Cingular 8100 review: Cingular 8100

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The Good The Cingular 8100 series features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, Windows Mobile 5, and four forms of wireless (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, EDGE, and infrared). The quad-band world phone also offers a speakerphone and extralong talk-time battery life.

The Bad Unfortunately, the Cingular 8100 series is clunky and heavy, and it suffers from subpar call quality.

The Bottom Line Although we weren't terribly impressed by the call quality or the form factor, the Cingular 8100 series provides powerful tools to the mobile professional for getting work done on the go.

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6.7 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7

Cingular 8100 series

T-Mobile has its MDA smart phone, and now Cingular has its 8125. The Cingular 8125 (a.k.a. HTC Wizard) is the latest Windows Mobile 5 device to join the carrier's smart-phone lineup, right behind the Cingular 2125. The quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) world phone comes with integrated Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and EDGE support. In addition, there's a full QWERTY keyboard hidden behind the slider design, and since it will be upgradable to Microsoft's Messaging and Security Feature Pack, you can receive your e-mail in real time with push technology. Unfortunately, with all these features, the phone is on the larger and heavier side. The mediocre call quality also leaves something to be desired. Still, for mobile professionals who need to get work done on the road, the 8125 provides all the tools to do so. Cingular will offer two versions: one equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera and one without (the Cingular 8100). The Cingular 8125 is available now at a pricey $299.99 with a two-year contract. One glance at the Cingular 8125, and you pretty much know it means business. It's styled in no-nonsense gray and silver, and from the front, it looks like any old PDA, measuring 4.3 inches high and 2.3 inches wide. Unfortunately, the smart phone is on the thicker and heavier side (1 inch; 5.2 ounces), so it's definitely not the most travel-friendly device we've seen; on the bright side, though, Cingular includes a belt holster. Ladies, you may want to make some room in your purse. The 8125's size is an issue when you use it as a phone, plus the bigger form factor and the extra weight make it uncomfortable to use for long conversations. That said, the mobile is equipped with a speakerphone and Bluetooth, so you can take advantage of those technologies for hands-free calls.

Sitting front and center is the Cingular 8125's 2.8-inch-diagonal TFT screen with a 64,000-color output and a 320x240-pixel resolution. Overall, text and images were clear and defined, and the colors were bright and vibrant. We did notice, however, that the display had a tendency to hold a lot of smudges and fingerprints. As with the T-Mobile MDA, the shortcut keys to your in-box and the Web are above the screen, while two soft keys, the Talk and End buttons, and the navigation toggle are located below the display. The keys have a spacious layout, so you shouldn't have any problems using the phone. Although you can reassign the shortcut keys, we wish there were a dedicated shortcut key to the Today screen. As it is, you need the stylus to exit out of any apps and get back to your home screen, which deters one-handed use--something the Palm Treo 700w excelled at.

Doing the keyboard shuffle: Slide the Cingular 8125's face to the right to expose the full QWERTY keyboard.

What lies beneath the Cingular 8125's screen is a beauty: a full QWERTY keyboard. To access it, just slide the face to the right. As with the T-Mobile MDA and the Sprint PPC-6700, the sliding mechanism isn't the smoothest, but it does snap into place with a satisfying click, and the screen automatically switches from portrait to landscape mode. The keyboard features large, tactile buttons, and as with the MDA, there are no dedicated numeral keys, so you have to hit the Function button first to input numbers or symbols. The backlighting is a bit faint, but it provides enough illumination for typing in darker environments.

On the Cingular 8125's left spine, you get a volume rocker and a one-touch button to open the Comm Manager, where you can turn on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ActiveSync, and vibrate mode. The right side has a voice-record button, an infrared port, a reset hole, and a camera-activation key. The 8125's camera lens is located on the back of the device, along with a flash and a small self-portrait mirror. In a nice move by HTC, the placement of the Capture button actually mimics the feel of a real digital camera to avoid any awkward hand placements when taking horizontal pictures.

The Cingular 8125 offers a 1.3-megapixel camera with video-recording capabilities. Cingular also offers a cameraless version in the 8100.

Rounding out the Cingular 8125 are a 2.5mm headset jack, a mini USB/power port, and a stylus holder on the bottom of the handset. There's a Mini SD card-expansion slot on top, but unfortunately, a card isn't included. Cingular packages the smart phone with an AC charger, a wired stereo headset, a carrying case, and a USB cable.

The Cingular 8125 is one of those everything-but-the-kitchen-sink smart phones, just packed to the gill with features. A 200MHz TI OMAP 850 processor, 128MB of SDRAM, and 64MB of ROM are the muscle, while Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5 operating system (Pocket PC edition) is the brains behind the device, offering improved mobile versions of Word, Excel, and the new PowerPoint presentation viewer. The ClearVue PDF viewer is also on board for those of you who need to view such files, as well as a zip utility, a task manager, and Download Agent.

Of course, a key functionality is e-mail, and the Cingular 8125 doesn't disappoint, with support for corporate and personal e-mail accounts. Outlook Mobile is included, and the smart phone works with Microsoft Exchange Server, GoodLink, Cingular Xpress Mail, and MSN Hotmail. Moreover, the 8125 will be upgradable to Microsoft's Messaging and Security Feature Pack when it's released later this year, so you can enjoy the advantages of push technology and receive messages in real time. Using the included USB cable, we connected our review unit to our PC, and all our Outlook e-mail, contacts, tasks, and appointments synced seamlessly with the device. Instant, text, and multimedia messaging are also all supported.

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