One point we want to make up front is that the Dash does not have a touch screen. Like the Q, the Dash runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition, which doesn't support this functionality, so navigating the mobile's menus and registering commands are handled via the external controls. It's not difficult, but we also appreciate the convenience of a touch screen, and if you've previously owned a smart phone with this feature, using the Dash may take some acclimation--you may even find it doesn't suit you. All that said, the Dash has a brilliant, 2.4-inch TFT screen. It's just slightly smaller than the Q's 2.5-inch screen but displays the same 65,536 colors and 320x240-pixel resolution. As such, colors are vibrant and images and text are sharp--great for viewing Web pages and video. And more good news, the display is still readable in direct sunlight. You can customize the home screen with preinstalled or personal background images, change the backlight time, color theme, and font size. There are two status LEDs above the display that blink different colors for wireless connections, messages, and battery status.
Below the screen is the standard array of navigation controls: two soft keys, talk and end buttons, a shortcut to the Today screen, a back button, and a five-way toggle with a center select button. The layout is spacious enough that most users shouldn't have a problem pressing the wrong key. The full QWERTY keyboard is also easy to use; the buttons are tactile and well backlit. For making phone calls, you can use the silver-highlighted number keys (doubled up with letters) that occupy the left half of the keyboard. It's not apparent at first, but to dial a phone number, simply press the number keys; you don't have to bring up a phone app. Also, the bottom row of the keyboard includes quick-launch buttons for the camera, T-Mobile's T-zone service, and your messages. Though we had no problem creating e-mail and notes with the Dash's keyboard and found it easier to use one-handed, we give the slight edge to the Motorola Q in this department due to its extra spacing between keys.
The T-Mobile Dash has an interesting design element that we haven't seen on any other smart phone. To the right of the screen is a touch strip that lets you control the volume of the device. Theoretically, you just have to touch the designated area to turn sound up or down, but we found it to be a bit temperamental. Sometimes our commands registered immediately, while other times we had to repeatedly touch the designated area before the volume changed (more so with volume up than with volume down). Plus, left-handed users may have difficulty accessing the strip if you're using it one-handed. We'd much prefer a jog dial or dedicated keys. However, you can adjust the sensitivity or turn off the functionality completely through the Settings menu.
On the back of the Dash, you will find the camera lens and self-portrait mirror but no flash. There is a Micro SD expansion slot behind the battery cover along the right side. It's a bit difficult to locate at first and its location a little inconvenient, but we'd much rather have it there than not at all. Finally, there is a power button on the left spine and a mini USB port on the bottom of the unit.
The T-Mobile Dash comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a protective case, and a wired headset. The T-Mobile Dash is designed to help you stay connected and be more productive on the road, and it comes with a strong set of features to help you accomplish that goal. In fact, we think its winning combination of PIM tools, wireless options, and form factor give it an edge among its competitors, including the Motorola Q, and even its HTC siblings, such as the T-Mobile SDA and the Cingular 2125.
As we mentioned earlier, the T-Mobile Dash runs Windows Mobile 5 Smartphone Edition. While you don't get the full Microsoft Office Mobile suite to edit documents, you do get the ClearVue Suite (ClearVue Document, ClearVue Worksheet, ClearVue PPT, and ClearVue PDF) for viewing said files. We successfully transferred and opened all four file types to the Dash without any format loss. Other productivity tools include a download agent, a voice recorder, a calculator, and a task manager. One app that we missed was the Memory Manager utility found on the Q, which helps you keep track of used and available memory. Speaking of which, the Dash has 64MB of SDRAM and 128MB of Flash ROM, supplemented by the Micro SD expansion slot.