Review: T-Mobile Dash 3G

By Naomi Graychase

July 22, 2009

A welcome upgrade to the original Dash, this Wi-Fi-enabled 3G smartphone is great for business users.

T-Mobile Dash 3G

$169.99 with contract
Pros: Wi-Fi; 3G where available; Bluetooth; good QWERTY keyboard; professional-looking design
Cons: small screen; 3G coverage is limited; no UMA

The T-Mobile Dash 3G ($169.99 with contract), which became available to consumers July 8th, gets two thumbs up from Wi-Fi Planet. A welcome upgrade to the original (nearly three-year-old) Dash, this Windows Mobile smartphone offers integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a full QWERTY keyboard, and 3G support. For T-Mobile subscribers, this is maybe the only 3G-enabled smartphone that seems appropriate for business users. (Other options are the Android-based G1 and the more youth-oriented Sidekick LX.)

Design

Developed by HTC as the “Snap,” the slim Dash 3G has a satisfying design. It feels light but substantial in the hand and we especially liked the soft-touch finish on the back of the device, which is smooth, but not slippery and helps to make the device feel quality-made. There’s nothing flashy about the black plastic face, but that supports our opinion that it’s well-suited for professionals. It looks like the kind of phone one can do business on—and, in point of fact, it is.

The full QWERTY keyboard is tiny, but usable. We liked the size and shape of the raised buttons and the layout of the keypad. The trackball worked smoothly and composing text messages, e-mail, or other communication was quick and painless.

At 4.5 inches tall by 2.4 inches wide by 0.4 inch thick and 4.2 ounces, we found the smartphone to be comfortable to hold and to port around. The 2.4-inch color screen is a bit on the small side, but it’s bright enough.

It ships with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a stereo headset, an audio adapter, a soft carrying case, software (on CD), a recycling envelope, and manuals.

The Snap is (or will be) offered in slightly different incarnations by Verizon (as the Ozone) and Sprint (as the HTC Snap).

Features

In addition to 3G support, the Dash has integrated Wi-Fi. Because T-Mobile is the most Wi-Fi-friendly carrier, we were surprised that the Dash 3G does not offer UMA (unlicensed mobile access) support, so users can’t make and receive calls via WLANs using T-Mobile's Unlimited HotSpot Calling service. (Weird, right?)

The Dash 3G features GPS, a 2MP camera, and a bevy of messaging options, including Microsoft's Direct Push Technology for real-time message delivery and automatic synching with Outlook’s calendar, tasks, and contacts via Exchange Server. You can also access your POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts. Set up is easy thanks to a set-up wizard that includes popular e-mail clients, such as Gmail, Windows Live, and Yahoo!. AIM, Yahoo!, Windows Live, Google Talk, and MySpace IM are also pre-loaded.

The address book has room in each entry for multiple phone numbers, e-mail addresses, work and home addresses, job title, etc. You can assign each contact a photo, a group ID, or a custom ringtone.

Voice features include a speakerphone, voice-activated dialing, smart dialing, conference calling, and speed dial.

Turn-by-turn GPS directions are provided by Google Maps (text only) and TeleNav Navigation (real-time voice), which are pre-installed on the smartphone. In addition to turn-by-turn, both apps provide maps, business searches, and traffic data. The location-based service is free to try for two weeks, but to keep it you'll have to pay for a subscription plan.

Performance

We tested the quad-band T-Mobile Dash 3G in the mid-coast region of Maine and found call quality to be excellent…when we could find service. T-Mobile's 3G network is only available in 130 cities, none of which are within 100 miles of us, so we weren’t able to test its 3G capacity. T-Mobile says it offers download speeds of up to 1Mbps and an average data rate of 600Kbps. The carrier is planning to expand its 3G coverage to 100 more cities by the end of this year. (Check the coverage map here.)

The Dash 3G was a little slow to start up, taking more than ten seconds on average to wake itself up from a snooze, which we found frustrating. 

The T-Mobile Dash 3G comes with a 1500mAh lithium ion battery with a rated talk time of 8.5 hours (GSM)/5 hours (3G) and up to 15 days (GSM)/20 days (3G) standby time.

The smartphone boasts a 528MHz Qualcomm MSM7225 processor. Applications ran smoothly in our tests and Web pages loaded over the cellular network in just a few seconds--or up to a minute, depending on how image-rich the sites were. We had mixed results with YouTube videos, which is to be expected.

On the whole, while we wish for UMA support and a larger screen, we strongly recommend this Windows Mobile device to T-Mobile subscribers--so long as they live and work within 3G areas.

Naomi Graychase is Managing Editor at Wi-FiPlanet. She has been reviewing personal technology devices for fifteen years.



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