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Motorola Q9h (AT&T) review: Motorola Q9h (AT&T)

Motorola Q9h (AT&T)

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
10 min read
It's been a lo-o-o-ng time coming, but we finally have our GSM version of the Motorola Q. Almost a year and a half after the original CDMA Moto Q debuted, the Motorola Q9h Global has landed on AT&T's doorstep. Was it worth the wait? We think so.

Like the Motorola Q9m for Verizon Wireless, the Q9h doesn't boast the same sexy, slim form factor of its predecessor. It's slightly wider and heavier, but in return, you get a better QWERTY keyboard and more features, such as built-in GPS, HSDPA, and a 2-megapixel camera. The Windows Mobile 6 smartphone also excels at messaging and offers solid call quality and multimedia performance. That said, all these capabilities seem to take a toll on battery life, and the system can sometimes get bogged down. Overall, however, we think the pros outweigh the cons, and when you factor in the $199.99 price tag (with a two-year contract), the Q9h is a pretty sweet deal. The Motorola Q9h will be available starting November 2.


Motorola Q9h (AT&T)

The Good

The Motorola Q9h is a great messaging device with a spacious QWERTY keyboard, and also offers decent call quality and multimedia performance. The Windows Mobile 6 smartphone features HSDPA support; Bluetooth; GPS; world roaming; and a 2-megapixel camera.

The Bad

There are occasions where the Q9h can be sluggish, and its battery life drains quickly. Some users may not like the lack of a scroll wheel.

The Bottom Line

Though not the sexiest or sleekest device on the market, the Motorola Q9h Global is an all-around solid smartphone that offers mobile professionals good messaging, clear call quality, and GPS and HSDPA--all for a great value.

Breaking from the sleek-and-sexy trend that the company set with the original Q, the Motorola Q9h features a more robust body that has both perks and downfalls. At 4.6 inches high by 2.6 inches wide by 0.4 inch deep and 4.7 ounces, the smartphone is still relatively thin overall but wider than the first Q (4.5 inches high by 2.5 inches wide by 0.4 inch deep; 4 ounces)--you can notice the difference when you hold it in your hand. Admittedly, the extra width makes it's slightly awkward to use as phone, but the Q9h is comfortable to use as a messaging device, and the handset features a nice soft-touch finish for a better grip. For comparison, the Samsung BlackJack measures 4.4 inches high by 2.3 inches wide by 0.6 inch deep and 3.5 ounces, while the RIM BlackBerry 8800 comes in at 4.4 inches high by 2.6 inches wide by 0.5 inch deep and 4.7 ounces. You should be able to slip the Q9h smartphone into a pants pocket, though it may make for a tight fit.

Motorola Q9h
The Motorola Q9h has put on some pounds since the original Q debuted; here it is next to the RIM BlackBerry Curve.

On the front, you will find the same 2.5-inch QVGA screen (nontouch) of the original Q and Q9m. Given the larger size of the phone, we think Motorola could have increased the display size just a wee bit, as it seems engulfed by the rest of the device. Still, with a 65,536-color output and 320x240-pixel resolution, images and text looked sharp and vibrant. In addition, it features an adaptive technology that adjusts the backlighting of the screen depending on your environment (for instance, outdoors, in a dark room, and so forth). The feature worked well, as we didn't have any difficulties reading the display even under bright sunlight, but the screen does have the tendency to hold smudges and fingerprints.

Beneath the display, you have a revamped navigation array that consists of two soft keys; the Talk and End buttons; shortcuts to the Web browser, your message in-box, and Home page; a back button; and a five-way navigation toggle with a central select key. This last key is raised above the phone's surface and is easy to use, although we still struggle with the other keys, since they're flat and stiff to press.

Motorola Q9h
With large, tactile buttons, most users should be pleased with the Motorola Q9h's full QWERTY keyboard.

The Motorola Q9h's full QWERTY keyboard is one of the best we've seen and used to date. Although there isn't much spacing between the individual buttons, they're large enough that even users with larger thumbs shouldn't have too much of a problem. The bubbly keys are tactile and brightly backlit for typing in darker environments. For easier dialing, the number keys are highlighted in blue, and there are also new shortcut keys on the bottom row to quick-launch various apps, such as the camera, the calendar, and your contacts.

Replacing the scroll wheel found on previous Q models, there are up and down keys, as well as select and back buttons, on the right side of the smartphone that you can use to navigate through the various menu items. It's certainly not as smooth as the jog dial, and those who are used to the wheel may take issue with it. In the end, however, the new controls achieve what they're supposed to do. On the left spine, there's a sole micro USB port, which is a slight annoyance since this format isn't widely used. Finally, the camera lens and flash are located on the back along with the microSD expansion slot, which can accept cards as large as 32GB (when available).

Motorola Q9h
A little tricky to find, but the microSD expansion slot is located on the back-right side of the device and can accept cards as large as 32GB.

The Motorola Q9h comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a 3.5mm headset adapter, a desktop software companion CD, and a reference material. For more add-ons, please check our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.

Unlike the Motorola Q9m, which focused on multimedia, the Motorola Q9h is more about messaging and productivity. The smartphone still runs Windows Mobile 6 Standard Edition, so you get Microsoft's Direct Push Technology out of the box for real-time e-mail delivery and automatic synchronization with your Outlook calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. The Q9h also works with other e-mail solutions, including AT&T Xpress Mail and Good Mobile Messaging. (BlackBerry Connect will be available as a downloadable client later this year.) You can access POP3 and IMAP accounts as well; a handy wizard is on board to walk you through the process, and it really just requires entering your user name and password. You also have the option of choosing how frequently you want the device to retrieve messages. We configured our review unit to access our Yahoo Plus and Gmail accounts, and the setup process was a snap--we were up and running within a matter of a few minutes. Finally, we're happy to see that several of the popular instant-messaging clients, including Yahoo, AIM, and Windows Live, are preinstalled on the Q9h.

As for productivity apps, interestingly, Motorola opted to forgo the Microsoft Office Mobile Suite in favor of Dataviz's Documents to Go. We really have no complaints about this decision, as it's a great suite for not only viewing and editing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents, but creating them as well. This should be a huge boon for those constantly working from the road. In addition, you get a PDF viewer and a Zip manager. Other personal information management tools on the Motorola Q9h include a calendar, a task list, a notepad, a voice recorder, and a calculator. With the purchase of the Q9h, you will be able to download a "My Q Pak" bundle, which includes various apps. Of course, you can download more programs to personalize the device to your needs; in fact, the Q9h comes with downloadable versions of MySpace Mobile and McAfee VirusScan Mobile already on the handset. For more ideas, check out the mobile software section of Download.com.

Voice features on the Motorola Q9h include quadband world roaming, a speakerphone, three-way calling, conference calling, speed dial, and text and multimedia messaging. The phone book is limited only by the available memory, and the SIM card can hold an additional 250 contacts. Each address book entry can hold multiple numbers; e-mail, Web, and street addresses; company information, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a picture, a group ID, or any of 39 polyphonic ringtones.

You should be pretty pleased with the wireless options on the Q9h. There's integrated Bluetooth, HSDPA, and GPS. Supported Bluetooth profiles include those for use with wireless headsets, hands-free kits, wireless synchronization, peripherals, and A2DP for stereo Bluetooth headsets. And you don't have to worry about getting an optional Bluetooth GPS receiver, as the radio is already built into the smartphone. This allows you to turn the Q9h into a handheld navigation device with which you can get color maps, driving directions, and points of interest with the help of a location-based service or nav software, such as TeleNav GPS Navigator or Google Maps for Mobile.

Now, while the lack of Wi-Fi is a disappointment, we aren't all that heartbroken since HSDPA is there to fill the void. This 3.5G technology brings data speeds of as fast as 2Mbps, though they'll average more around 400Kbps to 700Kbps--still, this equals pretty swift downloads and Web browsing. Speaking of which, Motorola decided to do its own thing again and chose Opera as the default Web browser for the Q9h. Once again, we're not complaining as Opera does a great job of optimizing Web pages for mobile devices.

To piggyback the 3G capabilities, the Motorola Q9h works with the carrier's AT&T Video and AT&T Music services. AT&T Music is a full-featured service that allows you to purchase songs from independent music services, such as Napster to Go and Yahoo Music, but also includes streaming XM satellite radio, music videos, MusicID for identifying song titles and artists, and more. Unfortunately, not all features of the service were enabled on our review unit, but we were able to listen to XM satellite radio and enjoyed smooth streaming audio. Meanwhile, AT&T Video gives you access to streaming video from various channels such as Comedy Central, CNN, ESPN, and HBO Mobile. Of course, you can import your personal library of MP3, AAC, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV files via microSD card, thanks to Windows Media Player 10 Mobile.

Motorola Q9h
The Q9h features a 2-megapixel camera with 8x zoom and video-recording capabilities.

Finally, the Motorola Q9h is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera with a digital zoom up to 8x, a flash, and video-recording capabilities. For still images, there are several shooting modes, and you have your choice of four resolutions. You can also adjust the picture with white balance and brightness settings. Video mode is a bit more limited when it comes to editing abilities, but you do get two quality options, 4x zoom, and white-balance adjustment.

Motorola Q9h
Picture quality wasn't the greatest, as there was a grayish tone to colors.

Picture quality was a bit disappointing. While images were clear, there was a grayish tone to them. On the other hand, video clips looked pretty decent; there wasn't as much murkiness. As with most camera phones though, the Q9h is fine for quick snapshots to send via multimedia message or if you need to capture something in a pinch, but it certainly isn't anything print-worthy.

We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; HSDPA) Motorola Q9h in San Francisco using AT&T service, and call quality was excellent. We were impressed by how clear calls sounded without any hint of any background noise or disruption, making it easy to converse with our friends and interact with our bank's automated voice-response system. Our callers also praised the audio quality and added that they couldn't tell we were using a cell phone. We're happy to report speakerphone quality was also good, thanks to the dual-speaker system. There was plenty of volume, so we could hear conversations even in louder environments. We also were able to successfully pair the Q9h with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

There's been work done under the hood from previous Moto Q models. The Motorola Q9h is powered by a 355MHz TI OMAP processor and with about 120MB of user-available storage and 39MB of available memory, general performance felt snappier overall. There was still some delay in response, particularly once we started working on multiple tasks, but it's much improved over the original Q and didn't experience any system crashes during our test period. We'll continue to run the Q9h through its paces to see how it fares over the next couple of weeks and report any good or bad news.

Thanks to the HSDPA support, browsing the Web, viewing streaming media, and downloads were fast. Multimedia performance was also great. The smartphone's dual-speaker system does a lot to improve the quality of sound. Music playback sounded richer, and there was certainly plenty of volume. The Q9h is able to play video at 30 frames per second, and in our opinion they did look pretty darn good. We watched a couple of MP4 and WMV clips from our personal collection, and audio and images were always synchronized with no hiccups. We also checked out some short episodes from AT&T Video but noticed that when we switched to full-screen mode, the image remained in its original size. We're still a bit peeved that the Q9h employs a microUSB port, but at least there's a 3.5mm audio adapter included in the box so you can plug in regular headphones.

The Motorola Q9h's standard battery has a rated talk time battery life of 5.5 hours and as long as 19 days of standby time. An extended battery is also included in the package and has a rated talk time of 9 hours and up to 30 days of standby time. In our battery drain tests on the standard battery, we were able to get 4 hours of continuous talk time on a single charge. We will say that during our review period, we noticed that the battery tended to drain quickly just in everyday use--surfing the Web, watching video, e-mail, and working on Office documents. We realize that everyone uses their device differently, but this is still a concern. According to FCC radiation tests, the Q9h has a digital SAR rating of 1.29 watts per kilogram.


Motorola Q9h (AT&T)

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Performance 7