Siemens SX66 (AT&T) review: Siemens SX66 (AT&T)

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The Good Four-way wireless (IrDA, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and quad-band GSM/GPRS); speakerphone; world phone; full QWERTY keyboard; tons of available third-party applications.

The Bad No high-speed EDGE network support; spotty Cingular data service; big and heavy; cramped keyboard.

The Bottom Line The Siemens SX66 is a decent smart phone for users who like the form factor and need world-roaming capabilities, but we were less than pleased with Cingular's service.

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6.6 Overall

When Audiovox came out with the CMDA-only PPC6601 for Sprint PCS late last year, GSM users were--for once--left in a lurch. Now, with the release of the Siemens SX66, GSM users can pick up this unique device. Identical in almost every way to the PPC6601, the Siemens SX66 is basically the same smart phone but with integrated Wi-Fi and a slot for a SIM card beneath the removable battery. The Siemens SX66 is available through Cingular Wireless for $550 with a two-year contract.

The SX66 is not for the small of pocket. Nice and bright, the full-size, 3.5-inch-diagonal TFT display supports 64,000 colors. However, that comes at a premium as the device measures 2.8 by 0.7 by 4.9 inches and weighs a hefty 7.4 ounces. Thankfully, it also has Bluetooth support, so you can pretty much leave it holstered when in phone mode. The rest of the SX66's design is similar to its CDMA twin (aside from the Cingular and Siemens branding), which means we have the same complaints about the cramped keyboard. Likewise, while we appreciate the innovative slider design that hides the backlit keyboard, the small, flat keys are troublesome to maneuver.

On the hardware side, the Siemens SX66 boasts a 400MHz Intel PXA263 processor, 128MB of RAM, 64MB of flash ROM, and a SDIO/MMC expansion slot. It runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, so you get all the basic PIM functions, plus mini versions of the Microsoft Office applications, including Word and Excel. The SX66 also ships with Windows Media Player 9.0, which supports AAC, MP3, WAV, and WMA file formats, so you can pipe in some entertainment while you're working from the road. That said, we would have preferred that the device come with Windows Media Player 10.0 Mobile, which makes it possible to watch more video formats and television shows that you may have downloaded with a Media Center-based Windows machine.

One area where the SX66 differentiates itself from the PPC6601 is in its wireless connectivity. The Siemens mobile boasts four connectivity options: GSM/GPRS, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and infrared, thus joining the ranks of the HP iPaq h6315 (the PPC6601 didn't offer Wi-Fi). But disappointingly, accessing data with the Cingular-based SX66 was much less pleasing than on the Sprint's PPC6601. Overall coverage was spotty, and the setup was more difficult. Like the Sprint-based Audiovox product, Cingular ships the Siemens device with software that redirects your corporate e-mail to the device. This is great if your IT department won't support the device and you're looking to circumvent your company's technological bureaucracy. In addition, Cingular's Xpress Mail service even enables you to access your corporate e-mail from any Internet-enabled machine. But while that is all well and good, we weren't always able to get out mail due to the aforementioned coverage issues.

Moreover, configuring the e-mail client to access a POP3 address never worked. The configuration routinely asked us to set up modem connections on the POP server side--a problem we never encountered with the Sprint device. Conversely, with Sprint's included desktop redirector software, we could hit the wireless Web, set up the POP3 e-mail client, and even access our corporate (IMAP4) e-mail with ease. Surfing the Web on the SX66 was often hit or miss as well. We tested the Siemens SX66 in San Francisco, New Orleans, and Minneapolis, and in all three locations, our experiences were the same. Sometimes we could access the Internet, and sometimes we couldn't.

While we were less than pleased with Cingular's service, going the GSM route offers some unique advantages. For one, if you're already a Cingular subscriber, getting your system up and running is as simple as dropping in a SIM card. Furthermore, the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900) Siemens SX66 is a true world phone, unlike the PPC6601, so globe-trotting executives may be willing to overlook a few of these issues for the sake of being able to access data and whatnot while abroad. Other phone features include text and multimedia messaging, conference calling, caller ID (where available), a vibrate alert, and a speakerphone.

Overall call quality was acceptable, although conversations tended to sound quiet when held up to our ear and when using the Cardo Scala 500 and the Logitech Mobile Freedom Bluetooth headsets. On the upside, speakerphone quality was good. The SX66 has a rated talk time of 4 hours and a rated standby time of 200 hours. According to the FCC, the SX66 has a digital SAR rating of 0.5 watts per kilogram.