OK, kids--hope you've been nice this year, because here's something you might want to add to your holiday wish list. The T-Mobile Sidekick LX is one of two new Sidekicks (the other being the T-Mobile Sidekick Slide) to land on the carrier's doorstep, and it's a beauty. The LX boasts a slimmer and lighter design and much to our delight, a sharper (and larger) screen. The difference between the LX and previous models like the T-Mobile Sidekick 3 and Sidekick iD is truly remarkable.
Unfortunately, that's pretty much where the improvements stop. T-Mobile and Danger didn't do too much to the features department. There are slight enhancements to the music player and there's a new MySpace Mobile app, which should be a hit with the Sidekick's younger customer base. However, everything else pretty much remains the same as the Sidekick 3, which makes it somewhat hard to justify the $299.99 (with two-year contract) price tag. You'll get a lot more for your money with the Helio Ocean. That said, we can still see plenty of young fans going after the LX as it offers easy messaging and a hip design. The Sidekick LX is available now from T-Mobile.
The T-Mobile Sidekick LX makes quite a first impression. It's noticeably sleeker and sexier than any of the previous Sidekicks, though technically on paper, the LX isn't that much smaller than the Sidekick 3, measuring 5.1 inches tall by 2.3 inches wide by 0.7 inch deep, compared with 5.1 inches wide by 2.3 inches wide by 0.8 inch deep. However, the LX is 1 ounce lighter at 5.7 ounces and the slim handheld is just easier to slip into a pants pocket or purse. Plus, we like its updated look and shape--a tad iPhone-esque actually--and you have your choice of two colors: midnight blue or espresso brown.
The T-Mobile Sidekick LX next to the Palm Centro. The LX is lighter and thinner than previous Sidekicks.
Perhaps what we're most excited about is the much-improved screen. The low-resolution displays on the previous Sidekicks have always been a sticking point with us as well as users, but finally Sharp gives our eyes a reprieve. The Sidekick LX now has a larger 3-inch, 65,000-color TFT display and a sharper 400x240-pixel resolution. The difference in quality is amazing, as text and images look crisp and colors are more vibrant. You can also choose to customize the home screen with different background themes and change the font size.
The navigation controls surrounding the screen remain pretty much unchanged from the Sidekick 3 and Sidekick iD. To the left you have the Menu and Jump buttons and a directional keypad that doubles as the phone's speakers, and on the right, there is a Cancel button, Talk and End keys, an OK button, and the trackball navigator. Along the bottom edge of the handheld, you'll find the volume rocker and a power button, while along the top, there are two function buttons that perform different tasks depending on which application you are using. We found this last set of controls a bit hard to press since they're tiny and set flush with the phone's surface.
Nothing new here. You'll find the same navigation controls on the LX that are on the T-Mobile Sidekick 3.
To expose the full QWERTY keyboard, just nudge the upper-right corner or the lower-left corner of the screen to trigger the swivel mechanism, causing it to rotate a full 180 degrees and snap into place--mind your fingers, though. There are some slight modifications to the buttons, but they're all good and we still think the Sidekick's keyboard is one of roomiest and easiest to use. There's plenty of space between the keys, and the buttons now have a frosted, more tactile feel to them unlike the glossy, somewhat slippery ones on the Sidekick 3. We predict happy thumbs. The one gripe we have, and it's one we've had before, is that you have to open the screen in order to dial any numbers and then close it again to continue with the call. That said, the Sidekick LX is comfortable to hold and use as a phone, and it has a textured back, similar to the D-Wade Limited Edition Sidekick 3, so it's easy to grip while messaging.
The Sidekick LX features a roomy and tactile full QWERTY keyboard for easy messaging.
There's a mini USB port and good news: a 3.5mm headphone jack so you can plug in a decent pair of headphones. The camera lens, flash, and self-portrait mirror are located on the back, and there's a microSD expansion slot, but it's located behind the battery cover. Finally, for pure flash, you can program the LX to light up like a Christmas tree to alert you to new messages, phone calls, and so forth. There are LEDs built into each of the four corners of the device, and they, as well as the trackball, will flash various colors, depending on what scheme you choose. It's oddly mesmerizing and fun...for about five minutes, but we think it'll definitely appeal to the targeted youth audience.
The T-Mobile Sidekick LX comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a carrying case, a wired headset, a 128MB microSD card, and reference material. For more add-ons for your Sidekick LX, check out our cell phone accessories, ringtones, and help page.
Unfortunately, the volume of improvements and additions to the T-Mobile Sidekick LX didn't carry over to the features department, though there are some slight enhancements. We'll start with the LX's messaging capabilities, since that's a major draw of the device. Like previous models, the LX comes with its own T-Mobile e-mail account, but you can also access up to three additional POP3/IMAP4 accounts. The LX ships with an always-on push e-mail solution so you'll automatically be notified of new messages (with an accompanying light show). Though the Sidekick is definitely not a business-minded smartphone, you can have your corporate e-mail forwarded to the LX, and there's an attachment viewer for Word documents, PDFs, and JPEGs.
For instant communication gratification, the Sidekick comes preloaded with three of the major instant-messaging clients: AOL, Yahoo, and Windows Live Messenger. You can hold up to 10 simultaneous conversations, and you can switch between conversations quickly by pressing the Menu and D buttons. And if you happen to lose your network connection in the middle of a session, the Sidekick will save the chat until a connection is restored. The Sidekick LX also supports text and multimedia messaging.
The LX's phone features include quad-band world roaming, speed dial, call forwarding, three-way calling, a call log, a vibrate mode, and a speakerphone. The Sidekick's address book holds up to 2,000 contacts, with room in each entry for five numbers, an e-mail address, an IM account, a Web URL, a street address, and notes. For caller-ID purposes, you can pair an entry with a photo, a group ID, or one of 22 ringtones. The LX is also a myFaves-compatible phone, giving you unlimited calling to five contacts, regardless of carrier. Plans for myFaves start at $39.99 a month.
Other wireless options on the LX include Bluetooth and EDGE. Supported Bluetooth profiles include those for use with wireless headsets, hands-free car kits, or you can wirelessly send a vCard to another Bluetooth device. Unfortunately, you won't be able to pair the Sidekick with stereo Bluetooth headsets, as there's no love for A2DP. As for data connection, you're left to rely on T-Mobile's EDGE network with speeds of around 100Kbps to 130Kbps. EDGE is OK, but we would have also liked to have seen the inclusion of Wi-Fi to have another option for Web browsing.
The one distinctively new feature on the Sidekick LX is the MySpace Mobile application. Located under the Communities page, you can now log on and interact with the social networking site almost in the same manner as you do on your computer. The user interface has been customized for mobile phones, but you still have the ability to edit your profile, upload photos, and so forth. MySpace fiends can even stay signed on and get real-time updates on new messages and comments, friend requests, and see which friends are currently online. Given that the LX will mostly likely attract younger users, the MySpace integration was a smart move on T-Mobile and Danger's part.
The Sidekick LX has a built-in music player, and we're glad to see increased support for various file formats. You can now play MP3, WAV, WMA, and AAC, among others. You can search for songs by artist, album, genre, or composer, as well as organize tracks into playlists. To get songs onto the Sidekick, you can use the included USB cable and then drag and drop tracks from your PC to the Sidekick (which should show up as an external drive on your PC). The LX has 64MB of internal memory, so we'd recommend storing your music files on a microSD card, and the LX's expansion slot can accept cards up to 4GB.
On the back of the handheld, you'll find the 1.3-megapixel camera lens, self-portrait mirror, and flash.
The T-Mobile Sidekick LX comes with the same 1.3-megapixel camera and once again, disappointingly, you can't use it to record video. You can take snapshots in three sizes--1,280x1,024, 640x480, or 320x240--and adjust the quality from low to high. Other than that, your editing options are limited; you can activate the flash, change the JPEG quality, or rotate the image, but that's about it. Once done snapping photos, you can create an album right on your device or share your photos with others via multimedia message or e-mail. Picture quality was subpar. Though we could make out the images in the picture fairly clearly, colors were washed out and dull.
The Sidekick LX took mediocre pictures as colors looked washed out.
Other features on the Sidekick LX include several organizer tools, such as a calendar, a notepad, a task list, one preloaded game, and a download catalog where you can get more ringtones, games, and applications.
We tested the quad-band (GSM 850/900/1800/1900; GPRS/EDGE) T-Mobile Sidekick LX in San Francisco using T-Mobile service, and call quality was average. We could hear a slight but annoying background buzz as we talked to friends, but they reported clear audio and said we sounded good. Though we ran into the same ambient noise, we had no problems interacting with our bank's automated voice response system. The speakerphone yielded similarly mixed results. We had difficulty hearing our callers even in a quiet room with the volume at its highest level. On the other hand, our callers didn't have too many complaints other than hearing a slight echo. The one upside is that we successfully paired the LX with the Logitech Mobile Traveller Bluetooth headset.
General performance was snappy, but surfing the Web seemed pokey on T-Mobile's EDGE network (what can we say--we've been spoiled by 3G). Listening to MP3s on the Sidekick's speakers left much to be desired. The sound was weak and tinny, and any outside noise drowned out the volume, even at its highest level. However, quality improved when we plugged in a nice pair of headphones--thank goodness for the 3.5mm headphone jack.
The T-Mobile Sidekick LX's internal 1540mAh lithium ion battery is rated for 6 hours of talk time and up to 4 days of standby time. We are currently in the process of running our battery drain tests and will update this section as soon as we have final results. According to FCC radiation tests, the Sidekick LX has a digital SAR rating of 0.89 watt per kilogram.