capsule review

Helio Hero

At a Glance
  • Helio Hero

    PCWorld Rating

Helio is the latest cell phone company to make a play for the youth market, with its flashy Hero handset. The multimedia-heavy Hero includes an audio and video player, IM and e-mail applications, access to games, and a 2-megapixel camera. It also comes with links to a mobile version of the popular Web site.

Helio is a new MVNO, or Mobile Virtual Network Operator. The company uses Sprint Nextel's 3G EvDO network for both voice and data service where possible, switching to a slower CDMA connection in areas where the broadband-level network is unavailable. The company launched its service and handsets (the Hero and another model called the Kickflip) in the United States earlier this year.

The Hero is a thick, bulky handset that is almost reminiscent of T-Mobile's Sidekick (which we classify as a PDA/phone), though slightly smaller at 4.3 inches high by 1.9 inches wide by 1 inch thick. (The Sidekick III measures 5.1 by 2.3 by 0.9 inches.) When closed, the Hero's dominant feature is its 2.2-inch color display. Above the display are dedicated keys for launching the music and video players. Below are two soft keys, send and end buttons, a back button, and a four-way navigation pad with an enter button in the center.

While the Sidekick twists open to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard, the Hero slides up to reveal a subpar keypad. My chief complaint about the handset: The number keys are recessed too far, making them difficult to push. They're also quite slippery. I always prefer a full QWERTY keyboard, and it seems as though Helio could have used the considerable space on this handset to include one.

The Hero weighs 4.7 ounces, which is heavy for a standard cell phone, and you feel that weight when holding the device next to your ear, especially during long conversations. It offers good voice quality, however. Talk-time battery life is only fair, as the charge lasted 5 hours, 52 minutes in our lab tests--not the lowest result among standard cell phones we've recently tested, but not at the top of the charts, either.

The 2-megapixel camera is easy to access and use, and includes some impressive features, such as a flash and a 4X digital zoom. As with many cell phone cameras, however, there is a noticeable delay between when you press the shutter and when the phone actually captures the image, so the moment you wanted to preserve may have already passed by the time you take the picture.

All of the unit's impressive multimedia features are easily accessible from the logically arranged menu. The handset ships with Helio's Media Mover software and a USB cable for transferring audio and video files to the phone. The audio and video players are easy to access and use. The phone also ships with earbuds, but doesn't include a memory card for the phone's TransFlash slot. You can play audio over the handset's speakers, as well; volume is adequate, but the sound is tinny.

The millions of users around will appreciate the Hero's easy access to a mobile version of that popular site. While the site looks good on the Hero's screen, entering text and searching are difficult due to the poor keypad.

With a two-year contract from Helio, the Hero costs $275 (as of 8/4/06). That's not cheap. But if you're in the market for a multimedia phone and you can't stand to leave your MySpace account at home, the Hero is worth a look.

Liane Cassavoy

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    This multimedia-heavy handset packs in plenty of features for the youth market, including mobile access to


    • Includes a 2-megapixel camera
    • Offers many multimedia features


    • Heavier than most standard cell phones
    • Number keys are difficult to push
Shop Tech Products at Amazon