Common wisdom states that a jack-of-all-trades tends to be a master of none. With this in mind, we expected the Audiovox SMT5600 to be able to do a lot of things--just none of them too well. But after spending some serious time with this Windows Mobile 2003 smart phone, we're terribly impressed. Not only is the GSM SMT5600 a great PDA, but it's also a great cell phone and multimedia device. Road warriors will love being able to access e-mail, the wireless Web, and PIM data on the go, while the more gadget-oriented will welcome the SMT5600's ability to seamlessly integrate with Windows Media Player (WMP) 10.0 for synchronizing multimedia data such as songs, pictures, video, and recorded television. At $319, you'll pay more than a few pennies, but you should be able to find it cheaper with service. At 4.2 by 1.82 by 0.7 inches and 3.6 ounces, the black-and-silver Audiovox SMT5600 isn't a particularly small candy bar-style phone. That said, it's solidly constructed and feels sturdy when held in the hand. And though it's a tad heavy, the handset fits nicely into a jeans pocket or a bag. On the upper-left spine, you'll find dedicated volume buttons, on the right spine is a dedicated camera button, and on the top of the unit, there's a power button as well as the IR port.
The 2.2-inch-diagonal, 64,000-color display simply takes the cake. Since the phone ships with the mobile version of WMP 10.0, you can use it to view recorded TV (if you have a Media Center PC) as well as videos and photos. The vivid screen also is great for surfing the wireless Web. Portal sites such as Yahoo Mobile were extremely clear, and e-mail for both Yahoo and MSN looked great.
However, because of the SMT5600's relatively large screen, there wasn't much real estate left for the buttons. On the front of the handheld is a standard keypad, but you'll also find green and red Talk and End keys, Home and Back buttons, two soft keys, and a much-too-diminutive navigation toggle. Though it moves five ways, the rectangular toggle is too small for large fingers, and its use takes some acclimation. The dial-pad keys, on the other hand, were quite tactile, and misdials were rare. The Audiovox SMT5600's phone book is limited only by the available memory (an additional 250 names can be stored on the SIM card). Each contact stores multiple fields, such as 11 phone numbers, three e-mail addresses, three street addresses, and other personal information. You can also pair contacts with a polyphonic ring tone for caller ID. Other features include a vibrate mode, a voice recorder, a calendar, a calculator, a task list, text and multimedia messaging, MSN Messenger, Bluetooth, an infrared port, a WAP 2.0 wireless Web browser, and a speakerphone. Though the handset has a MiniSD expansion slot, it limits you to 256MB of data (it also has 32MB of memory built in). While this is fine for a standalone PDA, you'll quickly max it out with audio and video files. And the slot is tucked behind the battery, so it's a pain to get to.
Since it runs on Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 OS, the SMT5600 is an excellent PDA. Not only does it ship with the aforementioned organizer basics, but there are also a ton of third-party applications available. The SMT5600 uses Microsoft's ActiveSync to transfer PIM data between the device and a desktop. While you can configure it to read POP and IMAP e-mail, configuring the mobile to speak with your Exchange server may not be as simple. If your company is running Microsoft Exchange Server with Exchange ActiveSync or Microsoft Mobile Information Server, you'll easily be able to access your Exchange information remotely. If not, you might not be able to access your corporate e-mail remotely. We wish Audiovox had chosen to ship the SMT5600 with redirector software that could push e-mail from your desktop machine to your mobile, BlackBerry-style. Of course, since the handset lacks a full QWERTY keyboard, typing anything more than brief e-mails on it will give your thumbs a workout.
One of the SMT5600's biggest draws is the ability to watch TV on its excellent display. We synced it with a Toshiba Qosmio Media Center Notebook and had the distinct pleasure of watching Chappelle's Show and The Daily Show while commuting. Since the SMT5600 sports WMP 10.0, users will like being able to view album art when playing music, as well as the ability to play subscription-based content from online sources such as MSN's music store.
The built-in VGA camera takes both still and video images. You can choose from three resolutions (640x480, 320x240, or 160x120), seven color options, and four quality settings. There's also a 3X zoom, but you can use it only at the lowest setting. You can save as many photos as will fit in the available memory, and a convenient counter keeps track of how much space you have left. The video camera takes clips with sound in two resolutions (128x96 and 176x144) with similar settings for ambience and has a 2X zoom as well. Neither the photos nor the videos were the best we've seen from a camera phone, and the SMT5600 lacks a flash. It does, however, have a tiny mirror next to the lens for self-portraits. When finished with your photos, you can save them to the phone or send them to friends via a multimedia message, Bluetooth, or the infrared port. We tested the dual-band Audiovox SMT5600 (GSM 850/1800/1900; GPRS) in the San Francisco Bay Area on AT&T's network. The handset performed well. We never lost a signal, whether in downtown San Francisco or in the East Bay. Callers could tell that we were using a cell phone but commented that the call quality was good. Speakerphone quality was also solid, and we had plenty of volume.
We got seven hours of talk time out of the SMT5600, compared with the rated time of four hours. Standby life was satisfactory as well. We managed 8 days on a single charge, compared with the promised time of 5.8 days. According to the FCC the Audiovox SMT5600 has a digital SAR rating of .61 watts per kilogram.