capsule review

T-Mobile Sidekick LX 3G Cell Phone

At a Glance
  • T-Mobile Sidekick LX 3G

    PCWorld Rating

    3G support and a 3.2-megapixel camera are great additions, but other messaging phones are way ahead of the Sidekick LX.

The newest version of the Sidekick LX ($200 with a two-year contract, as of 5/1/09), T-Mobile's popular messaging phone traditionally aimed at teenagers, sports grown-up features such as 3G support, GPS, and an improved, more sophisticated design. But unfortunately the Sidekick LX still has a few quirks.

For example, the mailbox stores only 6MB of memory, despite the fact that the Sidekick LX now has Exchange Active Sync support. That on-board storage is a paltry amount considering the potential data capacity of this multimedia messaging phone. Additionally, the Sidekick LX still has the same awkward-design issues as we saw on the 2007 version.

The hardware, built by Sharp, retains the iconic swivel design and slightly slimmer dimensions. The 3.2-inch (0.2 inch larger than the 2007 model), 854 by 480, F-WVGA screen is gorgeous--one of the best I've seen on a handset, especially a midrange messaging device. The colors are bright, details are crisp, and animations render smoothly.

The keyboard, as expected, is excellent. The keys are nicely spaced and tactile, and they have the perfect amount of clickiness. But I was disappointed to see that T-Mobile kept the number keys at the top of the keyboard. On the 2007 model we found that design choice awkward and counterintuitive, and I have to say it's the same story now. T-Mobile seems to have put so much energy into the messaging capabilities of the phone that it didn't consider the experience of making a call with this design. The number keys are almost directly under the display's hinge, and you must swivel the keyboard out to dial and back in again to talk, which can get annoying.

The majority of navigation on the device is done with the BlackBerry-esque trackball. For the most part, it works pretty well with the UI, easily gliding over the various menu choices. In some instances, however, the UI a bit slow to respond despite repeated finger flicks over the trackball.

Call quality over T-Mobile's 3G network was good, but I heard a faint hiss on my end--something we've experienced with T-Mobile phones in the past, such as the Shadow. Parties on the other end of the line said that my voice sounded clear with ample volume. A few noticed a hiss but said it wasn't distracting.

The Sidekick LX's OS, the Danger OS, could use a refresh. Though it is easy enough to navigate, it feels a bit out-of-date. It just doesn't have a whole lot of aesthetic appeal, which is unfortunate on such a lovely display. The Sidekick LX comes preloaded with Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter apps. The Facebook app is very good: You can view your News feed (which shows all of your friends' activity), update your status, search for new friends and send messages--almost everything you can do on your PC. The Twitter app isn't as full-featured as other mobile Twitter apps, but it gets the job done. You can, obviously, update your status, reply to your friends' tweets, find and follow new users, and view a friend's timeline.

Another new feature, the on-device Download Catalog, is regrettably a bit sparse at this time, but it has potential. You can download themes, ring tones, games, and a few productivity, social, and entertainment apps.

The Sidekick LX's camera has been upgraded from a measly 1 megapixel to 3.2 megapixels with an LED flash. And unlike with the original, you can now record video--a must-have for a messaging phone. Image quality was pretty good overall, though some of my indoor pictures looked a bit grainy. Video quality, unfortunately disappointed. My videos came out very pixelated and motions appeared choppy and delayed.

The Sidekick LX is definitely an improvement over the 2007 version, but I feel like this upgrade should have come a bit earlier. Sure, 3G support and a 3.2-megapixel camera are great additions, but other messaging phones out there are way ahead of the Sidekick LX. The Samsung Impression, for example, has an AMOLED screen and a smartphone-like user interface. Sidekick fans will definitely appreciate this upgrade, and despite its sophisticated enhancements, I can see it being very popular with the teenage demographic.

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At a Glance
  • PCWorld Rating

    3G support and a 3.2-megapixel camera are great additions, but other messaging phones are way ahead of the Sidekick LX.

    Pros

    • Gorgeous high-resolution display
    • Excellent QWERTY keyboard

    Cons

    • Awkward button placement
    • Only 6MB of mailbox storage
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