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Product: MDA VARIO II Manufacturer: T Mobile

With Windows Mobile enabled smart phones now all the rage – you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s little left to innovate within the marketplace we’ve gone from the standard mobile phone through to Blackberry style devices and now similar devices with Windows onboard – there’s a real battle in the marketplace at the moment with everyone trying to get ahead of the competition through either innovative design or stellar functionality– into that battle steps T Mobile MDA Vario II.

Based on the HTC Hermes the Vario II has the wow factor from the off - plus it’s absolutely packed with features – from communications, imaging and applications - - the Vario II is an absolute monster when it comes to features.

From the off – the device looks intriguing – it’s not one of the new generation slim phones by any means - the Vario II is a thick phone – the device measures in at 112mm x 58mm x 22mm. It needs to be thick as under the hood is hidden a slide out Qwerty style keyboard. However before we get to that – a little bit about the screen - The device has a 240 X 320 resolution 2.8” touch screen. Once neat trick of the Vario II is that as the Keyboard is pulled out the screen turns to landscape – a great trick that shows that the manufacturers have paid a fair bit of attention to usability. Out in daylight the screen is no worse than other similar devices as they all suffer from glare a little.

Now onto the phone – in Europe the MDA Vario II ships via T-Mobile – and bandwidth wise comes equipped with quad band capability. In the UK it’s the first handset to be enabled with HSDPA - connection speeds could be up to 1.8MB per second which is four times faster than previously available – however realistically you’ll not get speeds like this everywhere.

Back to the keyboard – you’ll recall we mentioned the slide out QWERTY keyboard – well one of the big problems with these sort of devices tends to be the input – stylus’s are fiddly – and keyboards on devices like the Palm Treo 750 or the Blackberry while being QWERTY keyboards tend to allow you to mush them if your fingers are a little on the large side and also you have to pay real close attention to where your aiming. The Vario II makes a refreshing change – with it’s innovative design the keyboard slips out from under the face and sits comfortably in your hands and allows you to type with your thumbs. Facing towards you the keyboard puts the phone slightly off balance so it’s not great for touch typing but using thumbs you can get up a resonable speed and standard A4 sized documents can be written up in no time.

Coupled with the keyboard the other stand out feature is the navigation wheel (akin to the blackberry style jog wheel) situated on the left side of the device - As Blackberry users will vouch – these are an excellent method of navigating and you’ll soon be whizzing about the menu’s one handed – a great addition.

Competing with the Blackberry is always difficult however Windows Mobile 5 devices can be equipped with Direct Push which supports MS Exchange. With this the Vario II is capable of allowing emails to be delivered directly upon receipt at the email server – the device also supports common webmail such as Yahoo and AOL.

Aside from email the device comes equipped with the standard Windows mobile applications – with the WiFi and high speed data rates the phone has Web Browsing is a dream – other users will be right at home with mobile office (Word, Excel, Powerpoint).

With a 2 megapixel camera (with macro mode for close up work) and a VGA camera, mounted on the front of the device for video calls the Vario is excellently equipped for imaging. As to be expected the 2 megapixel camera’s results vary although the quality is better than the 1.3MP camera’s on other devices.

The device is powered via a 400 Mhz processor and 128mb Flash rom together with 64MB standard RAM. For those wishing to expand there is a MicroSD slot available. As you’d expect with all these features battery power does suffer and with all the bells and whistles on the battery drains pretty fast – however it’s unlikely that most users will have everything on at all times. T-mobile state that the device provides around 4-5 hours of talktime and upto 10 days standby – but we think that once you start using the phone’s features this will be reduced.

Overall this is a great device – it’s feature rich so there’s little of something for everyone and has some stand out design innovations like the keyboard – one problem with devices like this is that perhaps they try a little to hard – it’s true you’ll never please everyone and to an extent the Vario tries to do that (you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a mini-laptop) and perhaps we’d have liked a beefier processor and improved expansion slots to cater for this but it’s a minor point – in the land of the smart phone things change fast – however the Vario II has enough features to be a mainstay for a while to come.


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