Acer DX900 Phone Full Review

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Dual SIM phones have never caught on in full force, but they are handy if you find yourself juggling SIM cards in an attempt to keep connected with both your work and play contacts.

There may not be many around, but Acer has just brought out a Windows Mobile smartphone with dual SIM capability, the DX900.

The DX900 features Acer’s branding on it, but anyone who remembers smartphone specialist E-TEN, which was bought by Acer last year, will instantly recognise this handset as one of theirs because it bears all the classic E-TEN hallmarks of build styling and software.

That’s fine. All we are saying is that Acer has not done a great deal beyond putting its name on the front to persoanlise this, the first fruit of its new entry into the smartphone arena.

The DX900 is a slightly chunky, slightly squat-looking handset. It measures 106mm tall, 60.5mm wide and 17mm thick. It weighs 147g.

The casing is made mostly from a black rubbery material which is comfortable to hold. The screen surround is a more shiny black, and below the screen the Call, End and navi buttons are a deep slate silver. Press one and all three are adorned with a brilliant white backlight. This looks great in low-light conditions.

The navi button is large and easy to use, though it is rather near the bottom of the casing, and you have to be careful that the DX900 is well balanced in your hand before you start prodding it with too much vigour if you don’t want to drop it.

Around the edge of the phone is another strip of slate-coloured silver embedded, in which you’ll find various buttons such as a camera button and volume rocker.

The touchscreen measures 2.8 inches across diagonal corners and delivers 640×480 pixels. It is responsive enough, though Windows Mobile does include some very small icons that can make fingertapping a bit of a pain. There is a stylus in the casing that you can use when needed.

Sitting on top of Windows Mobile is a version of the SPB Mobile Shell software which puts a more finger-touch friendly gloss on things. You can sweep across the screen to get to contacts, applications and a calendar and alerts info screen. This last screen has signal strength info for both your SIMs.

The SIMs sit in slots underneath the battery. The dialler has been tweaked so you can easily choose which SIM to make a call from, and you can also choose which to send an SMS from. You can manage contacts on each SIM easily too.

The fast 533MHz processor (a Samsung S3C 6400) zips along fairly nicely. The DX900 is a bit short on built-in memory, with 256MB of ROM and 128MB of RAM. When you switch the handset on, you get the choice of installing – or not – a range of applications. Choose the lot and you’ll be left with just a shade over 100MB for your own storage. So you’ll doubtless need to invest in a microSD card at some point. The slot is on the right edge of the casing so it is easy to hotswap cards.

You are likely to want most of those extra applications too. They include goodies like Namecard Manager, which lets you photograph a business card with the 3 megapixel camera and then have its contents automatically converted into a contact book entry. There is also something called Location SMS which uses the built-in GPS antenna to identify your location and include it as part of an SMS message.

You’ll also probably want Easy Keyboard which gives you a larger tappable Qwerty keyboard than the standard one that is part of Windows Mobile. The other applications you can choose to install are Voice Commander (talk to your phone and it does your bidding), Satellite Data for quickly downloading info that helps the GPS get a fix quickly, and a backup utility. All pretty useful, actually.

Wi-Fi is built-in, alongside Bluetooth, and the DX900 supports HSDPA. It has a front camera for two way video calling. You can send the screen content to a TV but you’ll have to buy a cable first.

If you want to listen to music at length you’ll probably want a converter for the 2.5mm slot on the handset. There is a gravity sensor so that the screen can swivel as you turn the phone in your hand. Usefully, you can set up an exceptions list for this so that it does not swivel in certain apps.

Call quality was fine during testing and the ease with which we were able to switch between SIMs meant doing that soon became second nature. Battery life was not overly hot, though. With a bit of Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G going on every day as well as some music listening and chat we felt the need to top the phone up every evening.

There’s no doubt that having two SIMs in one phone is a real lure if you currently carry two handsets. While it isn’t the snazzy modern touch-screened handset that some lust after, the DX900 does pack in the features.
By Sandra Vogel

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