Caption by: Sandra Vogel
Acer launched four Windows Mobile devices a few months back, but has not trumpeted them much since. These devices follow Acer's purchase of mobile device specialist E-TEN, and it seems that Acer is biding its time to broadcast its entry into the smartphone market until its Windows Mobile 6.5-based devices start to appear towards the end of this year.
Acer may be missing a trick by keeping quiet about the DX900, though. It brings something unique to the UK: a Windows Mobile device that supports two SIM cards. We obtained a review sample from Clove Technology and took a look.
The DX900 is a squat little smartphone measuring 106mm tall, 60.5mm wide and 17mm thick. It's comfortable to hold and not too large for the pocket. It weighs 147g, which makes it a little heavy compared to your average Windows Mobile device — but not overly so.
Acer's chunky dual-SIM DX900 weighs 147g and runs Windows Mobile 6.1.
The design is unremarkable. The shell is made from black plastic with rubbery finish everywhere bar the screen surround, which is shiny. Shiny dark slate/silver-coloured buttons sit beneath the screen. There are Call and End buttons and, between them, a large navigation pad. All of the buttons are bordered by a white light when pressed — a useful touch in low light or at night.
The DX900's control buttons are illuminated when pressed.
There's an array of slots and connectors around the edges of the DX900. On the left is a 2.5mm headset jack. Above this is a button that on a long press activates voice recording, and on a short press starts the voice command software. Above this again is a pair of volume rockers. The right edge has the main on/off switch, a microSD card slot and a camera button.
The sharp, bright touch-screen measures 2.8in. across the diagonal and has a native VGA (480 by 640 pixel) resolution. Windows Mobile 6.1 is not particularly 'finger-friendly' though, and you'll need to use the stylus for a good deal of activity. This lives in a housing on the back right bottom edge. The stylus is telescopic, extending to 90mm as you extract it from its slot, and extremely light.
The Acer DX900 ships with a mains power charger, a USB PC cable, a stereo headset, a screen protector, a spare stylus, a protective pouch, a printed quick-start guide and two CDs. One of these contains the user manual, while the other has Windows Mobile's PC synchronisation software.
The DX900 runs Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional. It comes with 256MB of ROM and 128MB of RAM. These are not generous specifications by current standards, and a fair amount of the storage memory can be used up by preinstalled extras (of which more later).
The DX900 has a 533MHz Samsung SC3 6400 processor. Responsiveness was good, but not great. This is a 3G device with HSDPA support, and it includes Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. There is a GPS receiver built in, a front-facing camera for two-way video calling and a 3- megapixel main camera with LED flash and self-portrait mirror. The device supports TV-out, but no cables are provided for this.
There is an accelerometer that you can enable if you are happy for the device to switch screen orientation as you turn it in your hand. This can be useful for things like web browsing or photo viewing, which benefit from a wide-screen orientation. You can configure it with an exceptions list, telling it not to switch orientation when certain applications are running.
The most significant feature of the DX900 is its support for two SIMs, both of which are located beneath the battery.
A SIM manager utility lets you edit contacts stored on each SIM, and when sending SMS messages you can easily choose which SIM to send the message from: a simple screen is appended to the SMS creation tool, which pops up after you press 'send'. Incoming SMS messages to both SIMs are brought together in the SMS inbox.
The Windows Mobile Comm Manager has been tweaked to make it easy to switch between SIMs when making outgoing voice calls. The DX900 has a version of SPB Mobile Shell, which you can run on top of the Windows Mobile user interface. This provides you with signal-strength information for both SIMs at the same time. The soft keypad for call dialling has the Call button mapped to one SIM card and the End button to the other, so you can easily choose which to use.
E-TEN's habit of augmenting Windows Mobile with a vast array of extras remains intact, and when you first switch the device on, or after a hard reboot, you're offered the option of which extras to install. Choose them all and you have 105MB of storage memory remaining.
The extras are: Namecard manager which is used in conjunction with the camera to recognise business cards and send their contents to the contact manager; a backup utility; Voice Commander for voice control; Location SMS for sending an SMS message with your location in latitude and longitude as part of a text message; Satellite data for improving the efficiency of the GPS receiver; and Easy Keyboard, a somewhat larger and more 'finger-friendly' touch QWERTY keyboard than the Windows Mobile standard one.
Performance & battery life
We found the DX900 a little slow to respond to key presses at times. It's not a disaster, but it does make the DX900 feel less than slick on occasion.
Battery life was reasonable but not outstanding. We asked the DX900 to play music from a fully charged battery for as long as possible, which it did for 5 hours 38 minutes. If you are a heavy Wi-Fi, 3G or GPS user you may find you need to find a power source for charging during the course of a typical day.
If you want a Windows Mobile device with dual SIM support, then Acer's DX900 is the only available option in the UK. It does its job of handling two SIMs well, providing usable tweaks in the provided applications.
Caption by: Sandra Vogel