T-Mobile Dash 3G review
The T-Mobile Dash 3G is known by different names for different people. It was introduced as the HTC Snap S511 on Sprint and on Verizon it’s known as the Ozone. While the list goes on for other global phone providers, the point is that the Dash 3G is in pleasant company and HTC aims to sell a large amount of these phones.
Packing Windows Mobile 6.1, the Dash doesn’t have anything groundbreaking under the hood; no landmark features besides the usual 3G, WiFi, 2.0 MP camera, bluetooth, to name a few.
While I believe that the faster a processor the better, I was glad to see a decent 528 MHz processor included in such a small smartphone. Not wonderful, but not terrible either (in comparison, the iPhone 3G’s processor is 400 MHz).
Comparison of the T-Mobile Dash 3G to HTC Snap and Ozone
Is the Dash 3G identical to the Snap and Ozone, or did T-Mobile throw in a few of its own flavors? Turns out there are some differences.
The Ozone, for example, adds visual voicemail and replaces the trackball with a standard navigation pad. Both the Ozone and Dash 3G use WiFi, whereas the Snap S511 does not.
The Snap, on the other hand, lacks WiFi and trackball but offers HTC’s new Inner Circle feature announced at CTIA 2009. Inner Circle allows high-priority emails to jump to the top of your inbox for immediate reading, amidst the flood of other less important emails that can wait a day or two before responding.
Now on to the Dash 3G. As mentioned above, the Dash is the only version that comes with a trackball (which is a great addition in theory, but I will talk more on that later) as well as T-Mobile’s now famous MyFaves.
Small differences also abound in out-of-box memory. The Dash 3G has 192 MB, while the ozone has the most at 256 MB and Sprint’s Snap the least at under 128.
While my goal is not to review all 3 versions of this device, it is nice to know what T-Mobile decided to leave in and take out of the Snap in order to make it their own.
Dash 3G Design
My first impression when feasting upon the Dash 3G with mine own eyes was the size — or lack thereof. I found the Dash to be a very comfortable fit in my hand, and didn’t feel any awkwardness carrying it around.
After playing with the Dash, I was surprised to learn that the screen only used a QVGA 320 x 240 display because the resolution looked crisper and sharper than that. The size of the screen itself isn’t huge, just 2.4″, so that may contribute to the sharper screen.
I was not terribly fond of the keyboard due to its cramped feel. In a smartphone of this size I know it’s difficult to design a keyboard that feels spacious, but others have succeeded (the Nokia E71, for instance). HTC tried hard to make it work despite the challenge, but I had a difficult time nevertheless. I spent too much time trying not to press two keys at once, and it grew frustrating. With that said, I’m sure typing on the device gets better over time, but it’s hard to know for sure since I only have a limited time with the Dash.
One other thing I noticed about the keyboard was that the second row was aligned differently than the others. When typing “the”, I would repeatedly hit the J button because that’s where I’m used to the H button being. Instead, the H was almost directly below the T.
All of the soft keys on the top of Dash’s keyboard had a bubble-type look to them, which I assume was done to ensure there was enough room to fit them all. They still feel too cramped, however.
Only one button, the volume key, adorns the left side of the Dash. On the right side, a mini-USB charger port. HTC chose to go with a more simplistic style on the side, likely to add to the elegant look of the Dash. Even the volume keys are hard to pick out from a distance because it blends so well with the rest of the phone.
The back of the Dash is just as elegant and simplistic, opting to have only the 2.0 MP camera.
Overall, I loved the look and design of the Dash 3G. Just by looking at it I can tell it’s a well thought-out device; unfortunately, improving the design led to a few other inconveniences. The keyboard, as an example, we already talked about.
I had mixed feelings about the trackball. Having used the Blackberry Pearl for a year and a half, I grew comfortable with its trackball and it drives me nuts when I have to use a traditional 4-way navigation pad. The issue I have with the trackball on the Dash 3G is the sensitivity. I adjusted the trackball’s settings from top to bottom, but it was either way too sensitive or not sensitive enough. There was no comfortable middle ground that made me feel like it was a smooth flow from point A to point B.
One major design flaw is the lack of speakerphone quick key. When I want to switch to speakerphone in the middle of a conversation, I still need to go into Menu -> Turn on Speakerphone; it would be much more convenient to have one simple key I could press to enable this feature.
Features of the Dash 3G
The shining star of the HTC Snap, when announced at CTIA 2009, was its new Inner Circle email feature. It was going to be available on only the Snap to begin with, and eventually would spread to other HTC devices in the future. The Dash 3G came with Inner Circle surprisingly absent.
Besides that, the Dash 3G doesn’t add much new stuff to the table. Yes, it’s full of good features that we have all come to love and expect in a credible WinMo smartphone, but nothing that would make us fall in love with the Dash over any other similar device.
The processor isn’t half-bad, at 528 MHz; the 2.0 MP camera does come with video recording capability, but I would like to see every new smartphone at this particular price point ($149) come with 3.0 MP or higher.
WiFi connected perfectly fine, but had a couple issues. When I ran the native YouTube application, I ran video clips on both my WiFi network and the EDGE (since my region doesn’t have T-Mobile 3G yet), and I couldn’t tell any difference in download speed on my WiFi network. Frankly, this was rather disturbing as I should have a much-improved speed. Yet I was left waiting for almost a minute as the 4-minute clip buffered.
There were also a couple instances when the WiFi mysteriously disconnected and reconnected later, without any prompting on my part. I cannot tell for sure if this was the Dash 3G or my own network, so I can’t put too much stock into this claim yet.
The MicroSD slot is capable of recognizing cards of up to 32 GB. There were no issues putting music on and playing it on Windows Media Player through my stereo bluetooth headset.
Surfing the internet worked okay on EDGE, though it is difficult to see a website in its entirety given the smaller screen size. I was happy to see that the trackball actually worked quite well in this department (on sensitive mode), as it allowed me to scroll down through Internet Explorer faster. Dash 3G does support HSDPA with up to 7.2 Mbps speeds, so I imagine internet surfing is a much better experience in cities that have been blessed with T-Mobile 3G coverage.
I enjoyed the easy email setup. Setting up Gmail and Yahoo was a breeze, and the inbox was easily accessible through WinMo’s sliding panels on the Today screen. SMS and MMS also was a great experience on the Dash 3G due to Windows Mobile’s integration of threaded conversations into 6.1.
The GPS is open and well integrated with both Google Maps and Telenav Navigation. This is good news because several similar smartphones typically disable GPS so they only work with the carrier-endorsed Navigation apps. The Dash also has a QuickGPS app that locates multiple satellites fast.
Interestingly, the Hotspot @ Home service is absent on the Dash 3G. I find this a little odd since T-Mobile graciously includes WiFi on many of its phones to enable this feature, so why was it left out on this particular phone?
There is no word on if the Dash 3G will be upgradeable to Windows 6.5; if it isn’t, your phone will be dreadfully obsolete within just a few months of purchasing it.
One of my favorite features was the shortcut button on the bottom right of the keyboard. The button is completely customizable and can handle two different shortcuts. Quick-press the key for one shortcut; hold the key down for 3 seconds for another. I chose to use voicedial as my primary shortcut, which enabled me to speed dial contacts as well as other apps.
Performance of the T-Mobile Dash 3G
A couple notes on performance. Battery life is rated at 5 hours talk time and 480 hours standby. That’s average for a 3G smartphone, though with a 1500 mAh battery I’d like to see its life a little longer. It just goes to show how much of a battery-drainer 3G and GPS truly are; obviously if you will be relying on these two features more than the actual phone, expect the battery life to be sucked dry rather quickly. If you’re using GPS for navigation, plan on getting a car charger.
As mentioned earlier, I was unable to test 3G so I was forced to rely only on EDGE and WiFi, which I had mixed results on. WiFi didn’t work so great in certain apps such as YouTube, but worked just fine in Internet Explorer. Comm Manager was a handy tool on the Dash, which gave me the ability to handle all of my wireless connections from one spot.
I had no problems resulting from dropped calls and the audio quality worked rather well. I was very impressed by the volume of the speakerphone itself — I could listen to callers and my music without needing extra assistance.
Certainly the Dash 3G has its share of pros and cons; I applaud the brilliant design and overall size, but feel that some crucial features were either dumbed down or just left out completely. It’s a good performing Windows Mobile non-touchscreen phone but there’s nothing about it that makes us feel like we’re using a device with unique or special qualities.
Let us know if you’ve had the opportunity to try it out, or if you have any feelings either way about the Dash 3G. Check out our gallery of Dash 3G pictures below!