Smartphone Thoughts: T-Mobile's Dash: Powerful, Slim, and QWERTY

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Friday, October 13, 2006

T-Mobile's Dash: Powerful, Slim, and QWERTY

Posted by Janak Parekh in "HARDWARE" @ 06:00 AM

Comparison Pictures
As I arranged this review hastily, I didn't have many devices to compare against -- only a Palm Treo 700w and an iPAQ 4150. This happens to be pretty appropriate, though, since the 700w closely resembles the Dash form factor-wise and the 4150 resembles the Dash's size. Note that the Treo 700w has a screen protector applied, so the screen will appear a little less glossy. (I suspect the Dash could use a screen protector to enhance outdoors usage and protect the display, although I haven't tried one.)

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Figure 11: The 700w and the Dash, side-by-side.

The 700w and the Dash look fairly similar in design, and I'm not sure that's a surprise -- this form factor, with the square or landscape screen and a full thumbboard right on the front of the device, i.e. the "Blackberry look", is all the rage nowadays. Another device that shares this form factor, of course, is the Q... however, I didn't have one to take shots against.

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Figure 12: The 700w and the Dash height comparison.

This is where it becomes more apparent how thin the Dash is. I never realized my 700w was that huge until I saw this picture. 8O As the image shows, the bottom connector on the device is HTC's extUSB, also present on the Star Trek and several other new units. As I mentioned previously, the unit comes with a power adapter, a USB cable, and a headset; none of them plug in simultaneously. The device does charge over USB, though, as with other HTC devices. It's also worth mentioning that the USB cable looks very much like a miniUSB connector, although I haven't tried and would be reluctant to actually try a standard miniUSB cable.

User submitted image
Figure 13: The iPAQ 4150 and the Dash, compared.

As I mentioned earlier, the Dash's form factor feels like the iPAQ 19xx/41xx -- and here's proof. The two units are almost the exact same size -- the Dash is ever-so-slightly thicker and ever-so-slightly narrower.

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Figure 14: The iPAQ 4150 and the Dash height comparison.

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Figure 15: The iPAQ 4150 and the Dash, rear. Do they look similar or what? ;)

Okay, time for a screen-on comparison.

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Figure 16: The 700w and the Dash, on, with SPT's homepage.

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Figure 17: The iPAQ 4150 and the Dash screens, compared. The iPAQ's is larger, but is far poorer in brightness and quality.

These pictures don't quite capture the striking difference of the units' displays, although I think you'll get a feel for it. The 700w and the iPAQ are at maximum brightness; the Dash doesn't have a brightness control, although it will dim when idle to save power. While it's worth pointing out the 700w's screen protector might be reducing the contrast on its screen, the Dash is still noticeably sharper, brighter, and better saturated overall. The screen is also higher-resolution, at 320x240; the text is extremely crisp and clear, and ClearType looks great. It's an absolutely top-notch screen, and you can't go wrong with it. (And, by the way, it's remarkable how similar WM5 Pocket PC Phone Edition and Smartphone look when you have two similarly-shaped devices next to each other.)

User submitted image
Figure 18: Comparing the 700w and Dash's thumbboards.

As you can see, the amount of real estate for each thumbboard is extremely similar, but the keys are arranged differently. The Dash keys are larger and have less space between them. As to which feels better, it's hard for me to say; I'm very used to the 700w's thumbboard by now, so it obviously feels a bit more natural to me, but I think the Dash's keyboard is pretty decent. The keys have excellent tactile feedback -- they have a "click" feel to them and no mushiness. The Dash's thumbboard lights blue when it's used.

User submitted image
Figure 19: Close-up of the Dash's screen.

Here's a closer shot of the Dash's screen. The picture isn't perfect -- my Canon SD550's optical capabilities are being stretched to the limit here -- but I hope this conveys how nice the screen is. I'll talk about some of the home screen components a bit later.

Next up -- a few screenshots of the device in action!

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