T-Mobile SDA review: T-Mobile SDA

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The T-Mobile SDA boasts a sharp, vibrant screen, as well as outstanding battery life and call quality. In addition, the Windows Mobile 5 smart phone is equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and EDGE support.

The Bad The T-Mobile SDA's Mini SD card slot is inconveniently located behind the battery, and the keypad and navigation controls are a bit cramped.

The Bottom Line For those who want to do more on the go, the T-Mobile SDA offers a winning package of productivity tools, multimedia, and great performance. We just wish the smart phone had a better keypad layout.

Compare prices on the T-Mobile SDA at mySimon.com

8.0 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0

T-Mobile SDA

The SDA in T-Mobile SDA stands for Smart Digital Assistant, and overall, the device lives up to its name. With its compact and sleek form factor, it may look like any other candy bar cell phone, but the handset runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition, arming you with the tools to stay productive on the go. It's loaded with all the wireless connections (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and EDGE) you'd want, as well as multimedia flair and a 1.3-megapixel camera.

Oh, and the phone itself? It sounds great, and you can chat till your heart's content with the SDA's extralong battery life. Our only major gripe would have to be the cramped keypad--an advantage we give to the similarly featured and priced Cingular 2125 . All things said, the T-Mobile SDA is a smart phone for those who want to stay up to date and be more productive with their time; power users should consider the T-Mobile MDA , which includes a QWERTY keyboard and the full Mobile Office suite. The SDA will be available starting February 13; the price is set at $299.99, but you should be able to get it for less with a service agreement.

The T-Mobile SDA is smart not only in functionality but also in looks. At 4.5 by 1.8 by 0.7 inches and 3.7 ounces, the SDA won't slow down mobile professionals, and it's dressed in a cool silver for a polished look. The integrated antenna adds about a quarter inch of unwanted bulk, but it's not a deal breaker. More important, the candy bar-style phone is solidly constructed and is comfortable to hold.

Your eyes can't help but gravitate toward the T-Mobile SDA's sharp and vibrant 2.2-inch-diagonal screen, which has an unmistakable Windows feel. It has a crisp 320x240-pixel resolution and a 65,000-color output that makes viewing text and images easy on the eyes. Our only word of caution: The screen has a tendency to hold a lot of smudges and fingerprints, so you might want to keep a chammy nearby.


The SDA's tiny buttons may prove to be a challenge for those with larger hands.

Below the display are four minuscule buttons--two soft keys, a Back button, and a Home key--that may prove troublesome to those with larger digits. In fact, you may have problems with most of the T-Mobile SDA's buttons, since they're all pretty small. While the numerical dial pad is well backlit and tactile, the spacing between the 12 keys is cramped, making dialing by feel difficult. The navigation joystick is also tiny and requires conscientious effort in moving the cursor in the right direction, and you have to push the toggle square in the middle for it to select an item. Are your thumbs ready for a workout?

All that said, there are some bright sides to the T-Mobile SDA's form factor. The Talk and End keys that flank the directional toggle are spacious, and we're big fans of the dedicated media player buttons right above them. They're similar to those found on an MP3 player, including the play/pause, forward, and rewind buttons. A dedicated T-zone button rounds out the quartet.

On the T-Mobile SDA's left spine, you'll find a volume rocker and a shortcut key that launches the Communication Manager, where you can control all your wireless connections (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Phone, and Sync); a lone camera-activation button is on the right spine. Speaking of which, the camera lens, as well as a self-portrait mirror, is on the rear of the phone. Unfortunately, there is no flash. On the top of the SDA are the power button and an infrared port, while the bottom of the device has a 2.5mm headset jack and a port for the USB-synchronization cable and the power adapter. T-Mobile packages the smart phone with a wired headset, a USB cable, and an AC adapter.

There are, of course, trade-offs for the T-Mobile SDA's compact size. First, there is no QWERTY keyboard, so don't expect this to be an e-mailing machine; if this functionality is important to you, check out the T-Mobile MDA. Also, the SDA comes equipped with a Mini SD card slot, but it's located behind the battery, so that's a bit of an inconvenience.

Don't let its diminutive size fool you; the T-Mobile SDA packs a heavyweight punch in the features department. Running the latest Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition, the SDA offers productivity tools to help keep you on task and connected to the office. You should be aware, however, that you don't get the full Mobile Office suite--just Outlook Mobile and not Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. Instead, the device comes loaded with the ClearVue Suite--ClearVue Document, ClearVue Worksheet, ClearVue PPT, and ClearVue PDF--which lets you view but not edit said files. We transferred several Word and Excel documents and a PowerPoint presentation to the SDA and were able to view them all without any problems.

Synchronizing our Outlook e-mail, Calendar, and Contacts on the T-Mobile SDA was also a snap. We used the included USB cable, and ActiveSync 4.1 took care of the rest. You can also configure the SDA to receive e-mails from your personal accounts (POP3 or IMAP4), including Hotmail, Yahoo Mail Plus, AOL, and Comcast. If you want quicker communication, the smart phone supports several instant-messaging clients--ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo, and AOL--as well as text and multimedia messaging.

As we noted in the Design section, the lack of a QWERTY keyboard makes the T-Mobile SDA better for viewing e-mails rather than sending them. However, thanks to the integrated Bluetooth, you can pair your device with a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard and fire off messages that way. Aside from Bluetooth, the SDA is equipped with Wi-Fi and EDGE support, so you can hop on to a hot spot while you're on the road and surf the Web using Internet Explorer Mobile. EDGE should also allow for high-speed data connections; indeed, cruising the Web on the SDA was a pleasure, thanks to the great screen and the faster upload times.

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