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AT&T 2125 - smartphone - GSM review: AT&T 2125 - smartphone - GSM

AT&T 2125 - smartphone - GSM

Bonnie Cha Former Editor
Bonnie Cha was a former chief correspondent for CNET Crave, covering every kind of tech toy imaginable (with a special obsession for robots and Star Wars-related stuff). When she's not scoping out stories, you can find her checking out live music or surfing in the chilly waters of Northern California.
Bonnie Cha
7 min read
Cingular 2125
A little more than a year ago, a small wonder called the Audiovox SMT5600 took the smart-phone world by storm with its powerful features and ultracompact form factor. Even today, it continues to be one of CNET readers' favorite smart phones. Now, a worthy successor has come along to let the SMT5600 retire: the Cingular 2125. The 2125 is Cingular's first company-branded B2B device and offers many of the same great qualities of the SMT5600, but it adds some upgrades, such as the latest Windows Mobile 5 OS and a better camera. Unfortunately, the 2125 falls a bit behind some of its competition--the T-Mobile SDA--with its lack of Wi-Fi and its average call quality. That said, the 2125's pros outweigh the cons, and it's still a powerful smart phone that will help mobile professionals be more productive on the road. The Cingular 2125 is available now for $299.99, but you should be able to get it for less with service. Unless you're a smart-phone fanatic, you may not have heard of a Taiwanese company called HTC. Alhough not a household name, the company quietly has built some of the hottest Windows Mobile smart phones in the market today, including the Cingular 2125. At a compact 4.3 by 1.8 by 0.7 inches and a light 3.7 ounces, this candy bar-style phone is a boon for mobile professionals; it won't weigh you down, and it eliminates the need to carry multiple devices. Plus, it doesn't hurt that it's a good-looking device, sporting a sleek metallic blue and silver finish. Overall, it's very reminiscent of the Audiovox SMT5600, with the exception of an additional 0.25-inch overhang on top of the device that houses the power on/off button and the infrared port. We should mention the tricky power control at this point, which already has garnered some reader complaints. It's marked by a small circular button, so the natural tendency is to simply push it in, but you actually have to push and pull it down. It's not particularly annoying, but it's definitely a weird design quirk.


AT&T 2125 - smartphone - GSM

The Good

The Cingular 2125 packs a lot of features into its compact form factor, including a 1.3-megapixel camera, a speakerphone, Bluetooth and EDGE support, and Windows Mobile 5. The smart phone also offers outstanding battery life.

The Bad

The Cingular 2125 suffers from mediocre call quality and doesn't have integrated Wi-Fi. The smart phone also has a quirky power button, and the Mini SD card expansion slot is located behind the battery.

The Bottom Line

Although it lacks Wi-Fi and has only average call quality, the Cingular 2125 is a powerful smart phone that will help mobile professionals be more productive on the road.

Stretch out: The Cingular 2125 features a more spacious keypad layout than the T-Mobile SDA.

The Cingular 2125's 2.2-inch-diagonal display is a sight to behold. Although it's not a touch screen, it displays 64,000 hues with a sharp 320x240-pixel resolution, making colors pop out and producing crisp text and images. Viewing photos and Web sites on the device was a treat. Just below the display are two soft keys that are well spaced and easy to press. The cramped layout of these keys, as well as the numerical dial pad, is a sticking point for us on the T-Mobile SDA, but we're glad to see the Cingular 2125 goes a different route. The Today shortcut, the Back button, and the Talk and End keys surround the navigation joystick. Unfortunately, it's the same tiny toggle that plagues the SDA, so you have to pay attention to the direction you're moving and firmly press the joystick in the middle to select an item. The dial pad is roomy and backlit, and since the keys are raised above the phone's surface, it's easy to dial by feel.

On the left spine, there are three unmarked buttons. The top button launches the Communication Manager, where you can turn on/off Bluetooth, the speakerphone, and ActiveSync; if you hold down the key, it will launch the voice recorder, though we didn't find this out until we read the user manual. Just below that is the volume rocker, which can't be used to navigate the menus. There's a lone camera-activation button on the right side, while the camera lens and the self-portrait mirror are on the back. You can find a 2.5mm headset jack and a port for the USB sync cable and AC adapter on the bottom of the device. The Cingular 2125 ships with a soft protective case/belt holster, an AC charger, a USB cable, and a wired stereo headset.

Yes! The Cingular 2125 has a Mini SD card expansion slot. No! It's behind the battery.

Now, we have some good news and bad news. First, the good: The Cingular 2125 is equipped with an expansion card slot. The bad news, however, is that it's located behind the battery, so you have to remove the cell pack each time you want to access it, and it accepts only Mini SD cards. That said, we understand that concessions have to be made for size, and we appreciate the inclusion of expandable memory.

The Cingular 2125 is chock-full of goodies but falls behind its competitor, the T-Mobile SDA, with its lack of integrated Wi-Fi. We'll touch on this a bit later, but first, a few of the basics: The 2125's phone book is limited only by the available memory (64MB of SDRAM, 64MB of flash ROM), while the SIM card holds an additional 250 contacts. For each entry, you can store up to 12 numbers, three e-mail and instant-messaging addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, and more. You can also pair them with one of 12 ring tones and a picture for caller ID. Other treats include a vibrate mode, speed dial, text and multimedia messaging, a voice recorder, and yes, a speakerphone.

The Cingular 2125 runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition, which means you won't get the full Mobile Office suite found on the Pocket PC Edition, just Outlook Mobile. Don't be alarmed, though; you can still view Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDF files by installing the ClearVue Suite from the included CD-ROM. We were able to transfer and open all four formats on the 2125 successfully. You can't edit said files, but given the 2125's smaller form factor and lack of a keyboard, it's not the best device to do such a thing anyway; it's just nice to be able to review your work and be more productive on the road.

Can't stand to be away from your e-mail? You don't have to be with the Cingular 2125. The device handles corporate and personal e-mail, and it's compatible with Microsoft Exchange Server, GoodLink, and Cingular Xpress Mail. The phone is also upgradable to Microsoft's Messaging and Security Feature Pack, which will allow for direct push e-mail. You can set up the 2125 to retrieve messages from personal accounts, such as EarthLink, BellSouth, and Yahoo. MSN Messenger is the only instant-messaging client preloaded on the handset, but you can access other popular services, such as Yahoo and AOL, via the Web browser.

Obviously, the lack of a QWERTY keyboard doesn't make the Cingular 2125 ideal for messaging, but the integrated Bluetooth gives you the option to connect to a Bluetooth accessory keyboard so that you can stretch your fingers and type to your heart's content. We touched on the lack of Wi-Fi earlier, and its absence is a little easier to take because of the EDGE support, but we're still disappointed, especially since the T-Mobile SDA managed to pack it in. We would have appreciated that extra avenue for surfing the Web. As it is, the Web-browsing experience was a little poky compared with that of the SDA, but it gets the job done.

Get ready for your close-up: The Cingular 2125 comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera and a tiny self-portrait mirror.

The Audiovox SMT5600 only had a VGA camera, but the Cingular 2125 kicks it up a notch with a 1.3-megapixel camera. The editing options are identical to those found on the T-Mobile SDA, including four quality settings (Basic, Normal, Fine, and Super-Fine) and four resolutions (160x120, 320x240, 640x480, and 1,280x1,024). You also get a 2X zoom, brightness controls, a time- and date-stamp option, and a photo counter. Normally, we would bemoan the lack of a flash, but the 2125's Night setting did an admirable job of lighting up pictures taken in dark environments. Other lighting choices include Auto, Daylight, Incandescent, and Fluorescent. To spruce up your snapshots, you can add a picture frame or change the tone of the picture to Grayscale, Sepia, or Cool. If you want to make movies for the small screen, the phone's camera records video clips with sound in MPEG-4, H.263, or Motion-JPEG AVI format, and it offers two resolutions (176x144 or 128x96). Also at your disposal are most of the editing features found on the still camera.

We have to admit--the picture quality was not too shabby. Although not frameworthy, our snapshots came out clear and bright, and you can share your memories with others via multimedia message or e-mail, as well as save them as wallpaper. Other customization options for your phone include different color themes, background images, and sounds. If none of the defaults suit you, take a visit to Cingular's Media Mall and shop around.

Finally, during your downtime, you can enjoy a variety of multimedia fun, including MP3, WAV, WMA, and AAC music files, as well as MPEG-4 video streams, thanks to Windows Media Player 10 Mobile.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) Cingular 2125 in San Francisco, and call quality was a mixed bag. We had no problems hearing the conversation, but on several occasions, our callers said they detected an echo. Also, the speakerphone wasn't the best we've heard; volume was a bit low even when we jacked it up to the highest level. We had no problems pairing the handset with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset, and though audio quality took a bit of a dive, this may have more to do with the headset than the phone.

The Cingular 2125's battery is rated for a talk time of 4 hours and up to six days of standby time, but like the T-Mobile SDA, the 2125 laughs at that lowly number. The smart phone lasted an astounding 11 hours before finally calling it quits, and it met the rated standby time. According to the FCC radiation tests, the Cingular 2125 has a digital SAR rating of 0.94 watt per kilogram.


AT&T 2125 - smartphone - GSM

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8