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HTC Cavalier S630 (unlocked) review: HTC Cavalier S630 (unlocked)

Though we're not particularly keen on the design changes, the HTC Cavalier S630 is a worthy upgrade to the T-Mobile Dash, adding 3G support and a more powerful processor. Mobile professionals will be well-served by this smart phone.

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
9 min read


HTC Cavalier S630 (unlocked)

The Good

The HTC Cavalier S630 improves on its predecessor by adding 3G support, a faster processor, and a 2-megapixel camera. It comes out of the box with Windows Mobile 6, push e-mail, integrated Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.

The Bad

The new "Joggr" control is temperamental, and the Cavalier S630's QWERTY keyboard is smallish. Speakerphone quality also could be better. Also, we wish the camera included a flash.

The Bottom Line

Though we're not particularly keen on the design changes, the HTC Cavalier S630, with 3G support and a more powerful processor, is a worthy upgrade to the T-Mobile Dash. Mobile professionals will be well-served by this smart phone.

As many of you know, the world of technology is filled with frustrating waiting games. Companies will tease you by announcing a hot little product, but it can be months and months before a device actually comes to market. Take the HTC Cavalier S630, for example. The successor to the T-Mobile Dash already has passed FCC tests, but we're still waiting for an official carrier and availability announcement. Lucky for us, we were able to get the Windows Mobile 6 device through Mobile Planet, where you can purchase an unlocked version for about $565.

The Cavalier S630 includes a number of improvements over its predecessor, most notably the addition of 3G support and a more powerful processor. It also sports a revamped design, although we're not sure it's for the better. However, you're not going to be using a smart phone for its looks. The S630 delivers where it counts the most for mobile professionals--features and performance--making it a worthy upgrade to the Dash. As we noted earlier, there's still no official word on which U.S. carrier (T-Mobile or AT&T) will pick up the HTC Cavalier S630 or when, but we'll update you as soon as we find out.

On paper, the HTC Cavalier S630 shares the same dimensions as the T-Mobile Dash, measuring 4.4 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and weighing 4.2 ounces. However, we couldn't help but think that the Cavalier appeared slightly thicker and less sleek than its predecessor. Personally, I prefer the rounded edges of the Dash to the boxier Cavalier, and I thought the former was more comfortable to hold and easier to grip. The HTC S630 has a soft-touch finish, but the smart phone is still a bit slick. Now, this isn't to say the Cavalier is a complete dud in the design department--not at all. (I think I'm still getting used to the changes, and of course, style is a personal preference.) It's still a compact smart phone with an attractive black and brushed silver chassis. If you're curious, the Cavalier is slightly wider and heavier than the Samsung BlackJack (4.4 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.6 inch thick and 3.5 ounces).

We're not the biggest fans of the HTC Cavalier's revamped design. Here it is next to the smaller, sexier RIM BlackBerry Curve.
We're not the biggest fans of the HTC Cavalier's revamped design. Here it is next to the smaller, sexier RIM BlackBerry Curve.

The Cavalier retains the same 2.4-inch diagonal, 65,536-color QVGA display found on the Dash. The non-touch screen has a 240x320-pixel resolution, so images and text look sharp and vibrant. The display is also still readable in various lighting conditions, including bright sunlight. Below the display, you'll find a slightly revamped navigation array. You still get two soft keys, Talk and End buttons, a Home screen shortcut, a back button, and a five-way navigation toggle with center Select key. The only noticeable change is that the soft keys are larger, while the Talk and End buttons are smaller. Overall, all controls are spacious and easy to use.

There are also some slight modifications to the full QWERTY keyboard. The number keys are now highlighted in green instead of all silver, and there's a bit more spacing between the buttons on the bottom row. Unfortunately, the buttons have kept their small, squarish shape with very little room between the keys. I have relatively small hands and thumbs and yet I still had trouble typing messages. It got easier after some time, but users with larger thumbs will definitely want to take the device for a test drive.

The Cavalier's full QWERTY keyboard isn't that much different from its predecessor's. The number keys are now highlighted in green, but buttons are still small.
The Cavalier's full QWERTY keyboard isn't that much different from its predecessor's. The number keys are now highlighted in green, but buttons are still small.

On the left spine, you'll find a power button, a microSD expansion slot, and a voice recorder activation key, where there's also a mini USB/headphone/power port (it's slightly odd to have the power connector on top of the device). The right side has a camera activation key (the lens and self-portrait mirror are located on back of the phone) and a new "Joggr" touch-sensitive strip. If you'll recall, the T-Mobile Dash had a volume touch strip that we weren't particularly fond of, and given its temperamental nature, we preferred to turn the function off completely. This time the "Joggr" strip not only adjusts the call volume, but also scrolls through menu items. In addition, there are two touch-sensitive buttons that let you back out of menus, or with a double click, open your Messages folder.

On the right side of the smart phone, you'll find a touch-sensitive
On the right side of the smart phone, you'll find a touch-sensitive "Joggr" strip that you can use for adjusting call volume and scrolling through items.

Once again, we weren't in love with this feature. First, the scroll/volume strip was too sensitive, as the slightest touch would trigger it into action--but we had the opposite problem with the other two touch-sensitive controls. Sometimes they were responsive, while other times we had to repeatedly hit the designated areas before the phone registered our actions. We often gave up in frustration, finding it easier to use the tactile buttons on front of the device. Also of note, the placement of the "Joggr" strip on the phone's right side makes it awkward for left-handed users. There is an option to completely disable the function under the Settings menu; here you can also adjust the scroll and double-click speeds, or even choose to have the strip control only the call volume or both the call volume and Windows Media Player.

The HTC Cavalier S630 comes packaged with a car charger, an AC adapter, a USB cable, a wired headset, a Getting Started CD, and reference material. We should note that the AC adapter included in our package had a European plug, so if you buy an unlocked version, you may need to get a converter or purchase a U.S. adapter. For more add-ons, please check our cell phones accessories, ring tones, and help page.

While the merits of the design changes are up for debate, we're betting most people won't argue with the upgrades underneath the hood. First, the HTC Cavalier S630 runs the latest Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition right out of the box, so you get the full Microsoft Office Mobile Suite, Direct Push technology and HTML e-mail support, Windows Live integration, and an enhanced Calendar application. (You can learn more about the operating system in our Windows Mobile 6 review.) You also get your standard set of personal information management tools and utilities, such as Adobe Reader, a task manager, a voice recorder, a calculator, notes, and more.

Now, we've tested a handful of Windows Mobile 6 Standard devices to date, including the HTC Vox and HTC Touch, and we've found that these devices can sometimes be sluggish in the performance department. It may be that the processor speeds can't keep up with the demands of the new operating system, but the Cavalier takes care of that problem by using a 400MHz Samsung SC32443 processor, where the other two devices used a 200MHz processor and a 201MHz processor, respectively. The extra horsepower is definitely a welcome addition, as it greatly improves overall response time (see the Performance section for more). On-board memory is 128MB ROM and 64MB RAM, with about 57MB of user accessible storage and 53MB program memory.

The HTC Cavalier S630 also gets a speed boost in another category: wireless connectivity. Unlike the T-Mobile Dash, the Cavalier now supports 3G speeds (UMTS/HSDPA) so you can enjoy broadband-like speeds, averaging around 400kbps to 700kbps, compared to EDGE speeds of 90kbps. In addition to 3G, you still get integrated Wi-Fi (802.11b/g) and Bluetooth 2.0. The smart phone supports a number of Bluetooth profiles, including those for wireless headsets, hands-free kits, object exchange, file sharing, and A2DP for stereo Bluetooth headsets.

As for voice features, the quad-band world phone offers a speakerphone, smart dialing, voice commands and voice dialing, and text and multimedia messaging. The address book is only limited by the available memory, while the SIM card can hold an additional 250 contacts. You can store up to 12 numbers for a single entry, as well as home and work addresses, e-mail, IM screen names, birthdays, a spouse's name, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can pair a contact with a photo, a caller group, or one of 25 polyphonic ring tones.

On back of the device, you'll find the 2-megapixel camera lens and self-portrait mirror.
On back of the device, you'll find the 2-megapixel camera lens and self-portrait mirror.

Like the latest crop of smart phones, the HTC Cavalier is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera with 8X zoom and video recording capabilities. The options are pretty standard for a camera phone. You have your choice of five resolutions and four quality settings. While there's no flash, you do get white balance settings, including one for night shots, as well as various effects you can add to your picture. There's also a self timer, a time stamp option, a picture counter, and flicker adjustment, among other features. For video, you can capture clips with or without sound in MPEG4, Motion JPEG, or H.263 format. There are only two resolution choices, but you do get the same white balance and color effect settings. Picture quality was sharp, but without a flash, we couldn't get a decent indoor shot with accurate colors.

Without a flash, it was hard to get a shot with good lighting and color.
Without a flash, it was hard to get a shot with good lighting and color.

Finally, you can enjoy more multimedia fun from Windows Media Player Mobile, which allows you to check out your favorite tunes and video clips right on the phone itself. Supported file formats include AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG 4, and WMV, to name a few. If you have TV shows recorded on your Windows Media Center PC, you can transfer them to your device for on-the-go viewing. Like the HTC Vox, the S630 includes an Audio Manager application as an alternative music browser and player.

We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) HTC Cavalier S630 in San Francisco using both T-Mobile and AT&T, and call quality was decent. For the most part, we enjoyed clear audio but voices sounded muffled at times. Our friends reported no interference on their end. We also had no problems interacting with our banks' voice-automated systems. Speakerphone quality was slightly disappointing. We thought voices sounded a bit weak and tinny, while our friends said there was a slight echo on their end. The good news is that we had no problems pairing the phone to the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

As we mentioned earlier, the addition of a 400MHz processor improves the overall speed and responsiveness of the smart phone. The S630 was quick to open various work documents and multimedia files, although there was a slight delay when activating the camera. Still, this is one fast device, and this speediness extends to Web browsing. We also had no problem synchronizing our Outlook e-mail, calendar, and contact information with the device using ActiveSync.

Multimedia performance was OK. Songs sounded tinny through the Cavalier's weak speaker, and turning up the volume only blew out the audio. However, we suspect you'll be using earbuds most of the time, and though they're uncomfortable, the included pair does make music sound sweeter. While you get the occasional pixelation, videos looked good on the S630's sharp screen. We still wouldn't recommend watching any full-length films on this device, but it's still not bad for short spurts.

The HTC Cavalier is rated for 6 hours of talk time and up to 8 days of standby time. Our battery tests yielded mixed results. Using the T-Mobile service, we were able to get the rated 6 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. However, when we tested the phone using AT&T service, we only got 3 hours of talk time. Why such a dramatic difference? Of the two carriers, AT&T is the only one that has launched its 3G network, and the wireless radio can have an effect on battery life. We are currently conducting more drain tests, and will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the S630 has a digital SAR rating of 1.3 watts per kilogram.


HTC Cavalier S630 (unlocked)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 8