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T-Mobile Dash (aka HTC Excalibur) review: T-Mobile Dash (aka HTC Excalibur)

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For e-mail, there's Outlook Mobile, so you get out-of-the-box synchronization and not only with your e-mail but also your contacts, calendar, and tasks. The Dash has direct push capabilities, so you can receive your message in real time. In addition, you can access personal e-mail from POP3 or IMAP4 accounts, including AOL, Yahoo Mail Plus, EarthLink, and Comcast. There's a handy e-mail wizard to help you get set up; we used it to access our Yahoo Mail Plus account, and it was a simple matter of entering our address and password. For quicker communication, the T-Mobile Dash comes preloaded with four of the most popular instant-messaging clients--AIM, ICQ, Yahoo, and MSN--and supports text and multimedia messaging.

The T-Mobile Dash has superior wireless options. First, it offers integrated Wi-Fi, a feature lacking in the Moto Q and the current crop of BlackBerrys, and EDGE support, giving you the freedom to surf the Web on the road using Internet Explorer Mobile. In addition, the Dash runs the latest Bluetooth 2.0 (whereas the Moto Q has Bluetooth 1.2), which requires less power consumption and offers faster transmission speeds. There's support for a number of profiles, including Dial-up Networking, Headset, Handsfree, Generic Object Exchange, and File Transfer, and the A2DP profile for stereo headsets. The Dash includes a convenient Communication Manager app to manage all your wireless connections.

Of course, the Dash also includes cellular wireless. As a quadband phone, you can use the Dash overseas. The Dash's Contact book is limited only by the available memory, and there's room in each entry for up to 12 numbers, three e-mail addresses, IM handles, street addresses, and more. For caller ID purposes, you can assign a contact a photo, one of 18 ring tones, or a group ID. There's also a speakerphone, voice dialing, and a vibrate mode. The Dash supports T-Mobile's recently launched MyFaves service, which gives you unlimited calling to five contacts. You can choose any five U.S. numbers, regardless of carrier, then have them displayed on your Today screen for easy dialing. Plans for MyFaves start at $39.99 a month.

The T-Mobile Dash is equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera but... (see below)

For photo caller ID and quick snapshots, the T-Mobile Dash comes equipped with a 1.3-megapixel camera with video-recording capabilities, as well as four other shooting modes: video messaging, contacts picture, picture theme, and sports. Camera options are on a par with those of other smart phones on the market today. For still images, you get a choice of four resolutions (1,280x1,024, 640x480, 320x240, or 160x120) and four quality settings (Super Fine, Fine, Normal, and Basic). You also have white balance controls, flicker adjustment, various effects, a time stamp option, and other tools so that you can get the best picture possible. You can record video with sound in one of three formats (MPEG-4, Motion JPEG, or H.263) and one of two resolutions (176x144 or 128x96). Once you're done capturing your shots, you can share photos with others via Bluetooth, multimedia message, or e-mail; view them in a slide show; or save them as wallpaper.

The camera is one area where we really struggled with the interface, as it's not clear which buttons to press to access certain camera functions. For example, the zoom feature is located along the left side of the screen, but there is no indication about how to zoom in or out. It was only through trial and error that we discovered that the up-and-down controls of the navigation toggle perform these functions. Also, to escape out of a camera settings menu, our first inclination was to press the Back button but that only closed the entire camera app completely. Another downside, picture quality was a bit disappointing as colors appeared washed out and lines and edges weren't as sharp as we've seen on other phones. Overall, there was a fuzzy quality to the images.

...image quality was disappointing in our tests, as colors were washed out.

With Windows Media Player 10 Mobile onboard, the T-Mobile Dash can keep you entertained during your downtime, allowing you to enjoy your favorite AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, MPEG-4, and WMV files. Also, if you have TV shows recorded on your Windows Media Center PC, you can transfer them to the Dash and enjoy them on the device's great screen. In addition, the smart phone comes preloaded with two games: Bubble Breaker and Solitaire. We tested the quadband (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; EDGE) T-Mobile Dash in San Francisco using T-Mobile's network, and call quality was excellent. On our end, conversations were loud and clear, though there was a slight hollowness to the sound, but our callers were impressed by the clarity of the phone calls and added that they couldn't even tell we were on a cell phone. Activating the speakerphone didn't diminish the audio quality of the handset, and we were able to successfully pair the smart phone with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.

Overall, the device was very responsive to our demands, though camera activation and multimedia use caused a slight slow down in performance. Music playback on the Dash was good, but sound quality was much better through the included earbuds than through the single speaker on the back. Video looked amazing on the Dash's bright display. The sharp screen also made it great for viewing Web pages, and download times were quite fast.

The T-Mobile Dash is rated for 5 hours of talk time and up to 9 days of standby time. In our tests, the Dash more than doubled the rated talk time, with the battery finally petering out after 11 hours.

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