Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement
We first came across a peculiar company called Beyond E-Tech when we reviewed the Duet D888. An importer of Chinese-made phones, Beyond E-tech offers a gallery of models seldom seen elsewhere. Like the D888 and all other handsets in the Duet line, the unlocked D8 is a dual-SIM card phone that can make and receive calls from two separate phone numbers. Though that capability is more than welcome in the land of locked-down phones (we mean the United States, of course), the D8 fails the usability test because of its clunky touch screen and tiny virtual keyboard. As it's hardly the iPhone clone we were expecting when we first saw it, we recommend sticking with the D888 if you need a dual-SIM phone.
The D8's candy bar design is like that of many touch-screen phones. In comparison with its brethren, it is pretty small (4.56 inches by 2.02 inches by 0.72 inch), but it offers a weighty (4.79 ounces) and solid feeling in the hand. We liked the soft touch material on the back cover and the silver rim around the front face.
We've long said that we expect effective touch screens to be at last 3.25 inches, so we can't let the D8 off the hook. Though the QVGA screen is bright, it measures just 2.8 inches from corner to corner. It also supports just 65,000 colors and its relatively low resolution (320x240 pixels) means that graphics and photos aren't very sharp. The menu interface is relatively easy to use, but as on the D888, it takes too many steps to open some folders. Also, the menu "effects" are distracting.
The D8's touch screen isn't one of its strong points. Even if you get used to its small size, its erratic behavior will be frustrating. It took a firm press from our finger to register a response, but even that didn't always work. At times, we had to tap icons a couple of times to select them, while other times we made our selection on the first try. At the end of our testing period, we never were able to get it completely right. It's also doesn't help that there's no vibrating feedback and the icons and menu choices don't illuminate as you press them. If you get lost, good luck relying on the user manual--it's barely decipherable.
If you can't handle the touch screen, you also can use the full navigation array to maneuver through menus. There's a four-way toggle with a central OK button, two soft keys, two Talk keys (one for each for line), a music player shortcut, and an End/power button. Only the toggle and talk keys are raised, but the array is easy to use. We could navigate through the menus and place and end calls without any problems. In standby mode, the toggle also cycles through of shortcuts on the touch screen.
The Duet D8 lacks a dialpad, so you'll need to use the touch screen to dial numbers and access your contacts list. To start, tap the onscreen control just above the navigation toggle. The touch dialpad is relatively easy to use; the individual buttons are large and the numbers should be easily visible to most people. The calling commands for the two lines work like those on the Duet D888--see our D888 review for a full description.
On the other hand, the virtual keyboard is a disaster. Since the D8 doesn't offer an accelerometer, you're forced to type messages in portrait mode. However, even worse, the individual touch keys are so tiny that we almost had to squint to see them. The handset doesn't come with a stylus so you'll need to use your fingers to tap out long messages. Though our experience was marginally more accurate than we expected, we still made several mistakes when writing messages. There's a second keyboard for symbols, but you must open a completely menu to write numbers.
The touch screen also supports handwriting recognition. It was a little easier than using the keyboard, but the recognition wasn't always accurate. And without a stylus, it feels a little weird to use your finger. The D8 is not a phone for the prolific messenger.
The remaining exterior controls include a volume rocker on the left spine, and a camera lens and stereo speakers on the D8's rear face. An extendable antenna for the FM radio, a proprietary connection for the included charger, USB cable, and a headset are located on the phone's bottom end. Keep in mind that you'll be able to use only one peripheral at a time. The SIM cards slots and the microSD card slot are located behind the battery; we'd prefer that the latter be more easily accessible. On the upside, the D8 comes with a 256MB microSD card and an extra battery.
The Duet D888 has a 500-contact phone book with room in each entry for three phone numbers, an e-mail address, a company name, and a birthday. Each SIM card stores an additional 250 names, and dedicated customer service and emergency numbers. You can organize callers into groups and you can pair them with a photo or video and one of 15 polyphonic ringtones. Alternatively, you can use your own music files as ringtones and compose your own melodies. For entering text, the D888 supports English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Chinese.
Essential features include a vibrate mode, a file manager, text and multimedia messaging, a calendar, a to-do list, an alarm clock, a world clock, a calculator, a stopwatch, and a currency converter. You'll also find Bluetooth, a voice recorder, chat, an e-book reader, call timers and recording, and a speakerphone.
The Duet D8's multimedia features are similar to the D888's. You'll find a 2-megapixel camera with video recording, an FM radio, a video player, and a music player. As on the D888, most offerings, particularly the music player, are very basic--you won't find many editing and user options. Yet FM radio recording and a rudimentary form of mobile television are available. The quality, though, was equally as horrible as on the D888. Photo quality from the camera was forgettable as well. Our images were washed out and blurry.
You can personalize the Duet D8 with a variety of wallpaper, screensavers, greetings, and functions settings. The handset has a WAP Web browser, but you'll need the necessary multimedia settings from your carrier if you want to use it. Gamers get just one title called Magic Sushi.
We tested the quad-band (GSM: 850/900/1800/1900) in San Francisco using T-Mobile and AT&T service. Call quality was satisfactory on both networks with little difference between them save for a bit more GSM buzz on AT&T. On all calls voices sounded natural, though the volume was rather soft. When speaking in noisy environments we had trouble hearing if the other person was on a call phone.
On their end, callers were relatively pleased. They could tell were using a cell phone, but most didn't report significant problems outside of some background noise. Speakerphone calls offered decent quality on our side, but some callers had trouble hearing us. And as on regular voice calls, the volume was too soft.