T-Mobile Dash Review

by Reads (104,123)

T-Mobile Dash
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The T-Mobile Dash is a slim, sleek Windows Mobile Smartphone. Despite its svelte exterior, this device offers many of the features advanced users are looking for in a smartphone, like a Push Email, a built-in keyboard and Wi-Fi.

Look and Feel

The Dash uses the same general form-factor that several of its competitors do, but the Dash uses it better than most.

It rides very comfortably in a pocket, and sits easily in my hand. This isn’t surprising for a device as small as this one: 4.4 by 2.5 by 0.5 inches.

Plus, the Dash’s casing has a slightly rubberized feel, so it’s not slick and you feel confident that you’re not going to drop it.

For the most part, this smartphone has a minimalist look. True, it includes a full QWERTY keyboard and a set of function buttons, but these are all grouped on the front. There are no side buttons at all, and the synchronization port and headphone jack can hidden behind a plastic door.

In a way, though, I think the Dash is almost too minimalistic. I said it has no side buttons, but it does have a touch strip just to the left of the screen. This is the Dash’s volume control, and it just feels gimmicky. I also had to get used to its quirks, something I’ve never had to do with a simple pair of up/down buttons.

T-Mobile DashAnd though the sleek design is nice, whenever I’m carrying the Dash around I’m nervous that its screen is going to get scratched up in my pocket. T-Mobile really should have included a case or flip-cover with this model, but it did not.

Update: T-Mobile does include a case with the Dash, but my demo model didn’t have this, so I can’t say much about it. I’m glad there is one, though.

Display

The QVGA display on the Dash is beautiful, which is one of the big reason why I’m so nervous about scratching it up.

An important think to keep in mind about this device is that it is a Windows Mobile Smartphone, not a Windows Mobile Pocket PC. That means it does not include a touchscreen. Just about all your interactions with the Dash will be though its Directional Pad or its keyboard.

Because the designers were trying to make a small device with a built-in keyboard, it worked out better for for the Dash to have its screen in landscape mode. I was a touch nervous about this, and I may have been justified.

One of the first applications I tried, SlingPlayer Mobile, wasn’t initially compatible with any of the WM Smartphones with landscape displays. Sling Media had to release an update to support devices like the Dash. It’s nice that companies are working to support this model, but if you have an application you you depend on, I’d check to be sure it’s compatible with the Dash before you buy one.

Another problem with the landscape orientation is it wastes a lot of screen real estate. Windows Mobile often puts header and footer bars on the screen. In landscape mode, these take up a significant portion of the display, leaving less room for text.

It would be nice if the Dash allowed you to switch between landscape and portrait modes, but it does not.

Keyboard

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One of the best features of the T-Mobile Dash is its small size. This is also one of its worst features.

Because all the keys need to be so tiny, this smartphone’s keyboard is cramped, which slows down text entry. It’s still faster than using entering text with a number-pad, but it’s slower than typing on a device with a bigger keyboard. It’s a decent enough compromise, I guess, but I sometimes find myself wishing the keys were just a little bit father apart… mostly just after I’ve hit the wrong one.

The Dash comes with a predictive text system, which tries to speed up your typing by suggesting words as you type. However, I mostly just find this to be a distraction.

Wireless Networking

The T-Mobile dash comes with several types of wireless networking.

The most obvious of these is its support for the cellular-wireless standards GSM/GPRS/EDGE. Odds are you’ll be using these the most, as they’re what let you make phone calls and access the Internet when you’re away from your home or office.

None of these has a tremendously fast data transfer rate, but the Dash gives you the option of switching to Wi-Fi (b/g). This is much faster, but you need to be within a hundred feet or so of a Wi-Fi access point for this to work. It also swiftly drains the Dash’s battery.

By the way, I tried this device with a wide variety of access points, include a free hotspot in a monorail station in Las Vegas, and had no problems connecting, if a bit slowly sometimes.

The third option is Bluetooth 2.0. This allows you to connect to peripherals at short range without wires. Some examples include external keyboards and GPS receivers.

The Dash has no Infrared port.

Operating System

I’ve already mentioned that the T-Mobile Dash runs Windows Mobile 5.0 for Smartphone, which, as its name suggests, is an operating system specifically designed for mobile phones without touchscreens. Long-time Pocket PC users might have some trouble adjusting to this, but I made the transition fairly easily.

This model uses a 201 TI OMAP processor. I know this doesn’t sound like much to people who are accustomed to faster ones on handhelds and much, much faster ones on laptops, but the WM Smartphone operating system was designed to run on less demanding chips like this one.

I can be opening a web page and checking my email, and the radio program I’m streaming in the background won’t skip. And applications also open virtually instantaneously.

The Dash includes 64 MB of RAM for currently running applications, and 128 M of non-volatile internal storage.It also has a microSD memory card slot for additional storage. This is located under the battery cover, so switching out cards isn’t as easy as it would be. But at least there’s much lass chance you’ll lose your very tiny memory card.

Software

I’m not going give you a complete description of the entire suite of applications that comes with Windows Mobile for Smartphones, but I wanted to hit the high points.

Email: Naturally, the T-Mobile Dash comes an email application. This works fine for POP3 accounts, but it really shines if you synchronize with a Microsoft Exchange Server. Emails, appointments, contacts, and tasks that are changed on the smartphone are immediately updated on the server, and vice versa. This is what is often called Push Email, and you don’t need a BlackBerry to get it.

Microsoft Office: Another of the major differences between WM Smartphones and WM Pocket PCs is that devices like the Dash don’t come with a suite of applications for editing Microsoft Office files. Fortunately, T-Mobile has included the ClearVue Suite, which at least lets you see Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Adobe PDF files, even if you can’t make any changes.

However, unlike Pocket PCs, WM Smartphones don’t automatically synchronize a "My Documents" folder between your device and your desktop. So you can manually move files back and forth, but they won’t automatically be updated.

Web: The Dash comes with a mobile version of Internet Explorer, which is decent enough. Of course, it handles pages intended for small-screen devices easily, and doesn’t do too bad a job with larger ones. It can’t handle some of the more advanced features of web pages, though. So don’t be expecting to watch YouTube videos.

Audio and Video: Like all WM Smartphones, it comes with a mobile version of Windows Media Player. This lets you listen to MP3s and other audio types, as well as watch video. Even streaming video in WMP format. But if you’re planning on using the Dash as a portable music player, I strongly suggest you invest in a the highest capacity microSD card you can get your hands on.

PIM: I think this almost goes without saying, and I mentioned it earlier, but the Dash comes with a suite of applications for managing your appointments, contacts, and tasks. These can be synchronized with either Microsoft Outlook or Exchange.

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Camera

The T-Mobile Dash comes with a 1.3 megapixel camera, which is pretty much standard for a smartphone these days.

The picture quality from this is fine, but nothing to write home about. As long as there’s lots of ambient light and your subject isn’t moving very much, your pictures will come out fine. (See picture at left.)

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However, if you’re taking a picture in a place that’s evenly slightly dim, the quality of your pictures will suffer. And the Dash doesn’t have any kind of flash. (See picture at right)

Battery Life

Remember me mentioning the compromises that had to be made to make the Dash so small? One of these is in battery capacity.

I consider this smartphone’s 960 mAh battery to be just barely adequate, which means it will last 24 hours of what I consider light to moderate use before running out. That means I have its push email function on all the time, a few alarms went off, and I spent 30 to 40 minutes on the phone.

Having Wi-Fi in the Dash is nice, but it’s hard on the battery. I can run it dry in a couple of hours of web surfing.

Conclusion

Like many devices, the T-Mobile Dash is a product of its compromises. It’s small and slim, but also a bit cramped. But It still packs a surprising number of functions into its svelte shape.

And its price it pretty good. It’s regularly $349, but that drops to $199 with a two-year T-Mobile contract, or $249 with a one-year contract. That makes it relatively comparable in price to similar devices, like the Samsung BlackJack or Motorola Q.

Pros:

  • Very Thin
  • Push Email
  • Built-in Keyboard
  • Wi-Fi

Cons:

  • Keyboard cramped
  • Irritating touch-strip

Bottom Line:

  • A sweet little device, especially for all those who send a lot of emails or SMS messages from their phone.

 


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