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.