At a Glance
Cingular 8125 Cell Phone
We like the Wi-Fi support, but the device can be slow and uncomfortable to use as a phone and as a PDA.
Cingular's 8125 has the right idea when it comes to hardware and software specs. But this hybrid PDA/cell phone's design and usability disappoint.
My favorite thing about the 8125 is its built-in Wi-Fi. The device's side panel includes a shortcut button that launches an on-screen Communication Manager menu. From here, you can enable or disable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, PC Sync, and even the phone. I also liked how easy it was to set up the 8125 to access IMAP, POP3, and Microsoft Exchange e-mail accounts.
But using an e-mail program--or any other application on this device--has one annoying aspect: You can't close it. I found it extremely frustrating not to be able to sign off from my Hotmail account. The Windows Mobile operating system is partly to blame because it doesn't provide exit or sign out options for many applications. Also, launching apps and toggling between them took more time than I would have liked.
I appreciated the big 2.8-inch LCD for reading e-mail messages and browsing Web pages, but the control buttons on the front of the unit around the screen felt flimsy and cheap. The hidden QWERTY keyboard was equally disappointing. The keyboard slid out stiffly, as though the hinges needed lubrication. The keyboard keys were too slippery for my taste, and the absence of shortcut buttonsa??such as for a "home" screen--reduced my productivity.
When the keyboard is stowed away, the 8125 is chunky--and its thickness made it awkward to use for phone calls. In my hands-on trials, I could easily adjust call volume, thanks in large part to the tactile volume control on the side panel, but at times I couldn't hear the person on the other end. Several people I called told me that I sounded far away. If you're so inclined, you can use this device overseas because it supports four types of GSM bands (850/900/1800/1900 MHz); however, you'll need to subscribe to an international calling plan.
Talk-time battery life was excellent, crossing the 10-hour finish line in our tests without starting to wheeze.
With the Windows Mobile OS, you get Windows Media Player, which helps make this handheld more than adequate for playing back videos and music. You can store songs and photos on an optional MiniSD card.
The photos I captured on the built-in 1.3-megapixel camera looked mediocre, with slight blurring in some cases. The camera is easy to use, however, thanks to a dedicated camera button on the side of the case. When you hold the device in landscape mode, you can press the camera button with your right-hand index finger, much as you would the shutter button of a point-and-shoot camera.
Still, $349 (as of April 7, 2006, with a two-year contract) is a high price to pay for an e-mail device that suffers from usability flaws and delivers mixed call quality.
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