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AT&T Tilt review: AT&T Tilt

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The Good The AT&T Tilt features a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard and a tilting screen. The Windows Mobile 6 smartphone also offers the full gamut of wireless options, including 3G and GPS, push e-mail, a 3-megapixel camera, and support for AT&TMusic and Video.

The Bad Speakerphone quality wasn't the greatest, and talk-time battery life was on the shorter side. The Tilt was sluggish at times, and picture quality was subpar. We also had problems acquiring a GPS fix.

The Bottom Line The AT&T Tilt promises to be the carrier's most powerful smartphone for business users with its full range of wireless options, Windows Mobile 6, and innovative tilt screen.

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8.3 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Performance 8

Whether you know it as the AT&T 8925, the HTC Kaiser, or the HTC TyTN II, this highly anticipated Windows Mobile 6 smartphone officially got its crowning today as the AT&T Tilt. And we'd say the name is quite fitting given that it has a slide-out screen that tilts 40 degrees for a better viewing angle. It's a nice touch that we enjoyed, but there's more to this smartphone than an innovative design. It's packed with all the features a mobile professional could want in a smartphone: the full range of wireless options, including UMTS/HSDPA support and GPS, Windows Mobile 6 (AT&T's first WM6 device, in fact), and strong messaging capabilities. It can also entertain with support for AT&T Music and AT&T Video and a 3-megapixel camera.

We had the opportunity to check out a preproduction unit of the Tilt, and while we'll reserve final judgment until we have the finished product in hand, we think it will be a hit. Let us be clear that this is a device best-suited for power business users. It doesn't have the mass appeal of an Apple iPhone, and it certainly has its downfalls, too: It's hefty and talk-time battery life is somewhat short. However, the added features make it a worthy upgrade from the AT&T 8525. The AT&T Tilt will be available starting October 5 for $299.99 with a two-year contract, which isn't too bad considering all the features you get with this device.

Let's just cut to the chase and talk about what makes the AT&T Tilt so special, shall we? From the outside, the Tilt doesn't look that much different from its predecessor, the AT&T 8525. It has a PDA-like design and features a slide-out screen that reveals a full QWERTY keyboard underneath. However, there's one major difference between the two: The Tilt's screen tilts (hence the name; get it?) up to 40 degrees, mimicking a mini laptop. Though we never had any problems with the old design, we do like this extra functionality. It gives you a better view of the display, and it's nice if you just want to lay it on a flat surface and read through your e-mails, work documents, or view videos. Of course, if you so choose, you could compose messages in this position, but you'd probably have to peck away with your index fingers, which seems a bit uncomfortable and dorky. We found it easier just to hold the smartphone in both hands and let our thumbs happily tap away.

If the name didn't give it away, you can slide out the AT&T Tilt's screen and angle it up to 40 degrees for better viewing.

The keyboard itself is roomy with large rectangular buttons that are tactile and well-backlit, so we were easily able to type out e-mails, text messages, and the like. The number buttons are also easy see, as they're highlighted in silver--a stark contrast to the rest of the black keys. The only real problem we ran into was trying to press the two soft keys above the keyboard while the screen was tilted up. Having the screen in the upright position reduces what little space there is between the soft keys and the bottom edge of the front cover, so we kept banging our thumbs up against it. It's certainly not a deal breaker, though, and we were happy with the overall experience.

The Tilt's full QWERTY keyboard features large keys, so typing e-mails and messages on the smartphone is a breeze.

The AT&T Tilt's touch screen measures 2.8 inches diagonally and shows off 65,536 colors at a 320x240 pixel resolution. Text and images looked sharp and bright, and the display was readable in various lighting conditions, including bright sunlight thanks to the tilting screen. You can change the theme of the Today screen as well as the background image, displayed menu items, and backlight timeout. The screen orientation will also automatically switch from portrait to landscape mode once you slide open the cover, but we noticed there was a slight delay during the transition (See Performance for more).

Below the display, you'll find a navigation array that consists of the Talk and End buttons, two soft keys, an OK button, shortcuts to Internet Explorer Mobile, the Start menu, and your Inbox, and a five-way navigation toggle with a central select key. All of these controls are easy to use, and we're particularly pleased with the spacious directional keypad. On the left spine, there is a push-to-talk launcher, an OK button, and scroll wheel that you can press to select a menu item. Once on a call, it can also be used to adjust the phone volume. The right side houses the power button, camera activation key, and stylus, while the microSD expansion slot and mini USB port are found on the bottom of the unit. The camera lens (no self-portrait mirror or flash) is located on the back along with speaker and external GPS jack, and the SIM card holder is actually on the backside of the front cover when slid out rather than behind the battery. Speaking of which, a minor point, but we found it extremely difficult to take off the battery cover. There doesn't seem to be a release switch, so we had to pry it off with a sharp-edged object. Another thing on our wish list is a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack.

The AT&T Tilt measures 4.4 inches long by 2.3 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep and weighs 6.1 ounces. We're not even going to lie; the handset is definitely bulky and heavy, so it won't easily slip into a pants pocket. However, we think HTC did a nice job designing the Tilt. The smartphone has nice rounded corners and boasts a sleek-black-lacquer-and-polished-steel finish on front, while the back features a soft-touch finish for better gripping. It's more comfortable to hold than the AT&T 8525 and Sprint Mogul, and feels like it has a more solid construction.

The AT&T Tilt is one hefty smartphone, but it has a solid construction and soft-touch finish for easy gripping.

The AT&T Tilt comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, an extra stylus, a Getting Started CD, and reference material. Frankly, we're a little disappointed with the included accessories, as we would have liked to seen the inclusion of at least a belt holster or a wired headset. For more add-ons, please check out our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

With the barrage of smartphones that hit AT&T's lineup this year, it caught us by surprise that this is actually the carrier's first Windows Mobile 6 smartphone. It runs the Professional Edition, and the updated operating system brings a number of small but notable improvements over Windows Mobile 5. For example, there's a new Calendar ribbon that gives you a better view of your schedule at a glance with colored blocks for appointments and details of the event, such as meeting location, right along the bottom of your screen so you don't have to open each one. There's also a new e-mail search function that works like the Smart Dial feature on Windows Mobile 5 devices, where you start typing in a word while in your Inbox, and it will automatically pull up messages with that term in the subject or contact field. We won't run through every new feature here, but you can read all about them in our review of Windows Mobile 6.

As a mobile professional's tool, the Tilt comes with the full Microsoft Mobile Office Suite for creating, viewing, and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. In addition, there's an Adobe Reader client for opening PDFs. Other PIM tools include a calculator, a clock, a ZIP manager, and a voice recorder. To manage your memory and optimize the device's performance, you can view the amount of available memory under the Settings menu and stop running programs with the Task Manager. The Tilt comes with 256MB of ROM and 128MB SDRAM. There's about 87MB of user-accessible storage and 68MB of program memory, and you can always expand the capacity by using the microSD expansion slot, which accepts up to 4GB cards.

The AT&T Tilt is equipped with a microSD expansion slot located on the bottom of the device.

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