capsule review

Helio Mysto Cell Phone

At a Glance
  • Helio Mysto

    PCWorld Rating

Going by looks alone, the Helio Mysto ($150 with a two-year contract as of 4/11/08) certainly qualifies as hot. This gray-blue beauty measures 4.1 by 1.9 inches and is a Levi's-friendly half-inch thick. Yet despite its slim figure, the Mysto is perfectly plump when it comes to features.

You slide the Mysto open to reveal a sleek, smooth keypad reminiscent of that of the Motorola Razr. It looks cool, but the buttons are somewhat cramped, and the flatness of the pad means you can't dial by feel. On its face, the Mysto sports a vibrant 2.2-inch screen along with a circular control pad and four touch-sensitive controls (two soft keys, plus send and back buttons). Unfortunately, the navigation pad is a bit small and the buttons are a little too sensitive, often springing into action when you didn't mean for them to do so. In addition, the end-call button is inconveniently located along the right edge of the phone.

The Mysto comes with several free apps, such as mobile MySpace for easily checking out the latest haps on your page; Helio on Top (H.O.T.) for getting news, sports, and other feeds on your home screen; and Google Maps for summoning text-based navigational help (if you want turn-by-turn directions, you can rent Garmin Mobile for $3 a pop).

If you'd rather communicate silently, the Mysto has excellent messaging tools. Your inbox handles text and picture messages; major IM clients such AOL, Windows Live, and Yahoo; and built-in e-mail for the aforementioned services, plus EarthLink and Gmail (you can also set up your own POP3 or IMAP accounts, or create a Helio Mail address). Too bad the handset lacks a QWERTY keyboard; you'll have to make do with the phone's stiff keypad and T9 text input.

Thanks to Helio's use of the EvDO network, Web surfing, video streaming, and other tasks fly. The HTML browser features links to mobile-friendly versions of sites such as ESPN, Facebook, and YouTube. A video page provides links to free clips (such as South-by-Southwest performances) and $2.49 music videos. Your videos stream smoothly, and you can watch them in landscape mode by pressing the down button on the control pad.

For music, the Mysto comes with a loud but thin-sounding speaker, earbuds, a microSD slot that's buried in the battery compartment (along with 106MB internal memory), and stereo Bluetooth. The basic but functional MP3 player lets you create playlists, and you can bring your own tunes or buy them over the air for $2. The 2-megapixel camera snaps decent-looking pictures, though they exhibit some graininess and the colors look muted (our black cat seemed rather brownish). You have to slide the phone open to expose the camera lens and self-portrait mirror, which is rather annoying.

In lab tests the Mysto's battery lasted through 4 hours, 25 minutes of talk time--a poor result compared with that of other cell phones we've tested recently. Overall, however, this phone has a lot going for it, from its slim shape to its array of fun, distracting features. Provided you're willing to stray from a major carrier, it's certainly a pocket-worthy device.

--Cathy Lu

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    Has lots of features and an attractive design, but terrible controls.

    Pros

    • Good-looking, slim, pocketable design
    • Filled with cool, hip mobile apps

    Cons

    • Controls/keypad are cramped, stiff
    • Lacks QWERTY keyboard
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