 (4GB)

Product Summary

The good: The Samsung T10 features a sleek and stylish design with an engaging Flash-based interface. Rhapsody DNA is integrated for seamless subscription and Channel support, and the player offers a plethora of features: video and photo playback, a built-in FM tuner and voice recorder, and stereo Bluetooth functionality.

The bad: The touchpad of the Samsung T10 requires precision for desired results, and there's no elegant handling of podcasts. Video support is abbreviated, conversion is a pain, and audio support is limited to MP3 and WMA.

The bottom line: The Samsung T10 won't satisfy audio purists, but users who value lots of features, a fun interface, and a player that will turn heads should give it a look.

Specs: Device type: Digital player / radio

Adding to the ever-growing crop of media players with wireless features is the Samsung T10, a 4GB flash device with integrated stereo Bluetooth functionality. At $170, it's not the most competitively-priced player on the block, but it's packed with features and comes in your choice of five high-gloss colors (black, white, green, red, and purple). For style-conscious users who want a multifunctional device, the T10 hits the mark, but audio purists and those who prefer tactile controls should look elsewhere.

The Samsung T10 may be the successor to the T9, but it looks more like the love child of the Samsung K3 and the flash memory-based Microsoft Zune. The face of the T10 features the same smudge-prone, high-gloss finish and backlit touch controls as the K3, but the 2-inch color screen and brushed metal backside are distinctly Zune-like. Overall, its sleek and stylish look (measuring 3.8 inches by 1.6 inches by 0.3 inch) will appeal to design-conscious users. As with both parental players, the T10 has a proprietary dock connector (bummer) and offers no dedicated volume buttons (double bummer). The right edge of the player houses the solitary tactile control: a power/hold switch.

The playback screen on the T10 is unique, to say the least. In Sammy mode, a pack of dogs rock out across a graphic equalizer, while the main Sammy below holds an album art thumbnail. This screen displays song title and artist, as well as time elapse/remaining, playback mode, time of day, and a battery meter.

The interface of the T10 is also decidedly designy. You can choose from three interface styles: a standard Samsung mode called Pendant, a customizable wallpaper mode, and Sammy, a Flash-based option featuring an animated dog and other moving graphics. Sammy is the most engaging interface, though some may find it distracting. We're hoping that in the future, Samsung will open up the system for custom Flash-based menus. Overall, the menu system is clear and easy to operate, though the touchpad isn't always accurate. Music (MP3 and WMA only) is organized into the standard Creative-based structure, with step-downs into artist, album, playlist, and so on. Sadly, there's no separate podcast sort, but there is an option to browse by folders, which gives the opportunity for manual organization. Thanks to Rhapsody DNA integration, there is a menu item dedicated to Rhapsody Channels. This integration also allows users to save songs from the Channels to the player.

In addition to Rhapsody support, the Samsung T10 offers a multitude of other features. As the color screen (QVGA; 320x240) suggests, you may play back photos (JPEG) and videos, though video support is limited to Samsung's proprietary SVI format and very particular WMV files. Transcoding to SVI via Samsung Media Studio is a mixed bag, so we recommend just running videos through Windows Media Player, which will (in most cases) convert to the proper-size WMV. The player also offers a voice recorder and an FM tuner with an auto preset mode and recorder, as well as support for Datacasts (RSS feeds, put simply). Last, though certainly not least, is the integrated stereo Bluetooth capability, which allows wireless streaming to compatible headphones and speakers. (The T10 cannot yet be paired with cell phones but will gain that capability in a future firmware release.)

Considering the design-heavy interface, the Samsung T10 has admirable processor speed: selections register quickly. The rated battery life of 30 hours is similarly impressive, although CNET Labs was only able to get 20 hours (still a decent number). Videos and photos (which are displayed in landscape orientation) look nice and crisp and offer good color saturation, but the viewing angle from side to side isn't great--it's actually better up and down, which is the reverse of most players we've seen. Audio quality is good, but not stellar, and seems lacking compared to some other Samsung players (such as the T9 and P2). It's pretty balanced, but music doesn't sound as warm as we'd like, and bass response is decidedly understated. There are plenty of EQ presets from which to choose (10), plus a seven-band customizable setting, but we daresay this player still won't satisfy audio purists. However, users who want an engaging interface, plenty of features, and a device that will turn heads should definitely consider the T10.

Source: askmen

Saturday, October 11, 2008

RIM BlackBerry 7100t/Smart Phones For Globe Trotters

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5. RIM BlackBerry 7100t

Product Summary

The good: The attractive and compact RIM BlackBerry 7100t is a world phone with extensive e-mail support, a vivid color display, a speakerphone, and an easy-to-use interface.

The bad: The downsides of the BlackBerry 7100t are its limited Bluetooth functionality, its lack of expandable memory, its mixed sound quality, and its awkward QWERTY-like keyboard.

The bottom line: Though the BlackBerry 7100t is a great option for RIM newbies, we were hoping for more consumer-friendly functionality with the Bluetooth.

Specs: Carrier: T-Mobile; OS provided: BlackBerry Handheld Software; Installed RAM: 4 MB

Our first look at Research In Motion's (RIM) would-be Treo-killer, the BlackBerry 7100t, generated quite a buzz. Hard-core BlackBerry devotees derided the company's foray into more phonelike devices, while others didn't quite understand the QWERTY-esque keyboard. Conversely, some users celebrated the sleek form factor and the bright color screen. Regardless of where you stand on these issues, the fact remains that at $199 (with a T-Mobile service contract) and coupled with the long-awaited (albeit limited) Bluetooth and great e-mail support, the 7100t is poised to bring a new crop of users into the world of the BlackBerry.

Design of RIM BlackBerry 7100t (T-Mobile)

The RIM BlackBerry 7100t's unique design is the first thing that will strike experienced BlackBerry users. In fact, RIM refers to the 7100t as a BlackBerry phone, stepping away from the more traditional PDA-like design of previous models such as the BlackBerry 7230. Styled in pleasant blue and gray, the 7100t's slim and lightweight dimensions (4.7 by 2.3 by 0.7 inches; 4.3 ounces) give it the ability to fit in most pockets, and it feels comfortable to hold while you're talking. You'll also notice that the 65,536-color, 2.1-inch (diagonal) screen is vivid and well lit, and the icons are easy to discern in the user-friendly menus. In standby mode, the screen shows the main menu in addition to the date, time, battery life, and signal strength. Caller ID (where available) is included, and you can change the font size and style. Our only gripe: The BlackBerry goes completely dark when the backlighting is off, so make sure to adjust it accordingly.

Slim and trim: The 7100t is thinner than most BlackBerry devices.

Aside from its sleek form factor, the 7100t's most notable feature is the 20-button keypad, which is a combination of a standard QWERTY keyboard and a more traditional cell phone keypad. We say it's a combination because rather than each character having its own key, each button has two or more characters that are accessed by pushing it several times, similar to basic text messaging on a standard cell phone. While the design ensures a trimmer keyboard size, we quickly found that typing messages involves a learning curve. To help, RIM includes SureType technology (which completes words for you) to streamline the text-entry process, but more often than not, it was simply faster to just type the words ourselves. We encountered another issue with the keypad; the 7100t doesn't use a standard cell phone layout, so when you enter passwords, you'll have to remember them as numbers instead. For instance, on a standard cell phone, the 5 key is also JKL, but on the 7100t, the 5 key is GH. We point this out as a minor nuisance that is easily overcome with increased use.

Tap dance: The 7100t has an alternative keypad.

Wheelie: Use the scrollwheel and the Escape key to browse the menus.

Included on the keypad is a shortcut to T-Mobile's T-zones and the Web browser, a button for shifting text, and Return and Delete keys. On the right side of the phone are a jog dial that scrolls through menu items and messages, and you can push it in to select a highlighted item. Additionally, there's an Escape key that takes the user back one page at a time. Though it's mostly easy to use, we found in some cases it was a bit sensitive, and we ended up selecting an item when we wanted to scroll past it. The 7100t also boasts a power button on the top of the case, an earphone jack and USB port on its left side, and a speaker on its rear face.

Features of RIM BlackBerry 7100t (T-Mobile)

The RIM BlackBerry 7100t's address book is limited by only the available memory. Each contact holds eight phone numbers, an e-mail address, and two postal addresses (an additional 250 names can be stored on the SIM card). You also can enter Web pages, personal information, and notes under each name, as well as customize other fields to your liking. Contacts can be organized into caller groups, but you can't assign ring tones, and there's no picture caller ID. Other features include a calendar, a memo pad, a task list, an alarm clock, 32 polyphonic ring tones, and a vibrate mode. While the 7100t has 32MB of internal flash memory, it lacks an expansion slot.

The inclusion of a long-awaited speakerphone was a definite plus, but we were disappointed by the integrated Bluetooth. Though the 7100t is one of a few BlackBerries to support Bluetooth, it can be used only to connect with a headset and not to sync with other devices. While we could also sync with our calendar and e-mail (see below), we nevertheless were puzzled why a business-friendly device such as the 7100t would boast such a high-end feature but limit its functionality.

Primarily an enterprise product, the 7100t easily connects to Microsoft Exchange and BlackBerry servers as well as Lotus Notes servers using the desktop redirector software. E-mail delivery is in real time, and both messages and the calendar can be synced to the device. If that isn't enough or if you don't work for a company that has BlackBerry Enterprise Server installed, you can opt for BlackBerry Web Client, which is included in the T-Mobile package service plan. It allows you to have e-mail messages wirelessly forwarded to your 7100t from up to 10 POP3 or IMAP4 accounts every 15 minutes.

The Internet chat program is compatible with AIM, Yahoo, and ICQ clients, and there's also a full-featured Web browser and text messaging. You can now open a wide variety of e-mail attachments--most importantly, Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files, as well as Adobe PDFs--and view them on the device. Unfortunately, it's a read-only situation, as you can't edit said files and send it back to a colleague.

Multimedia options were limited. The 7100t doesn't play MP3s, and you get only one Java (J2ME) game: BrickBreaker. Alternatively, you can download third-party applications or access T-zones for ring tones and games and to browse through news, weather, and sports scores. Though a selection of wallpaper is included, you always can get more from T-Mobile.

Performance of RIM BlackBerry 7100t (T-Mobile)

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS) RIM BlackBerry 7100t world phone in the San Francisco Bay Area using T-Mobile's network. While getting a good signal was a piece of cake in downtown San Francisco, things weren't so good in the sticks, also known as East Oakland. Furthermore, those on the other end of our calls reported that the phone sounded "staticky" at times, and on our side, audio quality was tiny and hollow.

That said however, the speakerphone was surprisingly good. Just be aware that since the speaker is on the back of the device, you might find the sound muffled if the phone is placed face up on a surface. Also, you can activate the speaker only after you've placed a call. As for the Bluetooth, we tested the phone with Logitech's Mobile Bluetooth headset. We were able to connect without a hitch and found the sound quality to be better than when on the handset itself.

Speak up: The speaker is on the rear face of the 7100t.

Battery life was satisfactory. RIM promises 4 hours of talk time and up to eight days of standby time. For our tests, we met the rated talk time and managed seven days of standby time.


Motorola MPx220/Smart Phones For Globe Trotters

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4. Motorola MPx220

Product Summary

The good: Windows Mobile 2003 OS; ergonomic controls; easy to use; solid call quality; Bluetooth; world phone; VGA camera.

The bad: WAP browser could be improved; difficult to sync with a corporate Exchange server.

The bottom line: Motorola's MPx220 is a worthy choice for a Windows Mobile 2003 smart phone, though some of its features are less than perfect.

Specs: Carrier: AT&T; OS provided: Microsoft Windows Mobile for Smartphones 2003 Second Ed.; Installed RAM: 32 MB

We had high hopes for the MPx220, Motorola's follow-up to the popular MPx200. We're always excited when a product shows up promising so many fantastic things: Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 OS, Bluetooth, and Windows Media Player 9.0, just to name a few. We're pleased to say that after a few initial bumps (call quality was horrible until Motorola sent us another review unit), the MPx220 met most of our expectations. We liked the Cingular smart phone's PIM capabilities, Bluetooth support, and multimedia functions but found fault with the WAP Web browser and the syncing support. The handset is fairly priced at $399, but you should be able to find it at a discount with a service contract.

Design of Motorola MPx220 (AT&T)

Compared to other popular smart phones such as the RIM BlackBerry 7750 or the PalmOne Treo 650, the Motorola MPx220 measures a more pocket-friendly 3.9 by 1.9 by 1.0 inches and weighs a lighter 3.9 ounces. Its sturdy flip-phone form factor also makes it comfortable to hold while you're talking. Yet we aren't completely impressed by the design. The two-toned silver styling is attractive but a bit vulnerable to smudges, and the postage-stamp-size external screen is rather small. It does support 56,000 colors, however, and shows the time, signal strength, battery life, and photo caller ID (where available). Below the screen are the speaker, the camera lens, and the flash.

Half pint: For a smart phone, the MPx220 is compact.

Inside the phone, things get a bit better. The 2-inch-diagonal, 65,000-color display is large enough for viewing PIM data such as contacts and calendar information (you can change the text size), as well as games and photos. That said, however, the bright display was disappointing when viewing Web pages such as mobile versions of MSN, Yahoo, and The Onion. Images typically looked washed out, and using Web-based mail was not as pleasant as with other devices such as the Audiovox SMT5600.

Killer controls: We loved the MPx220's huge navigation controls.

We were very pleased with the attractive and user-friendly navigation controls. The four-way toggle is large and easy to manipulate, and it has a big, blue OK button in the center. Surrounding it are four buttons: two menu soft keys, the Home key, and a Back button. Below the Home and Back buttons are the Talk and End keys, respectively. On the left spine, you'll find the power button, a volume rocker, and the headphone jack. On the right spine are the Mini SD slot, a dedicated camera button, and the infrared port.

Side storage: The MPx220's memory card slot increases storage capacity.

When it comes to using the MPx220 as a mobile data-entry device, hard-core road warriors who have grown accustomed to smart phones with full QWERTY keyboards will no doubt bemoan having to compose e-mail with a standard keypad. Of course, anyone with experience sending text messages with a traditional cell phone won't have a problem, as the MPx220's keys are well designed and amply spaced. Though they're set flush with the face of the phone, they're quite tactile, and misdials were rare.

Features of Motorola MPx220 (AT&T)

The Motorola MPx220 offers a generous feature set. The phone book is limited only by the available memory (the phone comes with 64MB, and an additional 250 names can be stored on the SIM card). Each contact stores multiple fields such as 11 phone numbers, three e-mail addresses, three street addresses, and other personal information. You can also assign contacts to caller groups and pair them with a picture and a polyphonic or MP3 ring tone for caller ID. Other features include vibrate mode, a voice recorder, a calendar, a calculator, a task list, text and multimedia messaging, voice commands, MSN Messenger, Bluetooth, an infrared port, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, USB connectivity, and a speakerphone. Aside from the 64MB of internal memory, there's also an expansion slot for Mini SD (Secure Digital) cards.

The handset runs on a 200MHz processor. Microsoft's ActiveSync handles PIM synchronization. And since the handset is essentially a Pocket PC device, it ships with an array of Windows Mobile software: Pocket Outlook (Inbox, Calendar, and Contacts), Pocket Internet Explorer, MSN Messenger, and Windows Media Player 9.0. Despite the MPx220's power, we would have liked easier access to our corporate Microsoft Exchange server. The MPx220 doesn't ship with e-mail redirector software, which is a common feature on smart phones, including the PalmOne Treo 650 and the BlackBerry line of handsets. If your company runs Exchange ActiveSync on its mail server, then getting mobile access to your corporate e-mail will be a snap. If not, you may be out of luck. That said, we easily configured Pocket Outlook to access POP and IMAP e-mail accounts. Furthermore, the WAP browser, while not the prettiest, can display mobile-mail sites such as Yahoo and MSN.

Flashy: The MPx220's camera lens includes a flash.

The MPx220 provides a 1.23-megapixel camera with a flash and a 3X digital zoom. You can take pictures in six resolutions (1,280x960, 640x480, 320x240, 174x144, 160x120, and 128x96) and adjust the contrast, brightness, and white-balance settings. You also can choose from several shutter sounds (including a silent option) or use the self-timer. The external display makes taking self-portraits a snap when the clamshell is closed. The MPx220 also records videos with sound. Editing features is somewhat limited, but the length of the clips is restricted only by the available memory. Both snapshots and videos were good quality, and when you're finished, you can send them to others via a multimedia message, Bluetooth, or the infrared port and save them to the phone itself. You can store as many photos and videos as will fit in the available memory. A convenient counter keeps track of how much space you have left.

The MPx220 had good photo quality.

The MPx220 ships with Mobile Media Player 9.0, which supports playback of MP3s and MPEGs. You also get two Java (J2ME)-enabled games, Billiards and Skipping Stones, but more are available for download. You can personalize the handset with a variety of color schemes and background images and choose from up to eight ringer profiles.

Performance of Motorola MPx220 (AT&T)

We tested the Motorola MPx220 in the San Francisco Bay Area on the Cingular network, and the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone worked well. We were initially disappointed with the call quality, but Motorola remedied that situation by recalling the first batch of MPx220s it shipped. Once the problem was solved, audio quality rocked. Callers remarked that the signal was quite clear. Furthermore, we never lost a signal, whether here in downtown San Francisco or in more residential areas in the East Bay. Calls using the speakerphone were also admirable, and when we tested the handset with a Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth headset, callers said the audio quality was fantastic.

Though we fell a bit short of the promised times, battery life was satisfactory. We managed four hours of talk time, an hour short of the rated time of five hours. Standby battery life was 7.5 days, slightly less than the promised time of 8.3 days. According to the FCC, the MPx220 has a digital SAR rating of 0.75 watt per kilogram.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

T-Mobile Sidekick II/Smart Phones for Globe Trotters

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3. T-Mobile Sidekick II

Product Summary

The good: Built-in VGA camera with flash; world phone; speakerphone; great keyboard; convenient e-mail and IM functionality; relatively speedy Web browsing; 32MB RAM.

The bad: Bulky and heavy; no corporate e-mail access; no Bluetooth or infrared port; limited customization options.

The bottom line: T-Mobile's Sidekick II adds a built-in camera to its stellar e-mail, surfing, and IM abilities, but some annoying flaws remain.

Specs: Carrier: T-Mobile; Band / mode: GSM 900/1800/1900 (Tri-Band); Talk time: Up to 270 min

Boasting a slimmer screen and a built-in camera, the second version of the T-Mobile Sidekick is more of a refinement than a revamp of its predecessor. This bulky but eye-pleasing smart phone is an e-mailer's and messenger's dream, and users of the older model will welcome the Sidekick II's thinner form factor and the addition of a speakerphone. But the new device is still without some higher-end features, and it won't access corporate e-mail. Mobile professionals will be better off with a more business-minded smart phone, such as the Nokia 6600. At $299, the Sidekick is fairly priced, but you'll also need to purchase T-Mobile's Sidekick data plan ($29.99 per month) to use the e-mail, messaging, and Internet browser functions.

Design of T-Mobile Sidekick II

There was nothing small about the previous color-screen Sidekick, and the new model is much the same. Measuring 5.1 by 2.6 by 0.9 inches and weighing 6.5 ounces, the new Sidekick actually is a bit longer and heavier than older versions, though it's slightly slimmer. Owners of the previous version, however, will notice a welcome change: The screen, which rotates 180 degrees to reveal the keyboard underneath, no longer bulges out from the rest of the phone. Though it's still boxy overall, this smart phone now feels much more natural when held against your cheek during a conversation. Though it didn't make much of a difference, the microphone and the speaker are now reversed; you hold the left end of the phone to your ear and talk into the right end, not vice versa. We had one complaint, though; to dial a number that's not in the phone book, you must first open the screen.

A bit of bulk: The Sidekick II is not pocket-size.

The T-Mobile Sidekick II adds some fashion sense with the removable rubber "bumpers" that run along the top and bottom edges of the phone. To freshen the look, bumpers are available in a variety of colors to match your mood. But more than just adding to the design, the bumpers hold an external power button so that you no longer have to open the screen, volume controls so that you don't have to dig into a menu to adjust the sound, and two ergonomic multifunction buttons. When in photography mode, the phone's right multifunction key is a camera shutter--an especially nice touch. The Sidekick even feels like a real camera when you hold it to take a picture, and the rear-facing lens sits well out of the way of your fingers.

Tap dance: A full keyboard makes sending e-mail and messages a breeze.

The Sidekick II has essentially the same 2.75-inch-diagonal TFT display as the previous model. The crisp, 65,000-color screen is readable in direct sunlight, and the animated menus (again, virtually unchanged from before) are easy to navigate. It's a piece of cake to swing the screen up and access the keyboard--just nudge the lower-left or top-right corners. We like the way in which the screen solidly springs into place, although it has a tendency to graze the keypad and accidentally hit a button or two. The backlit keypad itself is roomy and easy to use, with tactile buttons.

Rollaway: Though not backlit, the handy scrollwheel is handy for menu navigation.

Surrounding the T-Mobile Sidekick II's display are the familiar Jump and Back buttons found on its predecessor. The newcomers include a four-way directional control on the left side of the phone that lights up when you receive calls or messages, as well as send/end call buttons, which double as page-up/-down controls, that sit above and below the scrollwheel. Though it's smaller than that of previous models and not backlit, the scrollwheel can be used to select menu items. There's also a dedicated Menu key and a Cancel button. The Sidekick's speaker has moved to the back of the phone--not the best placement for resting the handset on a surface.

Features of T-Mobile Sidekick II

The bulk of the T-Mobile Sidekick II's robust feature set is almost unchanged from that of the previous model. The phone stores 2,000 contacts, with room for five numbers in each entry. Other goodies include a notepad, a calendar, a to-do list, 12 polyphonic ring tones, and a vibrate mode. The Sidekick also has a USB port, but as of July 2005, Danger's promises of future activation have yet to materialize. And to keep in contact without making a call, there's also text messaging; Web surfing; wireless e-mail access to three POP3/IMAP accounts but no corporate e-mail access; and support for viewing but not editing DOC, PDF, and JPEG files. For downloaded apps, there's 32MB of shared memory, though downloads are limited to a maximum of 1MB each.

Picture time: The camera lens, the flash, and the mirror are well placed for snapping shots.

The T-Mobile Sidekick II's new, integrated VGA camera, which doubles the resolution of the older, add-on version. With three resolutions (160x120, 320x240, and 640x480) and a built-in flash, the new addition takes above-average shots for a camera phone, although images still aren't of printable quality. The flash does a fair job if you're within a foot or so of your subject, but it won't do you much good beyond that range. Options for the camera are limited to a Night mode and a mirror for self-portraits. The Sidekick II stores up to 36 images at the highest quality, and all pictures can be sent to your buddies via e-mail or attached as thumbnails to contacts for photo caller ID.

Nice shot: We were impressed with the Sidekick's photo quality.

Other new features include the long-overdue speakerphone, which can be activated only after a call has started, and support for Yahoo Instant Messenger, which boasts the same functionality as the existing AOL Instant Messenger application. You can hold up to 10 IM conversations at once, and the phone saves your chats in case you lose your network connection. Now, if the Sidekick would just add ICQ and MSN Messenger, we'd really have something.

A few annoying quirks that dogged the old Sidekick live on in version II, including the lack of expandable memory, Bluetooth, or an infrared port. Fortunately, however, T-Mobile supports over-the-air PC syncing, and a third-party sync utility is available for Mac users. After downloading the client software from T-Mobile (Mac users can try, you'll be able to sync with Outlook's Contacts, Calendar, and To-do List. Alternatively, you can go to T-Mobile's Web site and import or enter your contacts, which are then downloaded to the device. The Sidekick II supports vCards, which you can send to yourself via e-mail, then import to the phone.

We were disappointed by the Sidekick II's surprising lack of customization options. You'd think a phone that's so clearly targeted to consumers would boast custom and photo wallpaper, screensavers, and desktop themes, but you'll find none of these on the new Sidekick. The only included game, Rock & Rocket, will be familiar to owners of the old Sidekick, and you can download more titles along with polyphonic ring tones, WAV music tracks, and sound effects from T-Mobile's Download Fun service.

Performance of T-Mobile Sidekick II

We tested the triband (GSM 900/1800/1900) Sidekick II world phone in New York City using T-Mobile's service. We had no trouble hearing our callers, even when holding the phone against our cheek to make calls, and they said we came through loud and clear. We also had a decent Web-surfing experience with the Sidekick's browser over T-Mobile's GPRS network; even pages that weren't optimized for mobile devices managed to load on the LCD, if a bit slower than they might have over a dial-up connection.

There were some speed bumps in the data service a few months after our initial testing, however. Shortly after the brouhaha over Paris Hilton's Sidekick II in early 2005 when personal information was stolen from T-Mobile's servers, Sidekick data service went down for nearly a week while Danger engineers patched security holes. T-Mobile refunded a month's data fee to Sidekick users, but customers had no Web browsing, e-mail, or IM service during that time. Sidekick users reported smooth sailing again by March, and as of July 2005, we haven't heard of any serious trouble or encountered it ourselves. Though the Sidekick II isn't the only device to lose service (BlackBerrys and Treos users reported service interruptions in June 2005), keep in mind that the Sidekick's high profile makes it an enticing target for hackers.

Battery life was satisfactory. T-Mobile promises about 4.5 hours of talk time and almost 3 days of standby time. In our tests, we managed 5 hours of talk time, and we matched the standby time.