While Palm OS-based PDA/cell phone hybrids have been around for a while, T-Mobile (formerly VoiceStream) was the first company to put out a truly integrated Pocket PC/phone combo, the Pocket PC Phone Edition. A few months later, Siemens and AT&T followed suit with the SX56 Pocket PC phone. Physically identical to the Pocket PC Phone Edition, the SX56 also shares the T-Mobile product's vices and virtues. Though it has an older processor and screen, the SX56 nevertheless stands its ground against many Pocket PCs, and it deserves recognition as one of the few solid Pocket PC smart phones. Both built by HTC, the Pocket PC Phone Edition and the SX56 have the same design, except that the T-Mobile is pale gold, while the Siemens is silvery. Each looks somewhat like a toned-down iPaq but with a thick nub antenna at the top that houses the stylus. The SX56 resembles many other Pocket PC 2002 handhelds, but it's a bit larger and heavier--measuring 5 by 2.8 by 0.7 inches and weighing 6.8 ounces--because of its integrated wireless phone.
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|The SX56 is heavy, but it's not too large for a pocket.|
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|The unit is relatively thin.|
There's no CompactFlash expansion slot for adding accessories, but there is a Secure Digital card slot at the unit's base. Our only gripe with that location is that you can't access the card when the device is in its cradle. With most GSM phones, the SIM card goes under the battery on the unit's back, but the SX56's card slips into a covered slot on the side.
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|The IR port is on the corner of the device between the volume and power buttons.|
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|The box contains a cradle, a spare stylus, an AC power adapter, and a rather handsome protective jacket.|
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|You can easily add SD or MMC media for extra storage space.|
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|Since you can't remove the battery, the SIM card slides into the side of the device.|
Of course, another main benefit of the SX56 is its wireless Web access via a GPRS connection. You can use it to surf HTML and WAP Web sites, check and send e-mail, and chat online with MSN Messenger--all features built into the Pocket PC 2002 OS. And since the SX56 is a Pocket PC, you can sync contacts and appointments with your desktop computer.
Siemens has also done a good job integrating the phone capabilities with the other programs. For example, whenever a phone number is underlined in an e-mail or a document, you just tap it to launch the phone app. The device also prompts you to add the contact to the phone book. Another nice touch: When a call comes in while you're listening to an MP3 file with Windows Media Player, you can hear the ring over the music and view caller-ID information. If you answer, the song pauses until you're finished with the call, then picks up where it left off. Since the Siemens SX56 works on both GSM 900 and 1900 networks, it's considered a world mobile. It also works on next-generation GPRS data networks, but while those are significantly faster than previous cell-phone data networks, they cannot compare to even a poky 56K dial-up connection. Checking e-mail is a trouble-free affair, but cruising the Web is still too slow for all but the most patient of souls and can't be done while you're using the phone.
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The reflective screen looks somewhat dim in normal conditions and displays only 4,096 colors.
A built-in lithium-polymer battery powers the SX56; it lasted for an impressive 6 hours, 18 minutes of talk time. In standby mode, we got about 140 hours, slightly less than the SX56's rated 150 hours but much more than the T-Mobile's rated 100. In our battery-drain test, the Siemens played a movie trailer in PocketTV with the backlight on for 4 hours, 10 minutes, above average for a Pocket PC. Despite the unit's slower processor, it played video as smoothly as a Pocket PC with the latest 400MHz Intel PXA255 processor.
The SX56 has a 320x240-pixel resolution and can display only 4,096 colors at 12 bits, somewhat less than most Pocket PCs we've tested. However, we found the screen especially sharp, colorful, and easy to read; it's difficult to notice the missing hues unless you're viewing photos. The LCD is reflective, so it works well outdoors but looks rather dim inside. It's lit from the bottom rather than the back and can't compare to the latest transflective displays, which provide a brighter and more evenly lit image.