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Treo and BlackBerry, move over. New PDA/phones are giving people who want phones with full keyboards and robust features more appealing alternatives than ever. In my tests, both the shipping Nokia E62 and a preproduction T-Mobile Dash proved quite capable at e-mail management, instant messaging, Web browsing, and more--at relatively moderate prices.
Both devices are reminiscent in design of BlackBerry models with full keyboards; they are wider, but skinnier, than Treos. Both are quad-band GSM phones that can roam worldwide (with the appropriate plan) and that also support GPRS and EDGE. Both have nicely domed keys that make typing as pleasant as it gets on a thumb keyboard. And in PC World Test Center battery tests, each ran 10 hours (the maximum time we test for). In other respects, however, the two devices differ significantly from each other.
The Nokia E62 ($200 with a two-year Cingular contract) delivers a lot of bang for your PDA buck. Based on the Symbian operating system, it comes bundled with an impressive collection of applications for e-mail (including out-of-the-box support for Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes), productivity (word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software), instant messaging (AIM, MSN, and Yahoo), and playing MP3s and viewing images. However, add-on software options are limited (compared with Palm OS- or Windows Mobile-based devices) because not all providers make software compatible with the Symbian OS; in addition, you must make sure that any Symbian software you get can run on the E62, as not all Symbian software will run on all Symbian devices.
The E62's browser did a first-rate job of rendering Web pages meant for larger screens, though load times weren't that impressive on Cingular's EDGE network (the E62 does not support the carrier's broadband-like HSDPA network). Navigation was reasonably intuitive, though I would have liked a dedicated key for accessing the main menu.
The silvery gray E62 boasts 60MB of user-available memory plus a miniSD Card slot for up to 2GB of additional storage. The device is less than three-quarters of an inch thick and weighs only a tad over 5 ounces; its 2.8-inch, 320-by-240-pixel display is roomy by handheld standards. But it looks positively boxy next to T-Mobile's superslim, snazzy black-and-silver Dash, which weighs in at a mere 4.2 ounces and is only half an inch thick.
Would that the Dash's other attributes lived up to its good looks. Though it does include an integrated 1.3-megapixel camera and Wi-Fi (both missing in the E62), the $250 (with a two-year contract) Dash comes up short on software: The Windows Mobile-based device does not include Office-type productivity applications.
However, you do get Outlook-compatible e-mail and calendar applications, plus instant messaging software, Windows Media Player, and T-Mobile's MyFaves--a sort of icon-based speed-dialer for up to five contacts that you can make unlimited calls to with the carrier's plans. Image quality in my test photos was only mediocre, and navigation in Windows Mobile remains confusing.
When you're connected to a Wi-Fi network, Web browsing is pleasurable, but when you're connected to T-Mobile's EDGE network it feels sluggish--and either way pages are sometimes difficult to read in Pocket Internet Explorer. The Dash also has a microSD Card slot, but comes with only 23MB of user-available storage.
The Nokia E62's outstanding software bundle, affordable price, and top-notch keyboard make it an obvious winner for anyone who wants a handheld capable of PC-like productivity work--and who doesn't need apps from more popular handheld platforms. The Dash, despite its shortcomings, might appeal to style-conscious users who want a usable keyboard with their multimedia-friendly Windows Mobile PDA/phone.
Nokia E62This affordable PDA/phone is perfect for people who want serious productivity software on their handheld.
Price: $200 (with two-year Cingular contract)
Current prices (if available)
This supersleek Windows Mobile hybrid is optimized for messaging, e-mail, and multimedia.
Price: $250 (with two-year T-Mobile contract)
Current prices (if available)
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