Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Posted by Jon Westfall in "HTC-based Microsoft Smartphones" @ 08:00 AM
Product Category: Windows Phone running Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard
Manufacturer: HTC / T-Mobile
Where to Buy: T-Mobile
Price: $349 (No Contract) / $199 (2 year Contract)
Requirements: Need to speak to others, desire to be connected to information.
Specifications: QUALCOMM 528 MHz, Quadband GSM, Dualband UMTS (Supports T-Mobile USA 3G), WiFi, Bluetooth 2.0, 2 MP Camera, GPS.
- 3G Data Connection (In T-Mobile 3G Markets);
- GPS Capabilities;
- Speedier than the original!
- Imprecise Trackball;
- Button arrangement will confuse Dash devotees;
- No real incentive to upgrade if you aren't in a 3G market or don't need GPS.
Summary: The original T-Mobile Dash was a great little device that only started to feel dated recently. With 3G rolling out farther, GPS being standard, and 1 MP being woefully bad for a camera phone, the Dash 3G sets out to update its older brother into 2009. But is it worth the price to upgrade?
A Bit On The Original Dash
I own an obscene number of Pocket PCs and Smartphones, and switch through them quite regularly. However, one that had probably seen the highest amount of use in the last 3 years was my T-Mobile Dash. I bought the Dash in October 2006, and have found it to be a trusty companion. It's rugged enough to slip into a pocket on weekend getaways, yet productive enough to be used all week. It also has a very usable (at least to me) keyboard and is fairly solid from an operating system stand point. In conversation with many of my fellow Windows Mobile enthusiasts, the Dash consistently received high marks. Even our own Executive Editor was known to profess his love of the Dash. So when HTC took a few years off from making a phone in the same style, it was a bit troubling. Thankfully they've returned (and so has T-Mobile) to this form factor with the Dash 3G. But seeing as the Dash 3G runs almost the same operating system as the original Dash and only really adds 3G, a trackball, GPS, and some fancier styling, I was anxious to see if it was worth the upgrade.
Figure 1: The Dash 3G packaging next to the larger packaging from the original Dash. The Dash 3G packaging is designed for the consumer to open (it flips open to display the device) while the original was utilitarian.
Physically the Dash 3G is nearly identical in dimensions as the orignal Dash. It's slightly thinner, and a bit longer, but still feels fairly compact and light in the hand. The buttons are slightly bigger and are rectangular as opposed to square. Oddly, this seems to have made it more difficult (at onset) for my big hands to use. I've had to train my hands over the last few days to hit the buttons a bit differently than when I used the Dash or any other square-button phone. The D-pad on the Dash was replaced with a trackball on the Dash 3G. While this initially seems like a good idea, it's woefully imprecise when attempting to scroll quickly through. I had to turn the sensitivity up to high just to get it to feel like it responded to my touch. While the trackball adds some nice new features (e.g. a mouse pointer in Internet Explorer), I really wish I had my old D-Pad back. Interestingly enough, Jason had quite the opposite opinion of the trackball - he was happy it didn't have an infinite scroll to it. I guess I just move faster than Jason, as I felt the trackball couldn't quite keep up!
Figure 2: Dash on the left, Dash 3G on the right. Notice the key layout on the 3G is slightly different than other versions of the HTC Maple.
The soft key button layout also differs, with the soft key and home buttons now side by side as opposed to top and button. The same is done on the right resulting in a more button-jamming appearance. Again I wish it was still top / bottom, however I'm slowly getting used to it. One feature from the original device that I do not miss is the Joggr bar. Now I know what you're saying "What Joggr?" - because any Dash user after day 1 pretty much abandoned that thing if all possible. HTC apparently listened and decided not to even try it again on the new version. Thank goodness.
Also gone from the device is a dedicated power button (it's now the red End key), which results in the red end key not locking the phone as it does on the original. The A / * key now locks the device. There is also a "Favorite" button at the bottom of the keyboard that can be mapped to whatever app you'd like (which is a nice improvement over the asinine t-zones button on the original Dash). Finally there is a volume button on the left, and charging port on the upper right as opposed to the bottom (similarly to what was done with the Pantech Matrix Pro; seriously, who demands the charging port be in the upper right?!?).