Written on: 18/07/2005 by Sony Fan (32 reviews written)
Easy to use
Pocket PC software including Outlook, Word, Excel
Built-in 1.3MP camera
Stylus hard to take out
No battery on main display
The T-Mobile MDA Compact is an ideal trade-up for Smartphone users who are frustrated by their limitations but don't yet want to go for a full-blown PDA phone.
The concept of this phone is simple - its Pocket PC PDA phone which has been shrunk to the size of a regular Smartphone, whilst retaining key functions of a PDA. It has a reasonably big screen yet it doesn't look like you're holding a brick to your ear when you're making a phone call.
Spec-wise MDA Compact has what you'd expect of a Smartphone - built-in camera, GPRS, tri-band reception, media player, Outlook plus pocket versions of Word and Excel on top. Notable omissions include Wi-Fi, slide-out keyboard large internal memory but it does have an SDIO port so Wi-Fi and flash memory can be added (at extra cost).
To operate, you use the touch screen with the supplied stylus for most functions. The Pocket PC operating system is pretty easy to grasp and so are the standard applications. Finger-tip operation is also possible for some functions but most of the icons and text are too small for most users to press accurately. There are four keys plus a navigator button as well to allow basic functionality without using the touch screen. The touch screen and the buttons can be set to disable when the phone goes into standby mode and the whole phones come alive again very quickly when you press the 'on' button.
The only usability niggles I have spotted so far is that the stylus can be hard to remove from its slot and you have to delve through the menu system to find the battery meter, which seems very strange.
The screen its self is pretty clear although not quite as good as you'll find on 'grown-up' PDA Smartphones such as the MDA3 or O2 XDA2. Photos can be shared and games can be played however so it's a big improvement smaller smartphones such as the SPV E200 or the Motorola MPX200.
Browsing web pages is a bit of a mixed bag with this phone. Because it's not a 3G phone it relies on GRPS to download the content, so pages which aren't optimised for PDAs and smartphones can be pretty slow and hard to read on the two inch screen. Navigation is very good though. With the stylus and scroll bars you can move around the screen quickly and 'click' very accurately. Again, compared to smaller smartphones with joystick navigators this is one heck of step forward.
The built-in 1.3MP camera has a good spec and the MDA Compact's large screen makes an excellent view finder but with no flash or focussing the pictures themselves are still poor compared to those you'd get from a proper digital camera.
Overall the MDA Compact has made a great first impression with me and is certainly a huge step-up from the first generation Smartphones. Definitely worth a try!