What's hot: Very nice camera with fast autofocus. Large and bright screen. 3G!
What's not: Battery life isn’t very good. Pricy.
Reviewed June 4, 2009 by Tong Zhang, Senior Editor
T-Mobile quietly released the Sidekick LX 2009 in May, and thanks to its unexplainable desire to re-use product names, the new Sidekick LX didn’t make a big splash at launch. But those who looked closer at the new Sidekick LX discovered that there are important changes: 3G for fast data, a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus lens and video capabilities, a large 3.2-inch display and GPS-enabled Live Search. What’s more is the new Sidekick LX has a roomier keyboard, a slimmer and slicker body and it comes in two colors: orchid and carbon. It has the new Sidekick software and UI that debuted on the Sidekick 2008 and it comes with a 128MB microSD card. If you have an older Sidekick and want an updated device, the Sidekick LX 2009 is a very strong contender.
We say “the new Sidekick LX” because this isn’t the first time T-Mobile used that product name. The first Sidekick LX came out in 2007, and then there was the Sidekick LX Tony Hawk edition which is a different model from the new Sidekick LX 2009. The new Sidekick LX is available exclusively from T-Mobile and it’s a quad band GSM phone with dual band T-Mobile 3G.
Design and Ergonomics
The thinner Sidekick LX looks classier and less plasticky than previous Sidekick phones. Measuring 5.1 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches, the new Sidekick LX has the same control buttons, d-pad and trackball as the Sidekick 2008, but pushes them more to the edges of the device. Why? This gives the phone more space for a larger display and a roomier keyboard with a dedicated number row. Very nice! The side buttons remain the same as well, but are now sitting on chrome strips that give the device a slicker look and the buttons themselves are fashioned in chrome as well. With mobile music in mind, the new Sidekick LX has a standard 3.5mm stereo audio jack and the phone’s package includes a stereo headset.
The back of the Sidekick LX is smooth and has grooves that make it more comfortable in hand. Both the SIM card slot and microSD card slot are under the battery cover; you only need to remove the battery to access the SIM card slot. You need not remove the battery to access the spring-loaded microSD card slot.
Messaging and Web
The new Sidekick LX is a GSM quad band world phone with UMTS/HSDPA dual band T-Mobile 3G (AWS Band IV and Band I, 1700/2100MHz). The phone has good reception and it gets full signal strength in well-covered areas and at least 2-3 bars in midling coverage areas. The voice quality is good and the speakerphone is very loud. Like the Sidekick 2008, the new Sidekick LX has an address book that can store a maximum of 2000 entries and each entry can store 10 numbers, 5 email addresses, 3 street address, caller ID picture and much more. The phone also supports T-Mobile’s MyFaves.
As a messaging phone with a nice QWERTY keyboard, the new Sidekick LX has the usual set of IM clients including AIM, Windows Live and Yahoo! Messenger as well as POP3 mail with future support for MS Exchange. This is a big deal for enterprise users and opens up the device to those who prefer saving and syncing personal data to Exchange, all thanks to the fact that Danger, the maker of the Sidekick OS, is now owned by Microsoft. Mobile users who not only want IM and email but also access to social networks, will be happy to hear that the new Sidekick LX includes Facebook, MySpace and Twitter applications in which you can login and add updates quickly.
The new Sidekick LX is a good music phone thanks to the loud speakerphone, 3.5mm stereo audio jack and a powerful media player that can play music in MP3, M4A, WMA, WAV, AAC and RMF formats. If you have tunes (non-copy-protected) in iTunes, Windows Media Player or in MP3 format, you can transfer them to the phone and play them on the Sidekick LX. The media player can also play streaming audio over the Internet as well as video. The music playback quality is good over the speakerphone but sounds fuller over the wired stereo headphones included with the Sidekick LX. The phone also supports A2DP Bluetooth stereo headphones and the music sounded great via the Samsung SBH-500 BT stereo headset.
Thanks to the bright and color saturated display, the Sidekick LX is also a pleasant video player. The built-in media player can play 3GP and MP4 simple profile videos which aren’t a lot of formats, and mobile YouTube videos playback was reasonably smooth.
GPS and Live Search
The new Sidekick LX has a built-in GPS that gets a good signal and accurate position fixes. Since Microsoft now owns Danger, you get Microsoft’s Live Search with maps and POIs on the Sidekick LX. The GPS software offers searching for POIs, getting turn-by-turn directions and maps. The navigation software doesn’t have voice guidance nor does it follow you on the map in real time like TeleNav does. But the navigation software offers Track Me mode which pinpoints your locations. The Live Search POI data is reasonably up-to-date and searches are fairly quick. You can send directions to friends via email or messaging.
The Sidekick LX 2009 has a 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus and an LED flash, a significant upgrade from the Tony Hawk LX’s1.3 megapixel camera and the Sidekick 2008’s 2 megapixel fixed focus camera with no flash. The photo quality is on par with other 3.2 megapixel camera phones including the Nokia E75. The new Sidekick LX takes sharp pictures with noticeable oversharpening and saturated colors. The images have good color balance and the autofocus lens is very fast at finding focus. The large 3.2-inch display is very nice for viewing pictures and is viewable outdoors. The camera software has options for image resolution, white balance, effects and picture quality.
The camera phone can also take video with audio. You can record videos in either high quality for saving or low quality for sending as messages. The video quality is decent with good colors and playback is reasonably smooth. Though the camera phone can compete in still photo quality against Nokias, the video quality can’t compete with the Nokia E75 that captures VGA video.
With faster 3G speed comes shorter battery life. The new Sidekick LX increased its battery capacity to 1250 mAh (4.7Wh) from the Sidekick 2008’s 1030 mAh, but the talk time on 3G shrank to 3 hours and 6 days of standby. If you are currently not in a T-Mobile 3G coverage area, you will see talk time of 5.5 hours with 8 days of standby. Other than talking, accessing the web and playing video certainly use up the battery fast. But playing music doesn’t accelerate battery drain.
The new Sidekick LX is indeed the next generation Sidekick phone and should be the upgrade path for owners of older Sidekick models. The much improved 3G speed with IM and social network clients, modern 3.2 megapixel autofocus camera and strong music features will please longtime Sidekick fans. With built in Bluetooth A2DP support, microSD card expansion and a 3.2-inch large display, the new Sidekick LX can compete with today’s high-end feature phones offered by T-Mobile and other carriers. The biggest obstacle for the Sidekick LX is the high price, especially in today’s economy.
Pro: Very good music phone, improved camera and video capturing. Large display.
Con: We’d like to see more video encoding supported for playback. Battery life isn’t very good.
Price: $249.99 with 2-year contract after mail-in rebate and discount. $449.99 without contract.
Display: 3.2” F-WVGA 65K color TFT screen. Resolution: 854 x 480 pixels.
Battery: Lithium Ion rechargeable battery, 1250 mAh, user replaceable. Claimed talk time: up to 3 hours on 3G, 5.5 hours on 2G. Claimed standby time: up to 6 days on 3G, 8 days on 2G.
Performance: Phone book can store 2000 entries. Each entry can store 10 phone numbers, 5 email addresses, 3 URLs, 5 IM addresses, 3 street addresses and 1 note. Caller ID for up to 50 contacts.
Size: 5.2 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches. Weight: 5.8 oz.
Phone: Quad band GSM world phone. 850/900/1800/1900MHz. UMTS/HSDPA dual band T-Mobile 3G (AWS Band IV and Band I) for data.
Camera: 3.22 megapixel autofocus camera with flash. Can take video with audio.
Audio: Media Player onboard to play music in MIDI, MP3, M4A, WMA, WAV, AAC and RMF formats. 3.5 mm stereo audio jack. Supports vibration alert.
Networking: Bluetooth v2.0 with headset, hands-free, A2DP and file transfer profile support. USB 2.0.
Software: Danger OS v5.0. Supports myFaves. HTML browser, web-based IM and social network clients onboard. PIM tools include Address Book, Calendar, To Do List and Notes. Bob’s journey: Lake of Doom! game included.