These days, a powerful smartphone that also comes with physical keys is a rare sight in a market swamped with touchscreen-only devices. T-Mobile's new $199 myTouch 4G Slide breaks the trend, offering a full QWERTY keyboard to go along with its zippy 1.2-GHz dual-core processor. But this HTC device has something even more special: a super-fast camera that can shoot pictures about as fast as you can blink. If that's not enough, the phone streams Netflix movies via its installed app. All of this adds up to one of the best Android sliders yet.
The myTouch 4G Slide's substantial 6.5-ounce weight feels heavy but also lends the device an air of sturdiness. The phone is much heavier than the myTouch 4G (5 ounces) and the HTC Sensation 4G (5.2 ounces). No doubt that's because the phone also makes room for a slide-out physical keyboard. Even so, the device has more heft than another T-Mobile slider, the Sidekick 4G (5.7 ounces).
Oval in shape with smoothly tapered edges, the myTouch 4G sports an elegant black and gray color scheme. Above the screen is a large silver earpiece grille and a front-facing camera. Below the display sit hardware buttons for Android controls (Home, Menu, Back, and a Genius button for voice commands). A dark purple trackpad provides navigation through menus, but we'd have prefered a dedicated search key.
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Power and standard headphone jack are on top of the device, while a long volume bar and microUSB port occupy the left side. A slim, silver camera button is on the handset's right-hand side within easy reach of your index finger when the phone is oriented in landscape position. The back houses the myTouch 4G Slide's 8-megapixel camera and large lens encased in silver metallic highlights, plus a dual-LED flash. Unlike the SIM card, the phone's 8GB microSD card is accessable without removing the battery.
Display and Audio
The myTouch 4G Slide's 3.7-inch (800 x 480) display is on the small side considering the larger screens found on the HTC Sensation 4G (4.3 inches, 960 x 540) and G2x (4 inches, 800 x 400). The phone's display isn't as sharp as the HTC Sensation 4G's qHD screen, either. That said, the YouTube HD trailer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 was entertaining with vibrant colors visible in yellow-orange flames and the blue-green of magic wand blasts. Playback was smooth over both Wi-Fi and even 4G, provided the handset had access to a strong signal.
Audio quality is also one of the myTouch 4G Slide's strengths. Listening to music through the phone's stereo speaker proved loud enough to fill a small room. Our test tracks, "Cascade" by Deluka and "Dance, Dance, Dance" by Lykke Li, had a good balance of treble, high notes, and breathy vocals. Bass, while present, could have been more pronounced.
Users who crave physical keys will find the myTouch 4G Slide's four-row full QWERTY keyboard a welcome reprive from the touchscreen-only handsets sweeping the market. It doesn't have a full five rows like the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G and the Motorola Droid 3, but the buttons are well spaced. We also appreciated the dedicated @ and www/.com keys. Another Genius button is here as well.
Other nice touches include lights indicating whether the CAPS or ALT key is active. Key travel is shallow, however, and we found feedback to be a bit mushy.
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A virtual keyboard is also provided for use with the touchscreen, and Swype is there for speeding up one-handed text entry. It enables easy word creation by using a finger to connect letters.
Software, Interface, HTC Sense 3.0
Click to enlargeRunning the latest iteration of the Android OS (version 2.3.4) plus HTC's new Sense 3.0 user interface, the myTouch 4G Slide definitely has a slick feel. To unlock the device, we simply dragged a virtual ring from the bottom of the screen and released it. Unlike other Sense 3.0 devices such as the HTC Sensation 4G, there are no quick-launch icons on the lock screen, so you can't drag icons into the ring to quickly open oft-used apps.
Once unlocked, there are five home screens to choose from (less than the HTC Sensation's seven), which can be populated with apps, widgets and shortcuts at will. Pinching the main home screen reveals a bird's-eye view of all five screens at once, letting users jump to any one with a tap. Swiping a finger left or right quickly flips through home screens, which spin in a 3D perspective.
Along the bottom of the screen are icons for Contacts, Messaging, the browser, and making calls. Pulling down from the top of the display brings up the notification shade, which has the same tweaks found on the HTC Sensation 4G. Recent apps are placed on top and a quick settings tab provides fast toggling of Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Airplane modes.
Social media is integrated tightly, with OS support for Twitter and Facebook plus Flickr, Google, and Qik accounts. HTC Sense 3.0 is also intelligent enough to suggest links for matches across all these services in an effort to consolidate the contact list.
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Specs and Performance
The T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide is loaded with a 1.2-GHz dual-core Snapdragon processor, a hefty 768MB of RAM, and 4GB of ROM. As a result, the handset delivered a swift Linpack score of 44.7 (in single-core mode). This is a full 27 points above average and on a par with the HTC Sensation 4G, which uses the same CPU. The myTouch 4G Slide also beat the T-Mobile G2x (34.9, 1-GHz Nvidia Tegra 2) and destroyed the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G (12.6, 1-GHz Cortex A8 Hummingbird).
The T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide's An3Dbench score of 7,098 demonstrated its graphics prowess, a showing that's almost 800 points higher than what we typically see from Android phones. That score was also enough to best the HTC Sensation 4G (7,072) and the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G (6,300). The mighty T-Mobile G2x, however, still trounces all comers with its stratospheric showing of 11,074.
In day-to-day use, the myTouch 4G Slide smoothly navigated menus and opened apps quickly.
Camera and Camcorder
The myTouch 4G Slide's 8-MP camera is the star of the show, snapping images with blinding speed. In fact, the only lag was the phone's autofocus, which itself is nimble, taking about a second to lock onto subjects. The myTouch 4G is so fast that you might leave your point and shoot at home. We seamlessly moved from shot to shot, and rarely did we miss a photo we wanted to capture.
Daytime images we took with the myTouch 4G Slide looked crisp and colorful with deep blue skies and fluffy white clouds captured with convincing hues. In darker conditions, the camera's backside illuminated sensor was able to pull in more light than most other phones we've tested, with little noise or artifacts. However, the handset's dual flash did have a tendency to blow out people if we were too close.
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The camera also boasts a host of settings and functions more likely to be found on a traditional point-and-shoot. For example, SweepShot stitches multiple images together into panoramic views, and ClearShot HDR is designed to fight over-contrasted images in bright lighting. There's also BurstShot, which snaps multiple images at once to capture action-packed moments.
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Other welcome features include Face Detection, Smile Capture (which automatically snaps pictures of people when they grin), as well as Blink Detection (it won't shoot unless subjects' eyes are open). Unfortunately, Blink Detection and Smile Capture don't work together simultaneously.
HD Video Recording
Because the phone is able to record video in 1080p HD, movies we took on the myTouch 4G Slide looked extremely clear, full of detail, and had lifelike color. We observed pristine sharpness in New York City street scenes with cars and pedestrians showing smooth movement. The device doesn't include HDMI output, but you can stream video to a TV or set-top box that supports DLNA.
The front-face VGA camera on the myTouch 4G Slide makes video conferencing possible in conjunction with the Qik video chat app. We didn't experience any dropped calls, but the other caller did note some pixelation.
Web Surfing and 4G Data
Click to enlargeClassified as a 4G handset, the myTouch 4G Slide connects to T-Mobile's HSPA+ high speed data network. That said, the data performance wasn't stellar. The device achieved average download speeds of 2.7 Mbps and upload rates of 1.2 Mbps in Manhattan. We experienced faster speeds out in Queens, with average throughputs of 4 Mbps down and 1.2 Mbps up.
Web surfing on the T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide was enjoyable, with the phone loading mobile versions of The New York Times and ESPN in 4.7 and 7.5 seconds, respectively. The full version of Laptopmag.com didn't take much longer, at about 12 seconds. The HTC Sensation 4G loaded Laptopmag.com in a slightly faster 11.5 seconds and ESPN.com in 5 seconds. The T-Mobile G2x took longer to load our mobile sites, taking more than 6 seconds for each. It also opened Laptopmag.com in an average of 12.2 seconds.
The myTouch 4G Slide can act as a mobile hotspot for up to five devices. This feature is buried within the settings menu and there's no associated app installed.
Click to enlargeSimilar to the T-Mobile Sidekick 4G, the myTouch 4G Slide comes with a group-text feature. When the messaging app is opened, users can either send texts to individual contacts or groups of people at once. There are options for attaching images, videos, and music clips to messages too. What's not included is the ability to share your current location (as offered by the Sidekick 4G group messaging app) or back up messages via the web.
The phone handles standard email as well such as POP, IMAP, and Microsoft Exchange corporate accounts.
Apps and Multimedia
Aside from the usual Android software, such as Google Maps and Gmail, the myTouch 4G Slide includes Polaris Office to view Office files. We also like the HTC Weather app for checking the latest forecast. For GPS navigation, Google's free app is on board as well as TeleNav GPS Navigator that comes in a free basic version or a premium service that costs $9.99 per month.
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For multimedia, the myTouch 4G Slide features the Netflix app for streaming movies and TV sows. Over a 4G connection, movies and TV shows from our queue played well, but sometimes we had to wait a few moments while data buffered. Over a strong Wi-Fi link, we observed excellent results while viewing classic Star Trek episodes.
A Media Room app combines most of the phone's mutlimedia capabilities into one location. Clicking the application provides access to a music and video player, FM radio, Slacker Internet radio service, and T-Mobile TV. The Screen Share feature lets users send and receive photos, video, and music files over Wi-Fi with DLNA-compatible gear.
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The T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide performed like a champ when making voice calls. Callers said we sounded clear. Voices of people on the other end were also warm and clean, and we found both the earpeice and speakerphone to be plenty loud.
Users can expect solid, if not stellar battery life, from the T-Mobile myTouch 4G Slide. We were able to squeeze 6 hours and 9 minutes out of its battery on the Laptop Battery Test (web surfing via 4G). This showing is 21 minutes longer than the typical Android smartphone, but less than competing devices. The HTC Sensation 4G ran for 7:12 before expiring, and the Sidekick 4G persevered for 10:02.
T-Mobile has another killer smartphone on its hands with the $199 myTouch 4G Slide. It may be on the hefty side and lacks some of the Sensation 4G's interface enhancements, but this handset has an amazingly fast camera that's packed with high-end features. T-Mobile users clamoring for a physical keyboard who want something a little more grown up than the Sidekick 4G will find the myTouch 4G Slide to be a great fit.