Motorola Q Review by Ubergizmo

With its design, the Motorla Q has earned it the “BlackBerry Killer” nickname. It has the three “S” of the perfect gadget: Slim, Sexy, and Smart. Text can be entered at full speed, thanks to the QWERTY keyboard, and displayed on a nice QVGA display. The inside is nice too: the phone is a 3G CDMA handset that can connect to Verizon’s high-speed EV-DO network. Internet browsing, email and messaging can all be used at reasonable speeds when compared with non-3G phones. Is the Motorola Q the new “King of the hill”? Read this review to get our opinion.


Although it has also been nicknamed RAZRBerry, the Motorola Q does not really go head to head with the BlackBerry line of device because the software and the wireless service are so different. For a personal use, I’d rather compare the Q with the Treo 700w or other QWERTY equipped smart phones.

The beauty of the Motorola Q is pretty much unanimous. Everyone who saw it praised how slim (it’s half of the Treo 700w thickness) and light it is. It is however slightly wider, and although the photos show that it is only slightly wider, the difference is noticeable when holding it in the hand. The overall quality is good but the device feels more like “plastic” and a bit cheaper than the Palm device. That’s also probably why it’s lighter, so I won’t complain.

There’s a mini SD slot for additional storage. Obviously, I wished that hey had opted for a regular SD card, but if this contributes to the smaller form-factor, I’ll just shell $25 and get a new memory card.

I have to congratulate Motorola for using a standard mini USB port to recharge the device. Any portable device should be USB rechargeable. I’m really sick of proprietary charging connectors and it’s funny that the slimmest smart phone is the one to have a standard port. There’s no excuse for not doing it now.

In the back of the unit there’s a digital camera. It can snap 1.3 Megapixel pictures and has a LED flash for dark environment. LED lights (Light Emitting Diode) are great because they are bright but consume only little power. That’s about the best options for cellphones, but don’t expect it to replace your average digital camera, especially in low-light.

The Motorola Q is the only windows mobile device equipped with a jog that comes to mind. Early Sony cellphones and BlackBerry conveniently had one and I think that it’s a good idea to have one on the Q.

The QVGA display is very nice and bright when used indoors. Pretty much anyone who handled the Moto Q praised the screen quality. In direct sunlight, however, the readability comes down by a lot. That’s unfortunate because it’s really sunny in California but to be fair, the smart phone competition isn’t performing any better. Curiously, my Sony Ericsson T610’s display beats them all. Go figure.

The Screen is not a touch screen, which is a little disturbing at first if you’re used to have poke the display with your finger. After a couple of days, I just got used to it, and it became non-issue. During our tests, we found that we used mainly the phone, text messaging and web browsing applications, none of which requires the touch screen.

With a 320 pixels wide screen, web page rendering is better then the Treo 700w. The characters are very readable and users can select different font sizes in Pocket Internet Explorer.

I regret that even smaller fonts are not available for application other than Pocket IE. The Treo 700w (with push-email update) has a very good set of small fonts. It’s great for people who want to see more information at once. Other user can select larger fonts.

The primary function of the Moto Q is to be a phone, and as such, it behaves very well. All the phone functions work as expected and although some people did complain of the contact user interface, I did not see anything wrong with it.

Voice quality and volume are good, and pairing with a Bluetooth (BT) headset was easy and worked right away. The sound quality is also good when using Bluetooth. The downside of Bluetooth is that it depletes the battery quickly. During our test, our unit barely survived 8 hours of low-intensity usage (a day at the office) with BT on.

Not surprisingly, there’s a 1.3 Megapixel camera (with LED flash) in the back of the device. The still pictures are equivalent to a cheap entry-level camera, in good lighting conditions. The camera also captures 176×144 pixels video, which is smaller than anticipated. 320×200 would have the norm. The low-resolution makes the videos unimpressive.

PDA / Data
With the integrated QWERTY keyboard and an EV-DO connection the Motorola Q could be a dream email and web-browsing machine. Unfortunately, the potential for both tasks isn’t fully tapped into. For some reason, the EV-DO connection of our Motorola Q was only 250kbit/sec (tested on DSL Report’s mobile speed test in several geographical locations in the SF Bay Area). Our Treo 700w does 450kbit/sec under the same conditions and a PCMCIA card went up to 1.5Mbit/sec. We can definitely rule out the network and say that we expected much better from wireless data performance. This point will be a killer for many data-intensive users. I think that the 450kbits/sec of the Treo 700w is already not enough and I would be bugged to pay $39.99/mo to Verizon to get 250kbit/s.

For the test, we’ve configured the Q to sync with an exchange server, which is my favorite way to access email. Unlike the Treo 700w, there was no push-email available at publishing time, so the user can decide to sync every x minutes or do a manual sync. Push email is very convenient, but I think that most people can survive without it if they really like the phone. Pocket Outlook worked very well during the whole review.

I’m sure that a lot of people complain about the absence of WiFi. Well, yes, it’s true that having Wi-Fi would have been better (especially if it’s free), but honestly, if you have a decent EV-DO connection you might not care at all. The EV-DO coverage is much better then Wi-Fi’s and the EV-DO radio consumes less power too. Bluetooth is already killing battery life, I can only imagine how bad Wi-Fi would be.

Some users also raised the point that it’s not possible to edit Word or Excel documents. I think that doing real work on these types of files from a smart phone is a bit hardcore and not representative of most users. Personally, I could not care less about that.

The battery life is probably the weakest point of the Motorola Q. After all, Motorola had to cut back on a few things and the battery life was on the list. In practice, average users will have to charge it everyday. Heavy users will have to charge it each time they can: in the car, at the office and at home. Of course, there’s always the hope th
at someone will come out with a better battery and that would make life much easier.

The keyboard is slightly larger than the Treo 700w one, so if you have big fingers, you should check it out. Even after a week, I still prefer the touch of the Palm device. The Q keys are too thin and too pointy in my opinion. They remind me of my Treo 600. Both Palm and Blackberry have been improving on their keyboards and it seems odd that Motorola is a bit behind in this area. The keys are stiff, especially the function keys on each side of the directional pad. These two flat buttons would have benefited from being real buttons. The keyboard is backlit to a sufficient level to be used comfortably in the dark.

Windows Mobile
The operating system (OS) behaved very well during our week-long test. There were no crashes (phone hung) and in only a few instances responsiveness was low but overall, I’d say that this is more stable than my Palm-powered Treo 650.

The Motorola Q does not use the same Windows Mobile than the Treo 700w and the reason is: there’s no touch screen. However, the Windows Mobile 5.0 embedded in the Q is not as nice. Functions and settings are sometimes much harder to find and the “home” screen is fairly slow.

Although some settings are arcane, you should hopefully have to configure it only once and be done. The Bluetooth interface is a notable exception as it is very clear and simple to use. We have been able to sync with an external BT headset in a blink of an eye.

Another thing like I like with Windows Mobile (vs. Palm) is that I don’t need to install (and purchase) any additional applications. Web browsing, contacts, email are good enough right out of the box.

On the paper, the Moto Q looks very similar to the Treo 700w. In reality it is noticeably slower. That is probably the price to pay for the weight reduction. This translates into slower user interface response that can be annoying, but mostly OK. I believe that the reduced performance is worth the weight reduction.

Mini SD
In the Q, Motorola is using a mini-SD port instead of a SD/IO. It means that no SD/IO add-on like a GPS can be used with the Q. It doesn’t make much of a difference to me, except that I won’t be able to use my 1GB SD Card that’s in my Treo right now. Thankfully, mini-SD flash cards prices have declined steadily over the past year.

The Motorola Q is a slim, sexy and smart phone with a weak battery and a lack of true push e-mail. Luckily, both can be improved without having to wait for the next-generation Q. However, if you order today, that’s what you get.

Buyers can get it for as low as $150, which is very cheap compared to the Treo 700w alternative. Right out of the box, it’s great for heavy SMS users, thanks to the QWERTY keyboard. Data users wont be as pleased with performance or battery life, unfortunately.

In our opinion, this phone is the perfect device for a Phone/PDA+SMS usage. If you want to use it as a real smartphone, we recommend the Samsung Blackjack.

Second Opinion
We recommend reading of the following reviews:

Motorola Q (MobileTechReview)
Review: Motorola Q, video(Phonescoop)
Review: The Motorola Q is RAZR Sharp (MobileBurn)
Motorola Q Review (Brighthand)

Operating System: Windows Mobile 5.0
Processor Speed: 312 MHz
Memory: 128MB, 64MB
Display Type: 65 TFT color
Display Resolution: 320 x 240 color
Dimensions: 116mm x 64mm x 11.5mm
Weight: 115g

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